The Oscar Quest: Reconsidered (Best Picture, 1981-1982)

The Oscar Quest began in May of 2010. I finished about fifteen months later, and wrote it up for this site. That was essentially the first thing I did on here. Five years have passed since then. I’ve grown as a person. My tastes have changed, matured (or gotten more immature, in some cases). So it feels fitting, on the five year anniversary of the site and of the Oscar Quest, to revisit it.

I want to see just how my opinions about things have changed over the past five years. I didn’t do any particular work or catch-up for this. I didn’t go back and watch all the movies again. Some I went back to see naturally, others I haven’t watched in five years. I really just want to go back and rewrite the whole thing as a more mature person, less concerned with making points about certain categories and films than with just analyzing the whole thing as objectively as I can to give people who are interested as much information as possible.

This is the more mature version of the Oscar Quest. Updated, more in-depth, as objective as possible, less hostile. You can still read the old articles, but know that those are of a certain time, and these represent the present.


Atlantic City

Chariots of Fire

On Golden Pond

Raiders of the Lost Ark



Raiders of the Lost Ark is a fucking masterpiece. Spielberg, after the failure of 1941, decided to pare down his resources and shoot a low budget movie, going back to basics, on a shoestring budget. And this was the result.

Spielberg started a disconnect for a lot of years within the Oscars. Historically, a certain kind of film won Best Picture. But his films were great and so widely popular. They weren’t quite what the Academy went for, yet they probably were the best films being made. So you have Jaws, Close Encounters, this — they never really had a shot at winning, yet over time, they’re probably the best films in the categories.

I almost have to take this. It’s so good. Use this as a measuring stick to see what else holds up as well as this all around.

On Golden Pond is a film I love a lot. But I’m also not naive enough to think that this isn’t basically a Lifetime movie with huge stars in it.

Henry Fonda is a retired professor who comes to a lake house every summer with his wife, Katharine Hepburn. Shortly upon returning, they’re visited by their daughter, Jane Fonda, who has gotten married out of nowhere. She and her husband are going on their honeymoon and drop his son off with her parents while they do that. So now you have this retired couple watching this kid for a couple weeks.

It’s — I love it. I love everything about it. Norman, the loons! It shouldn’t have won. I’m shocked this got so many nominations. 10! Guess them off hand. Picture, Director, three acting nominations. That’s five. What are the other five? Screenplay you have to figure. Okay, what are the other four? Editing, has to be. I guess Score is one. And two more. (They’re Cinematography… okay… and Sound. What? Sound?!) Very strange. Looking at this now, I bet a lot of people hate this on principle or think it’s hokey as shit.

I can’t take this. I love it, but I can’t take it. It’s honestly my second favorite film in the category, but I can’t take it. I’d be too ashamed of myself if I took it. Plus I legitimately like Raiders more. So that makes it easier to not take it.

Now, we have one film in. There’s no way this is the choice over Raiders. This would have been such a bad winner. You can’t deny it. You show this to a millennial now without them knowing who the stars are and they’re gonna go, “What kind of Lifetime/Hallmark bullshit is this?” Objectively, this isn’t the choice. But as someone who loves this film, I understand if it’s gonna be the vote.

Reds is Warren Beatty’s masterpiece about communism. Everybody’s got their communism masterpiece, don’t they? (Looking at you… Marley and Me.)

Beatty plays John Reed, who wrote “Ten Days That Shook the World.” It’s about his introduction to communism and following up through the Russian Revolution, as well as his romance with Louise Bryant.

It’s great. It’s long, but it’s great. And it started a kind of docudrama style that you never really saw before this. (It’s the style they used in Band of Brothers. Real people give interviews and then we see the fictional scenes.)

If there’s anything that I guess could be considered the choice over Raiders, this is it. Doubt it gets anything other than a ‘solid’ ranking historically, but it’s still a decent choice. I don’t love it enough to take it, but it’s gonna be like the film that wins the year after this… you get it, but you might not necessarily vote for it on your ballot.

Chariots of Fire is a really famous film.

I’m legally obligated to put this here every time I talk about the movie.

It’s about guys who race. One is Jewish, one is not. And we track them from college all the way through the Olympics.

It’s a good movie. I — I don’t get the win myself. It’s my fourth favorite film in the category. I’ve slowly come to be okay with it as a winner, but I still think it’s one of the weaker choices they’ve ever made. Aside from the theme, what’s that great about this movie that makes it a good winner? I don’t see it.

