The Oscar Quest: Best Director – 1987

1987 is another one of those generic 80s years. It’s not that they made a bad choice. The Last Emperor is a very good film. It’s just — not everyone is gonna go out and watch The Last Emperor. I bet it’s one of the least watched Best Picture choices of all time. It’s certainly the least-grossing Best Picture winner of all time. So it’s got that going for it.

Best Actor of this year was Michael Douglas for Wall Street. Best Actress was Cher for Moonstruck. Olympia Dukakis won Best Supporting Actress for that film too. Best Supporting Actor was Sean Connery for The Untouchables. So, clearly they got the men right this year. The women — up for discussion.

That’s really it. If you know The Last Emperor, you know there really isn’t much more to say about 1987.


And the nominees were…

Bernardo Bertolucci, The Last Emperor

John Boorman, Hope and Glory

Lasse Hallström, My Life as a Dog

Norman Jewison, Moonstruck

Adrian Lyne, Fatal Attraction

Bertolucci — Bernardo Bertolucci. Legendary director. Was nominated once before for Last Tango in Paris. This, though, is his greatest work. It’s incredible what he achieves here.

The film is about — guess who — of China, and how he became emperor at the age of like, three. And for the first hour of the film, he’s supposed to be running a country and he’s only like, five. Most of the scenes are of him playing, or, the one that’s the most profound, of him going outside, and standing out there are over a thousand soldiers, just standing there. And here’s their leader, a five year old kid, who is just running around between them, trying to find a cricket he hears chirping in the crowd. And these scenes are intercut with him as an adult, after the end of the dynasty, on the run and then re-educated (as in, “Dude, this is all the shit going on while you were ruling,” and then he becomes a regular dude). But these scenes are brief compared to him growing up. A lot of the scenes are of him growing up and dealing with being unable to leave his city. He tries a couple of times, unsuccessfully. Also, Peter O’Toole plays his tutor. He’s always spirited for these types of roles.

On the whole, it’s a pretty good movie. Though, like I said, it requires patience. It’s long. It’s also brilliantly directed. While it’s not my favorite piece of direction on this lis, it is one that admittedly, is worth voting for. The other is just a personal preference.

Boorman — John Boorman is the dude who also directed Deliverance. And Point Blank, with Lee Marvin. And also Excalibur and Zardoz. And Exorcist II. So, an up-and-down resume. But, Point Blank, Deliverance and this are three really fucking great films. Most directors don’t get three good ones.

This is probably the least known of the bunch, I would think. I didn’t know anything about it until I started this Oscar Quest. And this movie is the reason I started it. There are a handful of movies I’ve seen because of this Quest that I loved so much I was surprised I hadn’t known about them at all beforehand. This is one of them.

The film is about the blitz of London during World War I. We start the movie with the start of the war, and get to see the family doing what they do. The father enlists and goes off to war, and we get that scene of the family seeing him goodbye. And then we see the family living while planes fly overhead and occasionally drop bombs. And it’s like Russian roulette. They need to hope their house isn’t destroyed by the planes. And there isn’t so much of a plot in the film as much as it is a recollection of the director’s experiences during the war. As such, there are a lot of scenes that are so great that probably wouldn’t make it into a film like today. The film is pretty slow by plot standards. Like, we see the kid join a “gang,” which is literally just him and the other kids running around the rubble, collecting shells and bullets and stuff. And he gets initiated into the “gang” by basically shooting a bullet. Which is so dangerous of course kids would do it. And then there’s another scene where all the young boys all pay a slightly older girl to “sneak a peek.” And you get this great scene where she literally pulls the front of her pants out and all the boys line up and take a look inside. It’s shit like this that makes the film for me. Plus, the film is very very funny. Maybe it’s not hysterical funny, but I did find myself amused at how light the whole thing was despite all the horrible situations going on. I really can’t recommend this movie highly enough. I really loved it.

Hallström — Yeah, this movie. I liked it, but — I don’t know. It wasn’t totally for me. The film is about a boy who is sent away because his mother is terminally ill. He and his brother are sent to separate relatives, and the film is about him going with one set. And he just lives in this town and meets all the people there. That’s the kind of film it is. Lasse Hallstrom makes films like these all the time. It’s like Chocolat and The Cider House Rules, only if they were made in Sweden and not in America. It’s much less, conventional, this one. It’s much like Hope and Glory, in the sense that, there are a lot of vignettes, almost, that really have nothing to do with a central plot, yet, together, make up the central plot. We see the kid meeting a girl, we see the town eccentric who fixes his roof every day, even in the snow — there’s even a scene where they create a zip line between a house and the ground. It’s one of those types of movies, the slice of life film. But, I guess its because of how Swedish it is, I just didn’t like it as much as I liked Hope and Glory. No vote.

Jewison — Norman Jewison is one of those guys that’s really hit or miss with me. And even when it hits, it doesn’t hit to the tune of “I love this movie,” it hits to, “This movie is pretty good. I don’t like (this aspect of it) at all, but I really like (this other aspect of it) a lot.”

Just to recap, here are the films he’s directed: The Cincinnati Kid (a nice poker movie starring Steven McQueen), The Russians are Coming (x2), In the Heat of the Night, The Thomas Crown Affair, Fiddler on the Roof, Jesus Christ Superstar, Rollerball, …And Justice for All, A Soldier’s Story, Agnes of God, and The Hurricane. For me, none of those films are “perfect films.” Some of them I like a lot, but usually it’s because of a specific performance or I just like them because they’re fun to watch. A lot of them I find very heavy-handed (you can tell which ones). This one, is just — I don’t know. But I know I don’t like it.

