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The Oscar Quest: Reconsidered (Best Picture, 1987-1988)

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.

1987

Broadcast News

Fatal Attraction

Hope and Glory

The Last Emperor

Moonstruck

Analysis:

Broadcast News is James L. Brooks’ second perfect movie. Terms of Endearment is the big one, but this one is just as good.

Holly Hunter is a news producer who is amazing at her job. Her best friend is Albert Brooks, a great newsman who really wants to be a TV anchor. And then there’s William Hurt, a gifted anchor who’s not that great at the news stuff. And a love triangle ensues. And it’s awesome. It’s so good.

This is my favorite movie in the category. I get why it didn’t win and it probably shouldn’t have won. But it’s still incredible and I may just vote for it anyway.

Fatal Attraction is the original crazy white lady movie.

Michael Douglas has an affair with Glenn Close, who he meets at a business function. After a while he decides to break it off, and she doesn’t feel that way. So she starts going mental and stalking him and threatening him and his family. Boiled rabbits, the whole deal. This movie started all those tropes.

Normally this wouldn’t go anywhere near a Best Picture nomination, but this was a phenomenon in 1987. I get it. Wouldn’t vote for it because I don’t love it enough to, but it’s solid enough to be here.

Hope and Glory is a film that I feel in love with the first time I saw it. It’s really wonderful.

It’s John Boorman’s recollections of growing up as a boy in World War II London. It’s told in the style of all those other movies — lot of vignettes that add together into a story. The John Ford style, if you will. Wonderful stuff.

I voted for this last time. Because this is one of those categories where the winner is so automatic you get that it’s going to win, but also… is it everyone’s favorite? So I felt okay to vote for my preferred choice knowing it would be okay when the ultimate favorite won. This time, it’s gonna be between this and Broadcast News. I love them both. Even though it’s very clear what the winner is in this category.

The Last Emperor is the winner in this category. It feels like a winner all around. But if it’s not my favorite or most people’s favorite, does that make it a true winner? These are things we discuss when we’re stupidly into the Oscars.

It’s a biopic of (insert title here) of China. He begins reign as a small child, leading to one of the more powerful shots in cinema, of this little boy walking outside to thousands of people standing there, waiting to serve him. And he’s walking through all these people, at least twenty years older than him, looking for a cricket he hears among the crowd. And we see the loneliness of this boy growing up in a walled city he cannot leave, as well as his eventual fall from power when the communists take over.

It’s a terrific film. It’s really fantastic. And it’s probably the best film in the category. It should have won. I just never take it because I feel great affinity toward it but no real love. I should probably just take it. But on the other hand… I really like the other films in this category a lot too.

Moonstruck is a movie I’ve been on the apology tour for this go-around. Though I knew that would happen. Because I was against it for very specific reasons, which I’ve made peace with. Now I can appreciate it on its own.

Cher is a widowed Brooklyn accountant who is about to remarry. Her fiancée asks her to go to his estranged brother and invite him to the wedding. She does, and ends up having an affair with the brother, who is Nicolas Cage… with one hand. It’s great.

It’s a terrific romantic comedy that feels down to earth and authentic. Great movie all around. Though unfortunately nothing more than a fourth choice at best in this category. I like it way more than I did last time, but I still wouldn’t take it.

– – – – – – – – – –

The Reconsideration: I think I’ve come around. I love Broadcast News most, but I don’t know if I truly want to vote for it. I like Hope and Glory a lot, and I want to take it just to get more people to see it. But I think I’ve always known that the best film in this category is The Last Emperor, so I’m just gonna take it this time to clear the slate. I do think it’s the best film in the category, and that way, next time I can go through, watch all five and see what I truly think.