(I’m not taking it, in case that wasn’t obvious.)

Atlantic City is a film that seemingly came out of nowhere. I’d have never thought something like this would end up with five Oscar nominations (the big five, at that). It’s great, but it still always seems strange that it happened.

Burt Lancaster is an aging, small time gangster. Susan Sarandon is a casino waitress. Her husband gets into some shit with drug dealers while also cutting a deal with Lancaster to sell drugs. The husband is eventually killed and Lancaster is there to protect Sarandon, on whom he has a crush. And it’s about Lancaster feeling young again and enjoying this criminal life for the first time ever, really.

I can’t quite explain it, but it’s very good. Lancaster is terrific, and this is the first time Sarandon got nominated, and she’s very good in this as well. I definitely wouldn’t take it, but it’s great and I love that it’s here because it gets so much more people to look into this and see it than would otherwise be the case.

– – – – – – – – – –

The Reconsideration: Make me an argument why it’s not Raiders. It’s not On Golden Pond, and I’m about as big a supporter as you’re gonna get for that movie. It’s not Atlantic City, even though that’s great. Is it Reds? I guess I could accept if it’s Reds. I don’t think it’s Chariots of Fire. They went with Chariots of Fire and how does that look? Chariots of Fire is just fine, Reds is too… much, for me. Atlantic City isn’t enough, and On Golden Pond just isn’t right. Raiders is the only thing I could, or would, take here. So I’m taking it. I don’t see how this wasn’t the proper choice.

– – – – – – – – – –

Rankings (category):

  • Raiders of the Lost Ark
  • Reds
  • Chariots of Fire
  • On Golden Pond
  • Atlantic City

Rankings (films):

  • Raiders of the Lost Ark
  • On Golden Pond
  • Reds
  • Chariots of Fire
  • Atlantic City

My Vote: Raiders of the Lost Ark


Raiders of the Lost Ark is one of the 100 most essential films ever made. And if you’re a film buff and haven’t seen this, you’re doing it wrong.

Reds is an essential film. Must see for all film buffs. You don’t have to rush to see it, but you should at least know you need to see it. It’s essential for Oscar buffs and just all around essential for anyone into film.

Chariots of Fire is a Best Picture winner and an essential film. If you wanna complain that it won, you need to have seen it. Plus it’s a good film. Definitely something you should see at some point if you love film.

On Golden Pond is such a great movie. I consider it essential. Henry Fonda, Katharine Hepburn, Jane Fonda. Why would you not see this? Here’s what I say to people who haven’t seen this movie:

Atlantic City is an awesome film. High recommend. Great Lancaster performance, good Sarandon performance, solid film. Definitely worth seeing. Not high end essential, but a nice hidden gem not everyone knows about.

The Last Word: Chariots of Fire isn’t particularly looked at that well as a winner. I’ve called it one of the worst winners of all time. I’m not sure I still think it’s that harsh, but I do think it’s bottom 15. Objectively it’s a better film than some of the winners, but it’s also not that great a choice over some of the others in the category. That said, though — it holds up better than two of them would, flat out. I can say for sure that we’d all have loved Raiders as a winner and that would have held up best and everyone would have loved it as a great winner. Reds — I think it could have held up because it won Best Director and because it’s so big and classy that those films are almost win-proof. It’ll look fine, even though it’ll end up in that Last Emperor territory of “yeah it’s great, yeah I get why it won, but it’s not my favorite.” Which I could live with. Because where we’re at — I don’t think this has held up as a very good winner at all.

– – – – – – – – – –

– – – – – – – – – –


E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial




The Verdict  


E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. You know it. Everybody knows it.

This is one of the great fantasy films of all time. A true classic.

For some reason — and maybe it’s because this film is about six years older than I am — it never struck the emotional chord with me that it did with other people. Not that I don’t love it, because I do. A lot. But it’s not that classic of my childhood that it is for some. Which basically means that it’s not the runaway choice for me that it would be for a lot of people. Leaving this category a really tough proposition. I almost wish I liked it enough to automatically take it. That would make this so much easier for me to deal with, this category.

Gandhi is a biopic of Gandhi.

That pretty much covers everything you need right there.

I don’t like how much I love this gif.

