1982 Gandhi – Best Picture
Ben Kingsley – Gandhi
Meryl Streep – Sophie’s Choice
Lou Gossett Jr – An Officer and a Gentleman
Jessica Lange – Tootsie
Kingsley as Gandhi Meryl Streep in Sophie’s Choice
Lou Gossett Jr – An Officer & a Gentleman Lange & Hoffman in Tootsie
When Richard Attenborough walked past Stephen Spielberg’s table on his way to the podium to receive his Director’s Guild of America (DGA) Award for Gandhi, he paused to console the creator of ET – The Extra-terrestrial, knowing full well that winning the DGA’s Best Picture gong was a sure sign he was going to win at the up-coming Oscars as well. And he was right. As Spielberg would later lament, ‘popcorn had been beaten by history.’ The list of nominees was (for once) a good one, the others being Missing, Tootsie and The Verdict. Ben Kingsley was a most deserving Best Actor, but it might be fair to say that Dustin Hoffman would possibly have won for Tootsie in most other years. Meryl Streep only had to wait a year after missing out in 1981 to secure her first Oscar for Sophie’s Choice. Jessica Lange was the unlucky nominee when she lost despite her brilliant performance in Frances, but she was awarded a consolation prize with a Best Supporting Actress statue for Tootsie. Not sure she deserved it, however, because she did not have a lot to do.
1983 Terms of Endearment – Best Picture
Robert Duvall – Tender Mercies
Shirley MacLaine – Terms of Endearment
Jack Nicholson – Terms of Endearment
Linda Hunt – The Year of Living Dangerously
Nicholson & MacLaine – Terms of Endearment
Robert Duvall Linda Hunt in The Year of Living Dangerously
Julie Walters in Educating Rita
Well, Terms of Endearment seemed to win as it liked in most categories, even though it was a very ordinary movie. The Year of Living Dangerously was only a so-so film. I think Linda Hunt was nominated because she was different. I thought The Right Stuff was an interesting movie, far more than Terms of Endearment, and worthy of its nomination for Best Picture. Julie Walters was extremely unlucky not to win Best Actress for Educating Rita, but the picture only grossed around 14 million, whereas MacLaine’s Terms of Endearment topped a hundred million and was seen by everyone. And don’t be fooled by the chummy pics of MacLaine and Debra Winger. They loathed each other on the set.
1984 Amadeus – Best Picture
F. Murray Abraham – Amadeus
Sally Field – Places in the Heart
Haing S. Ngor – The Killing Fields
Peggy Ashcroft – A Passage to India
F. Murray Abraham – Amadeus Tom Hulce – who?
Sally Field – Places in the Heart Haing S. Ngor – The Killing Fields
Peggy Ashcroft Jeff Bridges in Starman Glenn Close – The Natural
Amadeus was a bore when it was released and it is still a bore today. Both Places in the Heart and The Killing Fields offered considerably more, but were unsuccessful. In the Best Actor category the then grossly under-rated Jeff Bridges was wonderful in Starman and must have come close to winning, given Abraham and Tom Hulce had to share Amadeus voters. But it was not to be. The winner has had a spasmodic career since then, Hulce has slipped through the cracks altogether, while Jeff has gone on to greatness. Why Glenn Close was nominated for The Natural is a mystery. She was scarcely on the screen and had little to do when she was. By the by, Woody Allen was nominated twice for his Broadway Danny Rose – for Best Director and for Best Screenplay. He didn’t win. I watched it recently and now I know why. Why he lost that is. I am still trying to figure out why he was nominated in the first place. God, the man is annoying beyond belief!
