The Oscar Quest: Best Director – 1982
We’re back at 1982. A boring year, for my money. I mean, Gandhi is Gandhi, but, also nominated this year were The Verdict, Tootsie and E.T. (and Missing, which — whatever). Those would have been way more interesting choices. Ben Kingsley for Best Actor for Gandhi was also good, but — Paul Newman was up for The Verdict. He hadn’t won one yet. But, whatever. This isn’t Best Actor. Best Actress, however, was Meryl Streep for Sophie’s Choice, which is one of the best choices they’ve ever made. I mean, come on. (I talked about that one here.) And then Best Supporting Actor was Lou Gossett Jr., for An Officer and a Gentleman, a category I haven’t decided how I feel about yet, and Best Supporting Actress was Jessica Lange for Tootsie, which, I also haven’t full decided upon yet. But I’ll probably get to it soon.
And that’s 1982, really. Mostly good decisions punctuated by a boring choice for Best Picture. Which then makes me feel pretty “meh” about this year as a whole, since, a year is summed up by its Best Picture winner in Oscar Town.
BEST DIRECTOR – 1982
And the nominees were…
Richard Attenborough, Gandhi
Sidney Lumet, The Verdict
Wolfgang Petersen, Das Boot
Sydney Pollack, Tootsie
Steven Spielberg, E.T. The Extra Terrestrial
Attenborough — Have you seen Gandhi? It’s a good film, right? Just kinda boring, right? This is not a film I can watch often. It’s a film I want to watching like, once every ten years, just to remind myself, yeah, this is important, this is a good film, but, otherwise, I don’t think it needed to win Best Picture. Look at The Diary of Anne Frank, The Miracle Worker or — I don’t know, whatever historical movies that you’d watch in history class when the teacher is hungover and doesn’t want to teach that day. It’ll hold on its own.
Anyway, the film is a biopic of Gandhi. That’s it, really. It’s long, it’s slow-paced, and it’s inspiring. It’s a really good movie. Maybe could have used some time trimmed off. I think you can accomplish a biopic in under 191 minutes, but, you know, even that’s not a dealbreaker. Plus the performance is great. Ben Kingsley looks exactly like the dude. Even the direction is good. Plus I love Richard Attenborough. The only question is, do I wanna vote for him? We’ll see.
Lumet — Okay, Sidney Lumet. This is a dude that really should have won an Oscar in his life. And he didn’t. This is sort of that last ditch nomination before it’s sealed that he’s never going to win one. He had such great films in the 70s, came away empty-handed, and this was the last chance like, “Oh wait, this is also wonderfully directed, maybe he can get it for this,” and then he doesn’t, and you know, he’ll never be nominated again. And he wasn’t. It was a shame. But the film is incredible.
Paul Newman is an old, alcoholic lawyer who is now an ambulance chaser. Every case he’s had recently (all, like, four of them), he’s lost. And finally, he ends up getting a case where, a woman went in for routine surgery, and they told her she can’t have eaten within an hour (or eight) before going under anesthesia (I think it’s eight, and she did eat one hour before), and, the doctors knew this, but forged the form anyway because I think the doctor was leaving to go golfing for the weekend and wanted to get out of there, and the anesthesia messed her up and now she’s in a coma and is a vegetable for the rest of her life. And the family wants to sue for malpractice, but the hospital is church-based, and they have a lot of money and are very powerful. It’s kind of like The Insider, which I talked about the other day, going up against an opponent with endless supplies who’s never lost a court case.
And Newman takes the case on, and is trying to redeem himself for all his problems, and we show him trying to win the case and all, and the performance is incredible, and the movie is great too. Just watching the film is really fascinating, because, not much happens, or if it does, it’s slow and deliberately paced, and yet you’re with it the whole time. And Newman’s speech at the end of the film is just fucking wonderful. This is a film that’s highly recommended.
The direction now. Lumet’s direction is strong. But, at best it’s like, #2 in a regular year. Not really one you vote for unless there is no strong contender to win. Which, this year, there is. I hate to say that I’m not voting for him because, he really should have had an Oscar by now. And honestly, if I were voting for real this year, with an actual ballot, I might just vote Lumet anyway because he really deserved to win one.
(P.S. I also want to voice my displeasure with the voting system for the Oscars. The ballots are biased toward films and not individuals. That is, all ballots list the nominees in each category by film. So, unless you know specifically the person nominated in each category, which — how many Academy members do you think know the names of every nominated cinematographer? This is why people like Sidney Lumet and Roger Deakins have never won. Because on the ballot, they see: Best Director — Gandhi, Das Boot, E.T., The Verdict, Tootsie. And they’re just voting for the film, basically. It’s a fucking shame. A real fucking shame. And it needs to be changed.)
