The Oscar Quest: Best Picture – 1981
I think we can all agree Chariots of Fire is probably the single worst Best Picture-winning film of all time. (I think it’s between that, The Broadway Melody and Cavalcade. Though those two have an excuse, being within the first six years of the Oscars. This one has no excuse.) There are many reasons why it won, but even so — it was a terrible choice. The film only won one major Oscar, showing that it won only because the Academy didn’t want to vote for the alternatives.
Best Actor this year went to Henry Fonda for On Golden Pond (talked about here), an Oscar that was 41 years overdue. Even though Dudley Moore was in Arthur this year, Fonda was a great choice. And Katherine Hepburn winning Best Actress for the film (talked about here) is a nice sentimental choice. It wouldn’t have been my choice (that would have been Marsha Mason in Only When I Laugh), but it works, and it doesn’t interrupt anything. So it’s a nice pair with Fonda. Best Supporting Actor this year was John Gielgud for Arthur (talked about here), which is just terrific. He’s awesome, and he’s awesome in the film. A perfect decision. Best Supporting Actress was Maureen Stapleton for Reds (talked about here). Another veteran Oscar (even though pretty much everyone else in the category was better than her, specifically Jane Fonda and Elizabeth McGovern). Warren Beatty also won Best Director for the film (talked about here), which was a good choice. He did do a good job, and it did get him an Oscar (plus Spielberg would later win two anyway).
So, really — 1981 is a terrific year… outside the Best Picture choice. Again, another example of how a bad Best Picture choice can screw up an entire year.
BEST PICTURE – 1981
And the nominees were…
Atlantic City (Paramount)
Chariots of Fire (The Ladd Company, Warner Bros.)
On Golden Pond (IFC Films)
Raiders of the Lost Ark (Paramount)
Reds (Paramount) (more…)