1985 Out of Africa – Best Picture
William Hurt – Kiss of the Spider Woman
Geraldine Page – The Trip to Bountiful
Don Ameche – Cocoon
Anjelica Huston – Prizzi’s Honor
William Hurt – Kiss of the Spider Woman
Geraldine Page – The Trip to Bountiful Don Ameche in Cocoon
Anjelica Huston and William Hickey in Prizzi’s Honor
This was the year that The Color Purple was nominated for everything and won nothing. Out of Africa was slow and largely uneventful, a great vehicle for Meryl Streep to show off her Danish accent and a cinematography dream world, but it should not have won Best Picture. I would have chosen Witness. Few would have begrudged the Best Actress win to the multi-nominated Geraldine Page, the perennial nominee, but Meryl was most unfortunate. Don Ameche was given a ‘for old time’s sake’ Supporting Oscar, primarily because his character performed a hand-stand in Cocoon. (He did not perform it, his stuntman did), but voters did not appear to know that. I would have liked to see William Hickey win for his sensational portrayal of Don Corrado Prizzi in Prizzi’s Honor, but he had to be nominated first – and he wasn’t.
1986 Platoon – Best Picture
Paul Newman – The Color of Money
Marlee Matlin – Children of a Lesser God
Michael Caine – Hannah & Her Sisters
Dianne Weist – Hannah & Her Sisters
Tom Berenger Willem Dafoe
Newman – The Color of Money Marlee Matlin
Michael Caine & Dianne Weist in Hannah & Her Sisters
James Woods in Salvador Sigourney Weaver – Aliens
Platoon was a worthy winner. The picture also grossed over $100 million more than any of the other nominees and Oliver Stone was named Best Director. Paul Newman picked up a ‘for services rendered’ Oscar. I thought James Woods’ performance in Salvador was infinitely better, but only a handful of people saw the thing, which was a great pity. Sigourney Weaver (Alien) was unlucky to lose to Marlee Matlin for Best Actress. Tom Berenger and Willem Dafoe were both nominated for Platoon, which left the door open for Michael Caine to take Best Supporting Actor. Berenger wuz robbed!
1987 The Last Emperor – Best Picture
Michael Douglas – Wall Street
Cher – Moonstruck
Sean Connery – The Untouchables
Olympia Dukakis – Moonstruck
Cher & Olympia Dukakis in Moonstruck
Sean Connery – The Untouchables Denzel Washington – Cry Freedom
The Last Emperor cost an arm and a leg to make and was filmed mostly in Beijing, the Forbidden City and what’s left of the Summer Palaces. One can’t help but get the feeling that it was a huge diplomatic coup to have this picture win the Best Picture. The cinema version ran 163 minutes (too long by far), yet the television version lumbered along for an interminable 217 minutes! Apart from the historic locations the film is not very memorable. Mind you, it had absolutely nothing of real merit to beat – Fatal Attraction, Moonstruck, Broadcast News and Hope and Glory. OK shows, but scarcely Oscar material. A lot of noses were put out of joint when pop singer Cher won Best Actress, but she too did not have anything substantial to compete against. Any one of the five nominees could have won. It was pretty much a raffle and she got lucky. I liked Denzel Washington as Steve Biko in Cry Freedom, but the picture slid by unheralded while the historically ridiculous The Untouchables was strong at the box-office and Connery’s win was a popular one.
1988 Rain Man – Best Picture
Dustin Hoffman – Rain Man
Jodie Foster – The Accused
Kevin Kline – A Fish Called Wanda
Geena Davis – The Accidental Tourist
Jodie Foster in The Accused
Kevin Kline – A Fish Called Wanda Geena Davis – The Accidental Tourist
Gene Hackman – Mississippi Burning Tom Hanks – Big
I still cannot believe that Rain Man knocked off Mississippi Burning for Best Picture this year. In fact, another nomination, Dangerous Liaisons, was better fare as well. I loved Gene Hackman’s performance in Mississippi Burning, and Tom Hanks was equally impressive in Big, but it was no surprise to see the Best Actor award go to Hoffman. Academy voters inevitably go ape over anyone who plays a handicapped individual. Consequently, whoever landed the role of Raymond, the autistic savant, was going to be damned hard to beat. The story goes that Tom Cruise was set to play him when Hoffman used his pull to switch roles. The other Oscars pretty much went as expected as well.