This movie is about a Brooklyn accountant — as soon as I heard that I got real nervous. I knew from that moment, the film was gonna be the worst Italian stereotyping I’d ever seen. And that’s not to say that it’s completely exaggerated or even untrue. A lot of it is actually accurate. And that’s the problem. I really do not want to see shit like this, because I grew up with shit like this. And the last thing I want to see is a 40% to what I lived with for 22 years, along with 60% of an exaggeration of that. Nuh uh. Fucking shoot me first.

Cher plays a Brooklyn accountant who is marrying Danny Aiello, who is a lot older than she is. And there are Italian issues, like, he’s all about his mother and whatever. And she is going along with it because she doesn’t want to end up alone. And her parents, Olympia Dukakis and Vincent Gardenia (that dude who was awesome in Bang the Drum Slowly), are no role models themselves. He’s cheating on her and she’s living with it, despite knowing about it. For me the whole film was just embarrassing to watch. The only saving grace for this film, and the reason I continue to put up with it and not try to block it from my memory at all costs — is Nicolas Cage.

That’s right folks, this is a Cage movie. Cage plays Danny Aiello’s brother, who, doesn’t like his brother so much. He’s not a fan. There’s no real reason for this. Or, at least, the one he gives is clearly shown to be wrong. It’s one of those Cage performances where he plays half-stupid. And he has one hand. He lost his other hand in a butcher’s accident. And he comes to town while Aiello’s in Italy visiting their mother (who I think is dying), and he starts sleeping with Cher. And she’s torn between Cage and the brother. On one hand, she likes Cage better, but, he’s really fucking dumb, and Aiello will provide a more secure future. On the other hand, Aiello is much older, and she doesn’t like him as much. And there are a lot of scenes of her and Cage just interacting, and Cage is really funny. There’s that famous scene where she goes and sleeps with him and is like, “We’re not doing this anymore.” And he’s like, “But I love you,” and she’s like, “Don’t love me. This isn’t serious,” and he keeps saying he loves her and she slaps him and is like, “Snap out of it!” That’s the famous line from the movie. He’s like the lovestruck teenager who just follows her around, and she’s like, “Leave me the fuck alone!” even though she likes him too.

That’s it, really. I don’t like the film, but I do love Cage, so it’s a love/hate thing. There is no fucking way in hell I’m ever gonna vote for this movie. The fact that it’s even nominated for Best Picture is like when you think back to something stupid you said like, ten years ago and still get embarrassed over it. That residual embarrassment. That’s what I get from this film.

Lyne — Oh, this movie. How the fuck was this nominated? Don’t they know this is a genre movie? Whatever. I’m not complaining. You all know about some Fatal Attraction, don’t you? This is the staple film of the “Crazy white bitch” genre.

The film is about Michael Douglas as a lawyer or book editor or something (professional white person job) who, while his wife is out of town, meets Glenn Close at a party. She says she’s working for this other company that he’s also working with, and they end up sleeping together. And he thinks of it as a one night stand, or a series of them, they do it a couple of times, and he thinks it’s a nice little fling. Then she starts showing all these — tendencies. She gets really manic out of nowhere and has these freak outs over random issues. Big indicator. Then he ends it, because he does love his wife. But, it’s not that easy. Turns out — she’s a crazy white bitch. She starts stalking him, doing crazy shit like pouring acid on his car. Then she escalates, doing shit like kidnapping his son’s rabbit and boiling it in a pot. Really crazy white bitch. And of course the film ends with him and the wife confronting her in their home and having to kill her — twice (because you know they don’t die the first time) — and then reuniting as a family. Because, having an affair is much easier to forgive if you have this other shit to deal with too. That’s the key. If you do something bad that could end your marriage, make sure that mistake escalates into a life or death situation. Then get out of it. I bet they’ll forgive you. Also, if you mention the movie Obsessed at all to me right now, you are dead to me. That movie was a shitty bastardized version of this one. Don’t even try to tell me this movie is remotely like that one. That’s like saying Terminator is just like Legion. Mind your betters, is all I’m saying.

Anyway, this film is well-directed, but there is no way in hell I’m ever gonna vote for it to win. Can’t do it. Love that it’s on here, though. That’s awesome.

(Though, I will say, no Kubrick? No De Palma? Okay, Untouchables, I see why you might not want to nominate it, but, Full Metal Jacket? Is this Vietnam fatigue from Platoon? At least nominate him. Jesus. You nominate Moonstruck and not either of those?)

My Thoughts: Bertolucci deserved this, but I’m voting for Boorman. The individual effort isn’t the same, but I’m factoring Deliverance and Point Break into this too. (Most people would factor Last Tango in Paris toward the Bertolucci win, but I don’t like Last Tango in Paris.) So, I vote Boorman. It’s all good either way, though.

My Vote: Boorman

Should Have Won: Bertolucci, Boorman

Is the result acceptable?: Yup. Boorman did the best job on this list. I have a personal preference, but, he did do the best job and did deserve the award.

Ones I suggest you see: I really, really recommend Hope and Glory. I love that film so much. It’s so enjoyable. I also recommend The Last Emperor if you like big epic/historical movies or want to see all the Best Picture winners. But it does take patience to get through. It’s not for everyone. Also, if you are attempting to see every Cage movie, then Moonstruck is one of those. Otherwise I do not recommend it.


5) Jewison

4) Hallström

3) Lyne

2) Bertolucci

1) Boorman

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