Hope and Glory
The Last Emperor (winner)
I had to double-check the list of films for Best Picture 1987. I remember this as being a much better year than the five films listed here. And it was. If ever a year existed where the Academy needed to loosen its collective sphincter, 1987 was it. Few films are more endearing than The Princess Bride, just as a place to start. Raising Arizona and The Untouchables were released in 1987, as were Roxanne, Full Metal Jacket, Wall Street, Radio Days, Three Men and a Baby and Good Morning, Vietnam. On the foreign front, Babette’s Feast and Au Revoir, les Enfants would make my list, but both would take a back seat to Wings of Desire. It’s also the year for Evil Dead II, Near Dark and Hellraiser, not that the Academy cared.
Weeding through the Nominees
5: I won’t deny that Broadcast News is a well-made film, but that’s pretty much the only thing I give it. I can’t stand the characters and don’t care about the story at all. It’s another tale of people acting like assholes and getting away with it because they are pretty. In fact, the only character I actually like ends up getting dumped on through the entire movie. Sure, the production is impressive. So what? The entire thing, despite its prescience, feels completely manufactured and artificial. Maybe that’s another comment on the news media, but I doubt it.
4: Moonstruck is another film where I can admire the production, the cast, and the direction, but I wonder why it was deserving of so many nominations. Am I the wrong age? The wrong gender? I don’t know. I know my mother loved this movie. In my case, though, it washed over me without making a huge impression on me one way or another. My biggest beef is that if you removed the stereotypes from Moonstruck, you’d be left with a couple of sets and about three pages of stage direction.
3: I tried really hard to remember a lot about Hope and Glory, but I didn’t come up with a great deal. That doesn’t bode well, since this is the one I watched the most recently of these five films. Again, this is a good film, but it doesn’t really belong on a list of the five best films of this year. I tend to cut more slack to films set during World War II, and I tend to like films about the home front during war. Those two factors help Hope and Glory, but the fact that I had to look back at what I’d written about it counts pretty heavily against it.
2: Fatal Attraction is a damn fine film and I’m still a little bit surprised at the nomination. It’s not a genre that Oscar typically honors in any way. It’s also the first film on this list where I more or less understand the nomination, even if I wouldn’t give the film the statue myself. The biggest issue I have is the shock ending, which seems completely out of place in anything other than a straight horror movie and didn’t really fit with the rest of the film. Still, this is a hell of a good thriller and it’s one that stands up today. I probably still wouldn’t nominate it, but at least I get why it got here.
1: This leaves us with The Last Emperor at the top of the heap, and I completely understand why this film won the Oscar for Best Picture given the competition. This is not a film I would choose to watch again very often, but it is very much a grand production and a film that tells a story on an epic scale. It’s also a case where I think both John Lone and Peter O’Toole were snubbed for nominations. It’s easily the best and greatest of the five nominations, but it’s not even close to the best film of 1987.
If you return to my first paragraph, you’ll find more than enough films to replace all five of the nominees. Almost at random, Radio Days, The Princess Bride, Wings of Desire, Roxanne, and The Untouchables would be a better list of five. So would Wall Street, Babette’s Feast, Full Metal Jacket, Au Revoir les Enfants, and Raising Arizona. In a perfect world, The Princess Bride would be everyone’s favorite movie from 1987 and it would have won. In a slightly less perfect world, we’d be talking about Wings of Desire winning. In either case, the Academy had its head firmly up its ass this year. What a train wreck.