Petersen — Okay, so Das Boot. As you can tell by its title, one of the more kid-friendly films to come out of Germany. About a German U-Boat in the days of World War I.
The film is basically about life on a U-Boat. I saw the Director’s Cut version first and I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen the theatrical version. Folks, let me tell you, if you can make it through the director’s cut (multiple times) and enjoy it, then the theatrical release must be a breeze. Because the cut I watched is three hours, forty minutes. The theatrical is only two and a half hours. I bet the theatrical is much less intense. You basically follow the men on a small, cramped submarine that’s not very protected in case of attack. And I tell you, it’s one of the better directorial efforts of all time. In fact, if they listed the top 100-200 directorial efforts ever achieved, this would be on that list. It’s that good.
The film, though, is intense, and can be hard to get through. So I’m only gonna recommend the theatrical version to you. But still, it’s a great film. You feel like you’re on that ship with them. Really, this is the best effort on this list by far, and Petersen should have won based on that alone. That’s really all I have to say about that.
Pollack — And Sydney Pollack. Great director. Great actor. Great guy. He won his Oscar for Out of Africa three years after this, so I have no problem in saying — there’s no way in hell i’m voting for him here. Granted, Tootsie is an amazing film and one of my more favored films on this list, just because it’s so much fun to watch, but, don’t get me wrong, he shouldn’t have won for this. It’s just a comedy. It’s a comedy about Dustin Hoffman as a difficult actor who, when he can’t get a part, dresses as a woman. I’m not looking down on the film so much as saying — if you think I’m gonna vote for this film over Das Boot for Best Director, you’re fucking crazy. Seriously, now.
But the film is wonderful, check it out if you haven’t seen it, it comes highly recommended by me. Everyone in the film is great. Top notch all around, here. It’s one of the funniest movies ever made (AFI says so).
Spielberg — And E.T. I think we can all agree this film is a timeless classic that’s great for everyone to watch. I won’t tell you the plot of this film because, if you don’t know it, you’re not an American.
As for the direction, it’s great. It’s Spielberg, when is his direction not great? The problem is, I see this film in the realm of Steven Spielberg nominations in the 80s, which includes Raiders of the Lost Ark and, even though he wasn’t technically nominated for Best Director for it (he won the DGA Award though, which pretty much tells you everything you need to know), The Color Purple. And, compared to those two, he shouldn’t have won for this over those. Those other two were amazing. This is just very good. So, for me, he becomes #5 on this list in terms of a vote. But, the film itself, is tops. I love E.T. so much. But, I just can’t vote for Steve for it. Don’t feel bad, he won twice for Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan, he’s doing okay.
My Thoughts: Really, it comes down to Wolfgang Petersen being the one who had the best directorial effort on this list. Regardless of anything, I have to vote how I feel, and he had the best effort. Attenborough is great, but I can’t vote for him. And Pollack, it’s basically a comedy, nothing special in the direction. Lumet, he should have won in the 70s. This is a great effort, but, if Petersen isn’t here, I’m not sure if I got for Attenborough or Lumet .But I don’t have to make that decision, do I? And Spielberg? I’m more in love with the film than I am his direction of the film. If he was gonna win for anything he did in the 80s, it was gonna be Raiders or Color Purple. So, it’s Petersen for me. All the way.
My Vote: Petersen.
Should Have Won: Peterson. Let’s not get crazy here.
Is the result acceptable?: Sure. I guess. I love Richard Attenborough. But, Wolfgang Petersen was the best director on this list. Rather, best directorial effort. That distinction should always be clear. Sidney Lumet should have won an Oscar, but, it shouldn’t have been for this. He should have won it in the 70s (like, say, 1975). Attenborough should have an Oscar, but, against Petersen, I think no. But, I’m okay with it in the long run.
Ones I suggest you see: Okay, E.T., you must see. That’s all. Do it. And Gandhi is a film you’ll probably see. You might not like it, because it’s long, and I know what attention spans are like these days, but, you should see it. And Tootsie, is hilarious. It’s seriously a fantastic film that everyone should see. Almost a must-see, but not quite. And The Verdict is a compelling film. I really, really recommend the film. It’s, incredible. And Das Boot, is long, but worth it. It’s so well directed. I think people should see it once in their lives just so they can claim to have seen it. You don’t really need to watch it more than once unless you’re into film or into the film, but, I do think people should see it, because it’s like the Tora! Tora! Tora! of World War I films. So, everything. I suggest you see everything on this list.