The Oscar Quest: Best Director – 1984

Just like the rest of the 80s, 1984 would be a hugely forgettable year if not for a good decision on Best Picture. Seriously, looking at the nominees they had to choose from, you almost have to sigh and go, “Thank god they didn’t screw that up.” Because they really did fuck up the 80s. I think America did as a country. You just have to be grateful when something good came out of it.

Just so we’re on the same page, Best Picture for 1984 was Amadeus, and F. Murray Abraham won Best Actor for it as well. Best Actress was Sally Field for Places in the Heart — yeah, we’ll get to that at some point. Best Supporting Actor was Haing S. Ngor for The Killing Fields, one of the categories I’ve actually done already, and Best Supporting Actress was Peggy Ashcroft in A Passage to India. Notice what I mean about a boring year aside from Best Picture? Yeah… the 80s are all about that.


And the nominees were…

Woody Allen, Broadway Danny Rose

Robert Benton, Places in the Heart

Miloš Forman, Amadeus

Roland Joffé, The Killing Fields

David Lean, A Passage to India

Allen — Guess what I’m gonna say now. Go ahead. I bet you can. I bet you know what I’m gonna say right now. Yeah, that’s right. I don’t like Woody Allen movies. I wasn’t even gonna switch it up and say something else. It needs to be said, every time. I really just don’t like this man’s movies, save like, I think I’m at, five of them that I do like. But I guarantee you that at least three of those five are considered “lesser” works.

Anyway, this one. It’s shot in black and white, which, I’m guessing is why they nominated him for Best Director. Seriously, does anyone see why they’ve nominated him so many fucking times for Best Director? This movie is really just about five dudes, sitting around a table, swapping comedian stories. And then they all go to the story of this one guy, which is like The Aristocrats, it’s just a story everyone knows and has their own spin on. And it’s about this dude, who is a low-rent manager, who has a washed up lounge singer client who is trying to make a comeback. And he has to deal with this dude, who is about to leave his wife for this other woman, and he needs to pick up the other woman, and as he picks her up, he gets involved with the mob, who thinks he’s the one with her, and comes after him to kill him — I really don’t know what the fuck was going on here. Really, what I got out of it was, it sounds a lot better as I write it than as I watched it. Watching it, it was just a movie that I had no feelings toward in either direction. Which, I guess is better than a lot of other Woody Allen movies that I’ve watched. Still, I am never gonna vote this dude for Best Director (and even if I did have an inkling to, he won one already, so it ain’t happenin’). No vote. Can anyone honestly say any of his efforts are worth a vote?

Benton — Yeah, nothing against this movie, I enjoyed it and all, it’s just — Oscar bait much? This movie is such bait it’s ridiculous. It’s about a woman whose husband gets accidentally shot, so now she needs to take over the farm or else be evicted. And she has to do that. And she gets help from a “colored man” — you know there had to be just a little racism thrown in — and a blind man. Because, of course, no one else is willing to help. That’s how these things work. And together, they overcome and make the farm profitable. And then there’s this whole other side story going on with Ed Harris that I really had no idea what it was about. It felt like complete filler. But, you know, I did get through it mostly entertained, so on that level, the film was okay. But as an Oscar winner — it is certainly not. It’s about as shameless as Oscar bait as Conviction is. Remember that one? The one where Hilary Swank’s brother gets convicted of murder and she teaches herself to become a lawyer in order to get him acquitted? Yeah. This is the 80s equivalent of that. No vote. I will not give into something like this.

Forman — God, I love Amadeus. There’s just something great about this movie. And something so relatable to, about how you can be the biggest drunken buffoon on the planet, and yet still be good at what you do.

This film is fucking great. The whole Salieri thing, hating how this motherfucker could be so great, going nuts when Mozart’s wife brings over his music sheets and is like, “I need them back, they’re the only copies,” and he’s like, “What do you mean — these aren’t drafts?”, and she’s like, “Dude only does one draft of everything,” and then Salieri flips out like, “How the fuck can someone get it this right on the first try?” That’s pretty much the movie in a nutshell. Though I’m sure you’ve seen it. Isn’t it awesome?

This is a film that, easily, is the best film on this list. However, in a tougher year, I would hesitate to give it the victory. Forman’s won before, plus, it’s not “perfect” direction. It’s very good direction. In a tougher year, like, say, 1979, I’m not sure I’d be voting for it. But, fortunately, it showed up in a year that’s weak as fuck, so, this automatically becomes number one.

Joffé — Yeah, this film is — meh. It’s directed okay and all, but, I just have no interest in it. It’s about the dude in Cambodia covering the genocide, and the Cambodian dude he has with him, who gets put into a work camp and stuff. Yeah, the movie is boring and 80s, but it is well-directed. I don’t even want to go over it. If you want to know about it, check the 1984 Supporting Actor one I already did. In a weak year like this, this actually becomes second choice. Wow.

In fact, before we finish, I did say — if I disagreed with at least three of the nominees (which I do), I’d look at the year and see what else could have been nominated instead. I’m gonna do that. I’ll briefly list some other films here that perhaps could have been nominated in this category instead. I’ll leave you to decide whether you agree with the existing nominees or the ones I’m about to list: Once Upon a Time in America — uhh, wow, that’s really it. 1984, maybe? Shit, this year sucks for potential Oscar films. I mean, there are great films here, but none of them would ever get voted into this category. God-damn, this year sucks!

Lean — David Lean is a very good director. He is a classic director, and has made many wonderful, wonderful films. But I feel, after Dr. Zhivago, he might have gotten too old and too out of touch. All his films after 1965 are really long and sprawling — not that the others aren’t, it’s just, the other ones were so watchable. Zhivago, is kind of off the rails a bit, but, on the whole, it does work. But, the two films he made after Zhivago, this film, and in between, Ryan’s Daughter, are kind of brutal to get through, this one much more so. Whoa boy.

This film is about a British woman and her mother who travel — guess where — and befriend an Indian doctor. And a lot of the first part of the film are them hanging out and the woman sort of falling in love with the doctor, and everything’s all happy and shit. And then Alec Guinness shows up, as he always does, playing another character of different racial origin than himself. And then midway through, out of nowhere, they go into caves, and all of a sudden, the woman runs out and is like, “That motherfucker raped me.” And the rest of the film is about the doctor being put on trial for raping the woman. And the film is like three hours long. It’s fucking brutal to get through. Trust me on this. Unless you like long dramas based on famous novels (British novels, no less), you will not like this film. Wow.

My Thoughts: Forman is the only choice here. It’s really awful how he’s the only choice here.

My Vote: Forman

Should Have Won: Forman

Is the result acceptable?: Oh dear god, it’s the only acceptable one in a category like this. What a really weak year. It really was saved by this decision.

Ones I suggest you see: Amadeus. Though for some reason this is a film that most people end up seeing. Schools show it really often. I saw it in both middle school and in high school. Still, it’s really the only one on this list I can recommend.


5) Allen

4) Lean

3) Benton

2) Joffé

1) Forman

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