I’ve always looked at 1981 as a weak year. Which might have something to do with their Best Picture choice. I don’t know. I just don’t find myself excited about many of the films. It’s the kind of year where, some of the films at the top would not be there had they come out in other years. But I guess you could say that for just about any year. It just feels kinda flat to me. Some of the below the line stuff definitely wouldn’t be there in a stronger year.
I’m guessing this is like 1968, which I also always looked at as a weak year, because the industry was flushing out the last of the “70s” stuff before moving onto the 80s. These industry transitions don’t just happen. They take a few years. This feels like the nadir of the transition, before everything fully switches over. This is like that moment, as you’re backing up, when the car sort of rolls to a stop before you put it back in drive. That’s how I would describe this year.
That said, one of my all time favorite movies came out this year, so that’s always nice. And then there’s some really cool stuff I like a lot also there. So that’ll keep things interesting. Overall, though, not my favorite year. (more…)
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…)
1981 is considered the worst year in Academy history. It’s not. In fact, the only part about it that’s so bad was Best Picture. Chariots of Fire is a terrible film. In fact, it’s the only bad film to ever win Best Picture (it should have even been nominated). Every other film that has won Best Picture were (taking into consideration their era) was of a certain quality. (Though, maybe Cavalcade is the other film that could be considered on the level of Chariots of Fire.) Otherwise, all the other choices were films that were good films overall — they just might have been bad choices for Best Picture. This was a film that shouldn’t have even been nominated. That’s why people consider this year so bad.
The rest of the year is actually pretty solid. Henry Fonda (finally!) wins Best Actor for On Golden Pond (talked about here). It had to happen, and was a great decision. Katharine Hepburn also wins Best Actress for the film (talked about here), which, while I’d have gone another way, is a fine decision. The category wasn’t that strong. John Gielgud wins Best Supporting Actor for Arthur (talked about here), which I absolutely love. Everything about that decision appeals to me (it’s one of my favorite films of all time, Gielgud was such a respected actor, and he was awesome in the role). And Best Director was Warren Beatty for Reds (talked about here), which is a fine decision, since Chariots of Fire could have won that too. I personally would have went with Spielberg (Raiders is awesome), but he won two later and Beatty is great.
Which brings us to this category. Supporting Actress is typically the weakest category in a given year, and this is no exception. There really isn’t a choice here, so the veteran win actually works out.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS – 1981
And the nominees were…
Melinda Dillon, Absence of Malice
Jane Fonda, On Golden Pond
Joan Hackett, Only When I Laugh
Elizabeth McGovern, Ragtime
Maureen Stapleton, Reds (more…)
I hate 1981 as an Oscar year. I love it as a year for great films and performances. All of it stems from the Academy selecting Chariots of Fire as Best Picture, which is the single worst picture in terms of quality to win Best Picture. Nothing comes close. This film is not good.
Then, Warren Beatty wins Best Director for Reds (talked about here) and Maureen Stapleton wins Best Supporting Actress for it, both of which are pretty acceptable decisions. Then Best Actor (talked about here) and Best Actress (talked about here) were Henry Fonda and Katharine Hepburn for On Golden Pond. Fonda’s Oscar had to happen, and there was no other alternative. It’s a great decision by default. Then Hepburn’s Oscar is acceptable, even though I’d have gone another way. So that’s 1981. Pretty solid, except for the terrible, awful, soul-crushing decision for Best Picture.
Which beings us to this category. I love it. Jack Nicholson always brings class to a category. Then you have Ian Holm, great actor. James Coco, who was fantastic in the role and was also in one of my favorite movies of all time, Murder by Death. And then there’s Howard Rollins, which, it’s nice to see a black guy get in there. And then John Gielgud. A living legend. Not to mention — Arthur is legit one of my top 20 favorite films of all time. It’s so fucking funny. I love this decision so much.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR – 1981
And the nominees were…
James Coco, Only When I Laugh
John Gielgud, Arthur
Ian Holm, Chariots of Fire
Jack Nicholson, Reds
Howard Rollins Jr., Ragtime (more…)
Oh, 1981. Chariots of Fire. I think we can leave that decision to speak for itself. Best Director this year was Warren Beatty (which I talked about here), which was better than the alternative of Hugh Hudson winning for Chariots of Fire. Best Actor this year was Henry Fonda, finally winning his long overdue Oscar for On Golden Pond (which I talked about here). Best Supporting Actor was John Gielgud, winning for his wonderful turn as Hobson in Arthur. And Best Supporting Actress was Maureen Stapleton, also winning for Reds.