But yeah, it’s big, it’s classy, it’s a classic. Makes sense that it won. Though with the rest of the films in the category, would people actually take this? That’s always the question for me. Not that it’s not good enough to, but do I like it enough over the other choices to? We’ll see.

Missing is kind of forgotten, because it’s very 80s and very much about the political landscape at the time, but it’s a very, very good movie.

Sissy Spacek and her husband live in Chile. He’s a political activist. One day, he disappears. Spacek is convinced the government abducted and murdered him. Jack Lemmon is her husband’s father. He’s a conservative, old-timey Republican. He comes down and is like, “It’s his own fault. Him and his political views, getting himself thrown in prison somewhere.” He figures the American government is going to help him. Though the more he goes on, the more he realizes there’s some shady shit going down, and the U.S. government might not only be complicit in it, but is actively covering it up. And his faith in the ideals he’s lived with all these years are shattered.

It’s very good. This is the one film that hasn’t held up as well as the other four, but it’s good enough on its own to be considered amongst them. This could be the vote. I don’t think it should have won, but I think it could be the vote. It won’t be my vote, just because I don’t like it over the others, but it is good enough to be the vote.

Tootsie is an all-time comedy. Just, wonderful.

Dustin Hoffman is an actor who can’t find work because he’s… difficult. He goes up for a part on a soap and finds out it’s actually for a woman. So, he dresses like a woman. And he gets the part. And the film is about him working and pretending to be a woman, while also falling in love with his female co-star. It’s perfect.

This movie is so good. You could easily take it here. There are few comedies good enough to be worthy of serious consideration for Best Picture. This is one of them. Not sure I take it, but I do love it a lot.

The Verdict is one of the great trial films of all time. David Mamet, Sidney Lumet. And Paul fucking Newman.

Newman is an alcoholic ambulance chaser who is given a case out of pity. A woman went in for surgery at a church-run hospital. She was supposed to not have eaten before anesthesia but did, and the hospital went through with the surgery anyway. The woman ended up in a coma she’ll never wake up from. A gimme for Newman. A nice settlement and closure. But Newman has a crisis of conscience, and sees a chance at redemption. He decides to take the case to trial. So now it’s him, an alcoholic who hasn’t won a case in several years, versus the church with all their resources.

It’s GREAT. Absolutely great. It’s so good. It might be my favorite film in the category. Not necessarily something that should have won, but fuck, do I love it. This whole category is great. I don’t know what the hell to do in this one. They’re all good.

– – – – – – – – – –

The Reconsideration: I have no idea what the hell I’m gonna do here. What can you do?

I’m not gonna take Missing. I know that much. But after that, all bets are off. Gandhi is the biggest film here, but it’s not my favorite. I don’t know if I want to take it just because it makes the most sense. I’d prefer to go with something I actually love. I’m cool with it winning, but I don’t have to take it just because it did. E.T., as I said, never quite hit me the way it hit other people. So while I do love it, something about it doesn’t jump out at me as “the choice.” It would feel weird to take it.

The two films I like best here are The Verdict and Tootsie. Not sure I particularly love either as the choice, but the category is the category. I still really love The Verdict a lot, so I’m just gonna take that. Maybe in five more years something will click and I’ll have a surefire choice. But as it stands, let’s go with my favorite. Why not?

– – – – – – – – – –

Rankings (films):

  1. Gandhi
  2. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
  3. Tootsie
  4. The Verdict
  5. Missing

Rankings (films):

  1. The Verdict
  2. Tootsie
  3. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
  4. Gandhi
  5. Missing

My Vote: The Verdict


Gandhi is essential. Don’t be a dick. (And it’s a Best Picture winner, so there’s no excuse.)

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. Really?

Tootsie is essential. One of the best comedies ever made. A near-perfect film. Must see for anyone who loves movies.

The Verdict is essential. Universally regarded as one of the three or five best Paul Newman performances of his career, and it’s David Mamet and Sidney Lumet. No one who loves movies dares skip this.

Missing is an awesome movie. Dated, but great. Solid to high recommend. Worth seeing, but not essential.

The Last Word: Gandhi holds up fine. It’s not a particularly sexy choice, but it doesn’t need to be. E.T. probably holds up better because it’s E.T. But I don’t think it needed to win. Tootsie could have been decent, but wouldn’t have held up as well as the other two have. Overall, Gandhi is a solid, if unspectacular, winner.

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(Read more Oscar Quest articles.)

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