The Oscar Quest: Best Actor – 1984

Amadeus, Amadeus … Amadeus, Amadeus … Amadeus, Amadeus … oh, Amadeus.

Guess what won Best Picture this year, Falco? And Best Director for Milos Forman (talked about here)? This year, to me, was the best year of the 80s, Oscar-wise. As an Oscar decade, I despise the 80s. The only decisions from it I love are this one and Platoon. And I like Rain Man and Terms of Endearment, even though I think both were kind of weak choices for Best Picture (more so the latter, since The Right Stuff so should have beaten it), and respect The Last Emperor. But, for me, there are only three decisions I really like. Out of a decade. And of that decade, there are four decisions I outright loathe. Contrast that to the 90s, where there are only two decisions I outright loathe, and the rest I love, respect or understand. So this year to me is the diamond in the rough that is the shitty 80s.

Best Actress this year was Sally Field for Places in the Heart (talked about here). I don’t love it, but I understand it, because it was seriously the weakest Best Actress category of all time. It was really bad. Best Supporting Actor was Haing S. Ngor for The Killing Fields (talked about here), which I sort of understand, but don’t like as a decision at all. And Best Supporting Actress was Peggy Ashcroft for A Passage to India, which, despite the film sucking, is understandable as a decision because the category is one of the weakest of all time and she’s a veteran.

Which brings us to this category, which is just wonderful.


And the nominees were…

F. Murray Abraham, Amadeus

Jeff Bridges, Starman

Albert Finney, Under the Volcano

Tom Hulce, Amadeus

Sam Waterston, The Killing Fields

Abraham — Yay, double nomination. And Amadeus double nomination. Double awesome.

Amadeus is a film about Antonio Salieri and his relationship with Mozart. And he tells his story to a priest, and the film unfolds in flashbacks. And we see Salieri as the court composer of the emperor of Vienna, but then Mozart comes on and gets really famous, and Salieri is crazy jealous. And that’s basically the film. If you’ve seen it, you know how much more there is to it than that. If you haven’t seen it, stop reading, go get the film and watch it. It’s incredible.

Abraham plays Salieri, and he’s awesome. Both him and Hulce are just tremendous here. Both deserved the Oscar.

Bridges — Starman is a John Carpenter film. It’s an interesting — well, I don’t know quite what it is, a fantasy or whatever. But it is interesting.

Karen Allen is a woman whose husband has died. She is deeply depressed. Meanwhile, an alien spaceship is shot down by the government, and it lands outside her farm. The alien, a big blue ball of light, comes and finds a piece of her husband’s DNA. He replicates himself in that image. So she comes downstairs to find her dead husband standing in front of her. Imagine the shock. And he’s basically the image of her husband (Bridges), only an alien, who knows nothing about humans. And he needs to get to  rendezvous point where other aliens will pick him up. So she goes along with him, at first as a hostage of sorts, but then she warms up to him. And they get to the place, and the government is also tracking them, and that’s pretty much the film.

It’s — I enjoyed it. I didn’t love it, though. I’m sure people who are into sci-fi love this film. I am not into sci-fi, so I thought it was just okay.

Bridges plays an alien, and that’s basically the performance. He’s solid, and I like that he got nominated, but there is no way in hell I’m voting for him over F. Murray Abraham, Tom Hulce, and even Albert Finney. He’s a fourth choice at best, and the fact that he won in 2009 doesn’t help his chances any. So no vote. Decent film, though.

Finney — Under the Volcano is a film I didn’t enjoy too much. But, I really enjoyed Albert Finney’s performance. He did a really great job here.