So, in all — a good year for the acting decisions, but a terrible, terrible year for Best Picture. That’s really all there is to say about the year. As for this category — you know, I have to say, even though she had three of them already, this wasn’t a bad decision. There really wasn’t any other choice. Not really, anyway.
BEST ACTRESS – 1981
And the nominees were…
Katharine Hepburn, On Golden Pond
Diane Keaton, Reds
Marsha Mason, Only When I Laugh
Susan Sarandon, Atlantic City
Meryl Streep, The French Lieutenant’s Woman (more…)
We’ve discussed this before. I’ll dispense with any editorial past, 1981 sucked. Chariots of Fire. I think we all understand.
The big thing about 1981, aside from — that — was that it was the year Henry Fonda finally got his Oscar. And Kate Hepburn got her fourth. Meryl’s got the nominations, but Kate’s got the wins. All Best, too. Meryl’s only got one of each. (So you know they’re gonna give her another one soon.) So, both of them won for On Golden Pond, while John Gielgud won Best Supporting Actor for Arthur, and Maureen Stapleton won Best Supporting Actress and Warren Beatty won Best Director, both for Reds. So it was a pretty contained year, aside from — that.
BEST ACTOR – 1981
And the nominees were…
Warren Beatty, Reds
Henry Fonda, On Golden Pond
Burt Lancaster, Atlantic City
Dudley Moore, Arthur
Paul Newman, Absence of Malice (more…)
God, I hate 1981. This year ends — actually, it doesn’t — it sits in the middle of a really terrible, five year stretch of Best Picture winners. Worst five-year plan this side of the Pacific. 1979 is Kramer vs. Kramer, a good film but not a Best Picture winner. 1980 is Ordinary People, one of the worst decisions of all time. 1981 is Chariots of Fire, perhaps the worst decision of all time. (When I get to it, though, in context it will make more sense than some of the other decisions. As a choice though, it’s the opposite of Sam Adams.) 1982 was Gandhi, a boring choice. 1983 was Terms of Endearment, a good film, but a weak choice in a weak year for nominees. Then, we got Amadeus, which broke the streak.But then the rest of the 80s were also a disaster (’85, ’87 and ’89 sucked, while ’86 and ’88 are up for discussion when the time comes), so, really, we had a really big cold streak after this too. This is just our lowest point.
I won’t even hide the fact that I hate this decision. Most times I’ll try to keep my opinions concealed enough so that when I get to Best Picture for this year there’s some sort of intrigue. Not here. This is universally proclaimed one of the top five, perhaps top three, worst Best Picture winners of all time. It’s that bad. We’re talking straight film. Nothing else. It really was bad. The rest of 1981 wasn’t so hot either. Sort of.
Best Actor went to Henry Fonda for On Golden Pond. It was the only choice, really, since they only nominated him once before — for The Grapes of Wrath — and he lost because of a blatant makeup Oscar for Jimmy Stewart. So there was no way he wasn’t winning here, and that’s that. Best Actress was Kate Hepburn, which was really insult to injury, since this was her fourth Oscar, and third in the span of 14 years. Right? ’67-’81? That span. She won three in that time. She also won for On Golden Pond. Best Supporting Actor was John Gielgud for Arthur, a decision I’m over the moon about. I love that movie so much. And Best Supporting Actress was Maureen Stapleton for Reds, which, to me, always felt like a career achievement Oscar mixed with a, “Hey, we know we don’t want to vote for you to win Best Picture, but we actually did like you more than we liked that other thing we voted for, so here’s another consolation prize.” The acting awards I guess weren’t so bad. I’ll need to look specifically to make my final decisions. But, overall, 1981 is a decent year marred by a horrible Best Picture choice. (more…)