– – – – – – – – – –

Rankings (category):

  1. The Last Emperor
  2. Broadcast News
  3. Hope and Glory
  4. Fatal Attraction
  5. Moonstruck

Rankings (films):

  1. Broadcast News
  2. Hope and Glory
  3. The Last Emperor
  4. Moonstruck
  5. Fatal Attraction

My Vote: The Last Emperor

Recommendations:

Broadcast News is one of James L. Brooks’ three essential films. The middle essential of the two, but probably the third (nowadays) that people see. Though I’m also basing that on when I grew up. I honestly don’t know how likely people are to see As Good as It Gets automatically before they really get into film. All I remember was seeing that movie like 30 times in middle school and high school because it was on TNT like every weekend. (If it wasn’t The Fifth Element, it was that.) Either way, it’s essential. You have to see this, it’s amazing. If you get into film, you’ll find this sooner or later. I’m just steering you toward it sooner because it’s so great.

Hope and Glory is not essential, but for me — see this movie. It’s one of the hidden gems that no one knows about anymore. If you love John Ford, or World War II movies, you should see this because you’ll love it. It’s wonderful. One of the great gems on this Quest. Feel free not to see it, but those who choose to are in for a real treat.

The Last Emperor is a Best Picture winner, which makes it basically essential. Still a high recommend as a film. It’s great and worth watching for all. You don’t get points deducted if you haven’t seen it, but you should see it.

Moonstruck is essential for Oscar buffs and is a certain degree of essential. If you love Nicolas Cage, you need to see it. It has one of the famous quotes in cinema history (according to those lists. Not that everyone remembers it, but you will come across it), and it’s a great movie with great performances. If it’s not essential, it’s a high recommend. Great movie.

Fatal Attraction is essential because you need to see the original version of a story they’re still making. The day I write this is the day a derivative version of this movie came out in theaters. At least one derivative of this comes out every year. Must see.

The Last Word: They made the right choice. Easily. Broadcast News maybe could have held up, but I don’t know. Wouldn’t have been that strong a winner or remembered as a winner. Hope and Glory would have been as forgotten as Chariots of Fire has been (more so, since I doubt people would hate it as a winner as much). Moonstruck wouldn’t have been that remembered. Fatal Attraction might have been remembered, but it wouldn’t have been a great winner. The Last Emperor is the choice here. Solid all around.

– – – – – – – – – –

– – – – – – – – – –

1988

The Accidental Tourist

Dangerous Liaisons

Mississippi Burning

Rain Man

Working Girl

Analysis:

The Accidental Tourist is Lawrence Kasdan’s followup to The Big Chill. Not as good, but still pretty decent.

William Hurt is a travel guide writer who specializes in telling people how to travel with the least amount of hassle. The ones who don’t care to see the sights and just want to get around to where they’re going without any fuss. His marriage is falling apart, and eventually falls for a dog trainer who is teaching his dog how to behave.

It’s a solid film. Not necessarily the kind of film that holds up as a Best Picture nominee, but it’s here. Fifth choice for me. Wouldn’t take it over any of the others.

Dangerous Liaisons is based on a famous play, and is a classy period costume drama.

It’s all about people sleeping together and conspiring for different reasons in 18th century Paris. Glenn Close’s lover leaves her for a younger woman, so she plots to fuck him over. She enlists John Malkovich to seduce and deflower the young woman. Meanwhile, he wants to sleep with Michelle Pfeiffer. And all of these different plots play out.

It’s a solid film. A lot of sex and jealousy and costumes. Not something I’d ever vote for. These costume dramas just never do it for me in the way of voting. Maybe my third favorite film, but it would never come close to a vote.

Mississippi Burning is a solid thriller. Very 80s, hasn’t held up overly well. But it works.

Three Civil Rights workers go missing in the deep south. Two FBI agents are sent in to investigate. We watch them on their investigation, uncovering the truth (which everyone knows going in — the Klan did it).

It’s a solid film with great performances. Though now it almost plays out like a John Grisham movie and seems like a paperback novel than a classic film. But I do like it. Would normally be a third or fourth choice, depending on the strength of the year. Here, because the year is so weak, it’s second choice for me. Which means it would take a lot for me to actually vote for it. That won’t happen.

