Coal Miner’s Daughter
The Elephant Man
Ordinary People (winner)
Movies like Star Wars don’t normally get nominated, so it shouldn’t be a huge shock that The Empire Strikes Back missed a nomination. However, since it’s a better film than Star Wars, my thinking is that it should’ve been here, at least over one of the actual nominees. I’d also mention The Shining as a film that could stand some love come Oscar time. The Blues Brothers and Airplane! also aren’t the kind of films that turn Oscar’s gaze. If I’m serious, they shouldn’t be here, but I love them both. The Big Red One and Breaker Morant do seem like the right sort of films, though.
Weeding through the Nominees
5: I like the films of Roman Polanski in general, but I really didn’t like Tess at all. The central tenet of Tess is that all men are evil and stupid and rapists at heart. This is particularly ironic when it was directed by a man who can’t return to the United States because of statutory rape charges. Preach all you want, but when you’re telling me I’m spiritual or genetically guilty of the shit you’re accused of, I get to call shenanigans. It’s a pretty film to look at, but an ugly one in its soul. We got this instead of The Empire Strikes Back?
4: With Coal Miner’s Daughter, we’re at least in the realm of films that I like. The best thing about Coal Miner’s Daughter is Sissy Spacek, who won. I like this nomination a lot, even if the main reason this nomination happened was for Spacek’s tremendous performance. The sad truth is I just like the other three nominations better. No knock against Coal Miner’s Daughter, no knock against Sissy Spacek’s career-making performance. Hell of a movie, just not the year’s best.
3: Everything I said about Coal Miner’s Daughter could be said about Raging Bull. The best parts of this film are De Niro’s performance (and he won) and Scorsese’s direction (and he should’ve won). Raging Bull often seems like the default choice for a great number of people as 1980’s Best Picture, but I disagree. It’s a great movie, but not one that I want to rewatch much. Beat me up in the comments if you’d like, but I’m standing fast on this one.
2: For whatever reason, The Elephant Man has been forgotten and it shouldn’t have been. It’s a hell of a good movie with another career-making performance, this time in the person of John Hurt. Every decision that David Lynch made for this was the right one, but again, this is a case where the best part of the film is the performance rather than the film itself. I put it above Raging Bull specifically because, given the choice, it’s the film I’d watch again.
1: No Oscar got this one right giving the statue to Ordinary People. I see Best Director as the best storytelling of the year and Best Picture as the best story being told. Ordinary People is a timeless film. Change the clothing of the characters and this plays exactly the same way today as it did in 1980. Robert Redford got out of the way and let the story tell itself, and it’s a story that needed telling. Everything works here, and it hasn’t aged a day. Complain all you want (that’s what the comments are for), but Oscar made the right choice here.