The Oscar Quest: Best Picture – 1982

1982 is one of those “Academy being the Academy” years. In a way, it makes our job here easier. In another way — it is kind of on-the-nose. Especially in the wake of such good stuff.

Gandhi is an obvious choice Best Picture winner. Not a bad film, but — obvious. Richard Attenborough won Best Director for it (talked about here), which makes sense. He’s awesome. (Even though I’d definitely have given it to Wolfgang Petersen for Das Boot.) It makes me feel slightly better about Sidney Lumet never having won. Ben Kingsley also won Best Actor for the film (talked about here), which — he played Gandhi. It’s hard to argue against it, even though Paul Newman, Peter O’Toole and Dustin Hoffman were so good this year (specifically the first two). Best Actress this year was Meryl Streep for Sophie’s Choice (talked about here), which — yeah. You know. Best Supporting Actor was Lou Gossett Jr. for An Officer and a Gentleman (talked about here), which is a decent decision. Not ideal, but good (and also positive from a race standpoint). And Best Supporting Actress was Jessica Lange for Tootsie (talked about here), which — not ideal. She was nominated twice, so it makes sense that she won, but — Glenn Close really should have won here.

Overall, 1982 is decent bordering on good. It’s just — the Best Picture choice is really obvious. But it was definitely gonna win, which makes us (kind of like 1987) able to pick whatever we want to win without repercussion. So that’s nice.

BEST PICTURE – 1982

And the nominees were…

E.T. The Extra Terrestrial (Universal)

Gandhi (Columbia)

Missing (Universal)

Tootsie (Columbia)

The Verdict (20th Century Fox)

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial — Don’t let anyone know you needed a synopsis to know what E.T. is about.

Gandhi — This one is pretty self-explanatory. It’s a biopic of Gandhi. It’s long, it’s epic, it’s important. It of course was going to win this award. It’s like The Last Emperor. Just watching it, you know they’re gonna vote for it. That doesn’t mean it should have won, but at least it is a great movie. So that’s something.

It’s also one you needed to have seen by now. Some films are culturally essential to just make you a better citizen. This is one of them.

Missing — This is an interesting film in that it’s a “message” film, and also an interesting family drama and a bit of a mystery/procedural as well.

Basically, a young liberal guy brings his wife down to South America in this dictator state. Which is kind of like going to Afghanistan in 2002. You’re just asking to be beheaded. So they go down there, and he’s involved with some anti-Fascist stuff, and one day he disappears. And it’s routine for Americans like him to just disappear and magically end up dead. Totally routine. So his wife (Sissy Spacek) is upset and she calls his father down. And his father is Jack Lemmon, and he’s a strict conservative. He and his son do not share the same views at all. And he comes down and starts looking for his son. And basically the film is him looking for his son, and the police and stuff telling him not to look (because the son is almost certainly dead and was killed illegally like everyone else and it’s being covered up), and we see Lemmon hold out hope that his son is alive, continue searching for him, and also become completely disillusioned with these ideals he’s held so sacred. Not overtly, of course, but — it’s actually a really brilliant move by the film. If you want to convert those who don’t share an opinion, show it with logic, and have a character, couched in a family situation (this being the mother — or, father — of all situations. Man looking for his missing son who is probably dead), come up against what is wrong with a certain society, even though he never really gave it much thought or was okay with it. A modern day equivalent would be something like — a Tea Party member suddenly having to deal with their daughter being impregnated by a black man (who is actually a really nice guy, and is really in love with the daughter, which they come to see), and then getting shunned by the rest of the party and treated like horse shit, and having to face, “Wow, we really are a bunch of stupid, racist assholes.”

Anyway, this is a really strong film, and is one of the few “message” films of the 80s I actually like. I don’t think it should have won, because it’s really the least interesting nominee on this list (it’s really the only one that does not hold up well over time because it’s so specific to a particular situation), but it is a very good film. Lemmon is superb here.

Tootsie — This is constantly voted as one of the funniest movies of all time, or one of the best comedies of all time (which are not necessarily the same thing), so I’d imagine most people know about the film.

Simply — Dustin Hoffman is a temperamental actor who is fired from all his jobs because he’s egotistical and hard to work with and cannot get a job anywhere. So, because of that, he goes to an audition dressed as a woman. It’s basically the Mrs. Doubtfire thing. Mrs. Doubtfire literally took the exact scenario, for the most part. So, he dresses as a woman, gets the part, and becomes a big star on the show (a soap opera). So he has to pretend to be this woman, and of course he falls in love with the female lead of the show, and all that. It’s just a romantic comedy with the cross-dressing angle. It’s hilarious. It really is one of the funniest movies. I love that they had the balls to vote for an out-and-out comedy here. It was never going to win, but it was nice to see it at least recognized.

The Verdict — Now this film… I have a special place in my heart for this one. Talk about a perfect storm of awesome.

Okay, first, director: Sidney Lumet. 12 Angry Men, Dog Day Afternoon, Network. Legend. Writer: David Mamet. Wrote The Untouchables, Glengarry Glen Ross, Wag the Dog — he’s the man. And then Paul Newman. Everyone knows that closing statement he gives in this movie. It’s legendary. This is just — wow. I’m amazed when I find out people who love movies haven’t seen this. Because it crosslists with so many other things. Not to mention being an American classic in its own right.

Paul Newman is an alcoholic, ambulance-chasing lawyer. He hasn’t won a case in three years. One day, he’s offered a case against an archdiocese. What happened was — church owned hospital, woman goes in for surgery. Routine. They tell her she can’t eat eight hours before anesthetic. She says she ate two hours before. The doctor, wanting to go on vacation or wherever he was going, has a nurse fudge the papers so he can perform the surgery and get out of there. Things go wrong during the surgery and she ends up a vegetable. Now the family is suing the hospital for malpractice. No one wants the case because the hospital has unlimited funds (kind of like The Insider, going up against Big Tobacco). So Newman takes the case, and we see him going about building his case and fighting this David vs. Goliath battle. And he knows this is his shot at redemption, yet he’s scared shitless because he hasn’t won anything in three years, and because of all his shortcomings — it’s just a powerful, powerful film, and the writing, acting, directing — everything about this film is great from the top down and back up again. It’s pretty much a perfect film. I’m really not even hiding the fact that this is what I’m voting for (even though I don’t know if this holds up as well as Gandhi does as a choice. As in, if they were swapped, and this won, would it still be as okay?). I love this movie.

My Thoughts: Gandhi is too on-the-nose to vote for. I like it, but I can’t vote for it. Tootsie is great, but not really worth a vote. E.T. I love, but — meh. I don’t know if I’d vote for it. So that leaves The Verdict, which is also not completely a great choice (which is why Gandhi actually does make things easier), but it is a solid film, with great directing, great writing and great acting. So I think it’s a good choice. I’ll go with that.

My Vote: The Verdict

Should Have Won: Gandhi, The Verdict, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. And even Tootsie. Strong year.

Is the result acceptable?: Sure. It makes things easier. It’s a good film. It’s a fine choice. Not sexy, but solid.

Ones I suggest you see: If you haven’t seen E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, you’re dead to the world.

If you haven’t seen Tootsie or The Verdict, you’re dead to me.

If you haven’t seen Gandhi, what’s wrong with you? This is one of those films that makes you a better person. And it won Best Picture. You need to see it.

And Missing is a really solid film. Definitely worth checking out. Not for everyone, but really solid.

Rankings:

5) Missing

4) Gandhi

3) E.T. The Extra Terrestrial

2) Tootsie

1) The Verdict

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