William Hurt: Broadcast News
Marcello Mastroianni: Dark Eyes
Robin Williams: Good Morning, Vietnam
Jack Nicholson: Ironweed
Michael Douglas: Wall Street (winner)
1987 has some performances I like, some I don’t, and naturally, a few that I would like to insert into the actual nominations. In a world where I can nominate anyone I like, I’d be happy to talk about the tremendous physical performance of Bruce Campbell in Evil Dead II even if he’d never come close to a nomination. Oscar’s mistrust of comedy likely left Nicolas Cage in Raising Arizona off the docket. The same mistrust of comedy and fantasy certain got Cary Elwes in The Princess Bride ignored, too. 1987 might have been a touch too early for Kevin Costner, but The Untouchables might rate some thought here. I’d love to have had a chance to consider Matthew Modine in Full Metal Jacket as well. On the foreign front, we have Bruno Ganz in Wings of Desire. We could also easily talk about Paul McGann and especially Richard E. Grant in Withnail & I. Finally, it seems ridiculous to me that the star of what won Best Picture—John Lone in The Last Emperor--was so completely snubbed here.
Weeding through the Nominees
5. The five nominations are actually pretty good for 1987. While I don’t love all of these movies, it’s hard to find a lot of fault with the nominations themselves. I may be penalizing William Hurt in Broadcast News for the fact that I genuinely dislike this movie a great deal, and I specifically dislike Hurt’s character a lot. Hurt has this misfortune with me. