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The Oscar Quest: Reconsidered (Best Picture, 1985-1986)

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.

1985

The Color Purple

Kiss of the Spider Woman

Out of Africa

Prizzi’s Honor

Witness

Analysis:

The Color Purple is such a great film. And yet… completely shut out by the Academy. Two things going against it: the Academy ignored Spielberg films until they couldn’t anymore, and we all know the Academy’s stance on ‘black’ films. They just completely ignored them for years.

The film is about Whoopi Goldberg, who is sent to marry Danny Glover as a young girl and is mistreated and abused by him for years. And we follow her and other characters as she comes into her own. It’s.. wonderful

This is the best film in the category. I’m not shocked they ignored it for the very white film they went with, but history I think has spoken on this one. This is the choice.

Kiss of the Spider Woman is a really great movie. I keep forgetting it got nominated for Best Picture. For some reason I always think it only got Actor and Director.

Raul Julia is a political prisoner being held for information so the fascist government can hunt down revolutionaries. His cellmate is William Hurt, a gay window dresser. The two men do not get along at first, but eventually become… quite close.

It’s a very solid film. The kind I wouldn’t expect to see here. I’m glad they nominated it. Fifth choice all around, but definitely a solid film worthy of being a Best Picture nominee.

Out of Africa is one of those movies like The English Patient. You know it for having won, but does anyone really like it as a winner?

Meryl Streep marries a dude out of convenience. He’s got a title, she’s got money. They move to Africa. He starts a coffee farm even though that’s a dumb idea. He sleeps with other women and basically ignores her. She starts a relationship with Robert Redford, a big game hunter.

It’s a good movie. Not sure it should have won, but it certainly holds the status of a winner, I’ll give it that much. It’s a fourth choice for me almost all around. Probably second choice historically, but I still think The Color Purple is a better film overall.

Prizzi’s Honor is such an awesome 80s action-comedy.

Jack Nicholson is a mob hitman. He has an on-again, off-again relationship with the Don’s daughter. At a wedding, he meets a mysterious woman and falls for her. On a job, he is sent to murder a guy who ends up being her husband. He then finds out that she’s also a hitman, and she stole money from the mob. So he’s torn between his loyalties and his increasing love for her. Naturally that puts them at odds with the mob.

This movie is so good. It’s hilarious and works as an action movie too. Great performances all around. John Huston’s last great movie. (I’ll admit to not having seen The Dead at the point in which I’m writing this. So it’s possible he does have another great film. But since I haven’t seen it, I can’t speak to it.) Love this movie, but wouldn’t take it. Solid second for me, probably third choice historically.

Witness is one of only two films that made the Amish interesting. (Kingpin is the other one.)

An Amish widow goes into the city to visit her sister, and along the way, her son, in a train station bathroom, witnesses a murder. Harrison Ford brings the kid in to see if he can identify the murderer. He does. It’s a cop. Ford is now targeted by the cop, who wants the kid. Ford goes back to Amish country with the kid and his mother, in order to protect them and lay low. Naturally, the dirty cops eventually come. Action ensues.

It’s great. This movie is so good. I love that they nominated it. It’s a fantastic action movie. Not the kind of movie that wins Best Picture, but it’s fucking wonderful as a film. Probably my third favorite in the category. Nothing against it, I just like two of the other films more.

– – – – – – – – – –

The Reconsideration: I never fully understood this one. Is it not agreed upon that The Color Purple is the better film here? Does anyone really love Out of Africa? The Color Purple is the choice. I wish I had an alternate choice, because I don’t think The Color Purple is a perfect movie, but it’s the best movie in this category. What, are you really gonna take Witness? That’s fine if you want to, but I can’t. It’s The Color Purple. I try to see what’s so great about Out of Africa and can’t do it.

– – – – – – – – – –

Rankings (category):

  1. The Color Purple
  2. Out of Africa
  3. Prizzi’s Honor
  4. Witness
  5. Kiss of the Spider Woman

Rankings (films):

  1. The Color Purple
  2. Prizzi’s Honor
  3. Witness
  4. Out of Africa
  5. Kiss of the Spider Woman

My Vote: The Color Purple

Recommendations:

The Color Purple is an essential movie. Don’t even try to get out of this one. It’s Spielberg, it’s great, it’s generally regarded as the film that should have won this category and it’s referenced a lot. Must see for all film buffs.

Out of Africa is a Best Picture winner and sounds like a classic based on its title. Plus it’s Robert Redford and Meryl Streep, so you should probably see it. I doubt most people are gonna love it, but you’ll enjoy it. It’s well made. It’s a good movie. (Though for my money, give me Roar any day.)

Prizzi’s Honor is essential for Oscar buffs, essential for the 80s, and it’s John Huston and Jack Nicholson. Why would you skip this? Oh and it’s got a shitload of recognizable people in it, and it’s great. I love this movie. I consider it essential, just because most people who see this are gonna enjoy the shit out of it. It makes no sense to not want to see this movie.

Witness is a great action movie. A classic. Essential for the 80s, and just a great movie. I’m calling it essential. If not, it’s a very high recommend. Just see it. It’s awesome.

Kiss of the Spider Woman is essential for Oscar buffs and a high recommend for everyone else. Not everyone will love this. It’s not for everyone who loves movies. If you’re still at the early side of things and haven’t really gotten into the deep end of movies (or don’t care to), this might not be for you. But for most film buffs, this should be seen, because it’s terrific and William Hurt and Raul Julia are incredible in it.