Albert Finney is a former elected official who is now a pitiful drunk, spending the Day of the Dead down in Mexico. And most of the film is about him being drunk. And then his wife shows up, and they sort of make up, but not really — it’s the kind of thing where they want to make it work, but he’s drunk, and he doesn’t want to do that to her, and she doesn’t really want to have to deal with his alcoholism — honestly, the plot of the film didn’t interest me much. What interested me was the performance of Albert Finney. This may be one of the best alcoholic performances I’ve ever seen on film. Not drunk. A lot of people have played drunk. I mean alcoholic. Like, hardcore alcoholic. Finney is really great here. I highly recommend the performance.

As for a vote — I’m sorry that I can’t vote for him. Abraham and Hulce were just too good, and even if he was on their level, their film was better, so they win. But Finney is really great here. One of his best performances, for sure.

Hulce — Hulce plays Mozart, and does a fantastic job of him. You’ll never forget that laugh. He characterizes the dude perfectly, and deserved the Oscar just as much as Abraham did. A tie would have been awesome here.

Waterston — The Killing Fields is about Cambodia and all that stuff that happened there in the 70s. Sam Waterston is a New York Times reporter who is down there, covering things. He goes around with Dith Pran, a Cambodian interpreter, and the film is about them covering all the goings on. Pran is eventually arrested and put to hard labor, and then escapes and gets back to his family. Waterston mostly is there to be the reporter figure. He puts himself in great danger, gets a story, and is upset when the paper writes a snaitized version (as they often do). And Waterston wins awards for his coverage, but is guilty because he feels its his fault Pran was arrested, and eventually he helps get Pran out.

Honestly, Waterston doesn’t do much here, and I was shocked that he even got nominated. He disappears for part of the movie, and actually (to me, at least), doesn’t come off as a very likable guy. The film itself is pretty good. Not my cup of tea, but pretty good overall. I’ve watched worse. As for the performance — no way. I don’t even think it should have been nominated.

My Thoughts: It’s not even close, here. Abraham and Hulce are clearly the two best performances in the category. Props to Albert Finney, but it’s really the Amadeus show here. And Abraham is really the lead of the picture. Hulce gets the showy, sort of supporting, sort of not, role. I understand putting him in lead (though he would have raped Supporting if they put him there, and no one would have questioned it, because it would have been like Barry Fitzgerald in Going My Way. Sure, he’s a lead, but now both performances get Oscars, and that’s awesome), but, his lead does not quite compare to Abraham’s lead. So I vote Abraham. It’s nice to see Salieri get some sort of victory over Mozart.

That wasn’t Mozart winning this category — it was God.

My Vote: Abraham

Should Have Won: Abraham, Hulce

Is the result acceptable?: Absolutely. Abraham and Hulce were far and away the best two in the category. Either one would have been the best decision.

Performances I suggest you see: Amadeus is an essential film. I feel as though everyone ends up watching it at some point in high school. In one of those music classes they make you take — if they haven’t cut those already. Still, if you haven’t seen it, do yourself a favor an see it. It’s fucking incredible. You need to see it if you haven’t. Get on that shit.

Under the Volcano is a John Huston film, and you get to see Albert Finney drunk off his ass for the entirety of the movie. So that’s something. It’s pretty good. Definitely not essential by any means, but, for a small portion of the audience, definitely worth checking out. You’ll know if you’re part of that small audience.

Starman is also a good movie. Entertaining. If it sounds interesting to you, check it out. If not, you don’t need to see it. I enjoyed it moderately. I’m not crazy into Carpenter’s stuff, but some people are. So if you’re into this sort of thing, absolutely see it. It’s a solid film.

And The Killing Fields is a very good movie. Very 80s, very political, very message. Good though. Worth a watch. I’m not the biggest fan of these movies, but I did enjoy this one. So take that as you wil.


5) Waterston

4) Bridges

3) Finney

2) Hulce

1) Abraham


One response

  1. j

    Well I’m glad Hulce was lead since otherwise we might still be stuck at zero East Asian male actors with an Oscar. Though Ngor actually won a lead Bafta for his role, while Hulce wasn’t even nominated for his.

    October 11, 2011 at 5:53 pm

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