Hannah and Her Sisters (winner)
My Beautiful Laundrette
We have a surprisingly good list of films for Original Screenplay in 1986, but as is almost always the case, there are ways that it could be changed to improve it. The biggest surprise miss is Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, even if it’s not a film I would want on the list; I think it’s one that a lot of people would not only nominate, but award. I think a lot of people have the same sort of nostalgia vision for Labyrinth, which I also wouldn’t nominate but would understand if other people did. Ditto for Three Amigos. I could, honestly, put together a list of five movies that I think could have potentially been nominated that would be almost as good as the five we got starting with Blue Velvet, Down By Law, and The Mission, the biggest miss in my opinion. Tampopo is a personal favorite of mine, and I’d love to see it nominated. The fifth is a long shot for me: Running Scared, a movie that has been all but forgotten and still manages to be funny. As a final outside shot, She’s Gotta Have It.
Weeding through the Nominees
5. I’m less likely to be attuned to Oliver Stone these days than I used to be. Stone is clearly capable of making a good movie, and Platoon isn’t a bad one, but I don’t love the screenplay. My main issue with it is the issue I have with a lot of Stone’s films: symbolism. When he’s got his hackles up, Stone applies his symbolism with a sledgehammer, and I don’t know if he’s ever done it more egregiously than he did here. It’s just too much, and there are a lot of films I’d rather have here than this one.
4. There’s a part of me that loves the fact that a goofy little romantic comedy like Crocodile Dundee managed to swing a nomination. It’s a movie I like pretty well because it has its heart in the right place. It’s almost sweet in spite of itself, because it’s also terribly predictable. Even if you’ve never seen it before, you can figure out pretty much what is going to happen frame by frame. It doesn’t really belong here even if it manages to hit every cliché in a way that seems fresh by playing it completely straight. It takes itself more seriously than it should and that makes it work. But it still doesn’t belong here.
3. With Salvador, I might be accusing the movie of something it doesn’t deserve. This is Oliver Stone’s second screenplay under consideration here, and my problem with Salvador might be that I suspect that Stone has decided to pour his own conspiracy theories into a story that probably didn’t need them. More damning is the fact that Salvador frequently loses the human stories in favor of political intrigue, and the human stories are a lot more interesting and worth more of both our time and the film’s. It’s a bit misguided in that respect.
2. In a world where Moonlight wins Best Picture and many thousands believe Brokeback Mountain was robbed of the same, My Beautiful Laundrette doesn’t seem nearly as daring as it was in 1986. What I like the most about it is that the ending is incredibly satisfying because it manages to get to the ending that the audience wants and it does it honestly. In an open field, I think there’s a good chance it would still get a nomination from me. It’s right on the edge in what has turned out to be a very strong year.
1. I can complain with the best of them when it comes to snubs in one category or another, but there are times when Oscar manages to restore my faith in the system. Awarding Hannah and Her Sisters is one of those moments. In an open field, I’d bring in films like Blue Velvet and I’d fight for Tampopo, but Hannah and Her Sisters is a fully realized film. It’s messy in the way that real life is messy, and even the minor characters are three-dimensional. It’s a wonderful thing to behold when all of the pieces fall perfectly. A better list of nominations would make a tighter race, but my gut tells me this would still come out on top.