The Last Word: The problem here is that Out of Africa and The Color Purple would still be about the same level of winner. So I can’t truly say the choice was one of the worst of all time. But between the two, they didn’t make the better choice. And I can probably point to systemic racism, because the Academy has shown that time and time again over its almost-90 year existence (with some steps made recently toward actually acknowledging when a ‘black’ film is actually the best in the category), but whatever the cause, I think they made a lesser choice here and there was a clear better one to be had that most people agree on. I just don’t get this one.

– – – – – – – – – –

– – – – – – – – – –

1986

Children of a Lesser God

Hannah and Her Sisters

The Mission

Platoon

A Room with a View

Analysis:

Children of a Lesser God is a film I like a lot. Very 80s, probably not the kind of film that will be loved by all. But I really like it.

William Hurt is a new teacher at a school for the deaf. He quickly establishes himself as a good teacher the students really like. He meets Marlee Matlin, a former student at the school who is now the janitor. She was the wild kid they could never get to. Hurt seems to be able to get to her and they begin a relationship.

It’s a romance. That’s it. Unique setting. I really like it a lot. Solid third choice for me, even though most would have it a fourth choice at best. It’s not the strongest year, this one.

Hannah and Her Sisters is Woody Allen’s second most acclaimed film, Academy-wise. One of only three times his films were nominated for Best Picture.

The film is about… well, (insert title here). The film takes place over the course of the year, where Hannah’s husband begins sleeping with one of her sisters and then her ex-husband ends up dating her other sister. It’s… the kind of movie I feel is a huge influence on every hipster bait New York filmmaker.

I don’t love it. Mostly the performances are the reason I’m okay with it. I 100% would never vote for this. It’s just not for me.

The Mission is one of those movies everyone remembers because of the score.

In 18th century Portugal, a bunch of Jesuits try to protect the locals from being slaughtered by the slave traders.

It’s a very good film. Shouldn’t ever really be more than a third choice, but here, given the way this category is, it’s probably second choice. I’d never take it unless I absolutely have to, and fortunately, because of this next film, I don’t have to.

Platoon is Oliver Stone’s (first) war masterpiece.

Charlie Sheen is a young soldier arriving in Vietnam. He’s put in a (insert title here) and torn between two sergeants — Tom Berenger and Willem Dafoe. (Yes, good versus evil.) It’s fucking great.

This movie wins this category easily. It’s not even close that this is the best film in the category. Nothing comes close to making me even consider it for the vote. This movie not only wins by default but also should have won. It’s like 1984 all over again. The only choice to take happens to be the best choice by far. So that makes things easy.

A Room with a View is the first of the Merchant-Ivory films to be nominated for Best Picture. Oh boy.

Helena Bonham Carter is on vacation with Maggie Smith. She’s engaged to be married, and falls for a guy she meets at the hotel. It’s pretty much about love blooming under the repressed upper class British society.

It’s a fine movie. I don’t love it. I don’t love most of these Merchant-Ivory movies. To the point where, if having to choose between them, I’d probably end up taking the Woody Allen movie over it. Which is saying something. It’s just not something I particularly like and wouldn’t go near it for a vote.

– – – – – – – – – –

The Reconsideration: Platoon is the only choice in this category. Nothing else comes close. This is an Amadeus situation, where the best choice actually saves it from looking as weak of a year as it was. I’m not even going to entertain the notion of anything else. Platoon is the choice here.

– – – – – – – – – –

Rankings (category):

  1. Platoon
  2. The Mission
  3. Hannah and Her Sisters
  4. Children of a Lesser God
  5. A Room with a View

Rankings (films):

  1. Platoon
  2. Children of a Lesser God
  3. The Mission
  4. Hannah and Her Sisters
  5. A Room with a View

My Vote: Platoon

Recommendations:

Platoon is an essential film. Best Picture winner, a classic, and a film that all film buffs get around to quickly. Must see.

The Mission is a solid film with a killer soundtrack. I feel like people get around to this fairly quickly because of the people involved, but if not, it’s a solid to high recommend. Very well done and worth seeing, if not overly essential.

Hannah and Her Sisters is essential Woody Allen. So there’s that. Essential for Oscar buffs. If for some reason you really hate Woody Allen, you can probably skip it. Though if you’re gonna see a few of his movies, this would be in the top five of the essential ones. So maybe you should just see it. For me, I think it’s okay. Moderate recommend. I don’t love the film, but I’m also very particular about which Woody Allen films I like. Which is a whole other discussion.

Children of a Lesser God is a film I love. High recommend. I love it. Great movie, but not essential unless you’re really into the Oscars or really into the 80s.

A Room with a View is Merchant-Ivory. I don’t love it. Light recommend. But if you think you’ll like it, go for it. Not essential at all unless you think it is.

The Last Word: Platoon is one of the solid winners in history, and it’s the only choice in the category. Everything else would have been a weak or flat out bad choice. They made the right choice and the only choice in this one.

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(Read more Oscar Quest articles.)

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One response

  1. I’ll vouch for The Dead being a wonderful film, and a perfect film for Huston to end his career on. It might not be your cup of tea – it’s a very quiet, low-key film – but I was enchanted by it.

    Also, off-topic question: one of your header images is a black-and-white image of a man looking at his reflection in what appears to be a diploma or certificate. For the life of me, I can’t identify it. What is it from?

    April 30, 2017 at 2:24 pm

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