Rain Man is Rain Man. Everybody knows Rain Man.

Not only does everyone know Rain Man, everyone knows how many toothpicks were on the floor in that movie.

It’s so iconic that people pretend like it’s not great now because it’s been so referenced culturally. Like Jerry Maguire. Don’t pretend like that movie isn’t perfect just because it’s been so imitated and referenced over the years.

This movie destroys everything else in the category. How does anything even come close to this? I know how “serious” Oscar people treat this movie, but look at what’s around it. You can’t seriously think there was a better choice in this category. Don’t be pretentious. This movie is amazing.

Working Girl is a movie I hated last time. I don’t know why. It’s perfectly fine. (Though knowing me, I can guess.)

Melanie Griffith is a secretary who has ambitions to make it as a businesswoman. She ends up on the desk of Sigourney Weaver, who seems really interested in hearing her ideas and helping her out. Then Weaver breaks her leg and Griffith has to go to meetings in her place for a few weeks while she heals. In that time, she develops a great idea that gains some traction and starts a relationship with Harrison Ford. Then Weaver comes back and claims that Griffith’s idea was hers…

Good film. Nice rom com. Doesn’t feel like a Best Picture nominee, but it is. Okay. Fourth choice for me. Would normally be fifth. Really only goes to show you how weak the category is.

– – – – – – – – – –

The Reconsideration: I don’t love the choices, but based on what I have, Rain Man is my choice. It’s the only real clear choice. I like Working Girl now, which I didn’t last time. That’s an improvement, but to think I’m gonna take it is a stretch. Dangerous Liaisons would never happen. If you know me and how I vote on these things, seeing me take that would be a huge shock to all of us. The Accidental Tourist is also a complete no. I’d actually take Working Girl over it. Which only leaves Mississippi Burning and Rain Man. And there, it’s not even a choice. Rain Man is by far my favorite of those two. So the choice is easy. Hate the year, not the film.

– – – – – – – – – –

Rankings (films):

  1. Rain Man
  2. Mississippi Burning
  3. Dangerous Liaisons
  4. Working Girl
  5. The Accidental Tourist

Rankings (films):

  1. Rain Man
  2. Mississippi Burning
  3. Dangerous Liaisons
  4. Working Girl
  5. The Accidental Tourist

My Vote: Rain Man

Recommendations:

Rain Man. Of course you need to see this.

Do people even get this far without seeing this movie? It’s so referenced at this point that everyone practically knows what it is without having seen it. (Though you still need to. Just knowing about it doesn’t count.)

Mississippi Burning is an awesome movie. High recommend. Really well done. Great performances, perfectly entertaining all around. Good stuff.

Dangerous Liaisons is pretty great. Not gonna say it’s essential, but it’s worth seeing for all the actors. You can probably be okay without seeing it. Solid to high recommend from me. I get that this isn’t for everyone. But for a lot of people, this’ll be a treat.

Working Girl is a really great 80s rom com. Well done all around. I like it. Solid recommend. Not essential at all unless you’re focusing on the 80s as a decade, but good stuff.

The Accidental Tourist is a solid film. Not essential, not even something anyone needs to see unless they’re into the Oscars. But it’s a well made film that is a good little romance. That’s it, really. This is one — look at the cast, the filmmaker, the plot — if it sounds good, go for it. Otherwise, you’re fine without it.

The Last Word: Rain Man was the best choice. None of these hold up at all. You might think Mississippi Burning would, but it’s just a good thriller. It wouldn’t hold up at all as a winner. None of them would have. Rain Man is the only one that had a shot because it’s become so iconic. They made the right choice here, based on what was nominated. The other stuff is a different conversation we can’t control. They did fine based on what was nominated.

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(Read more Oscar Quest articles.)

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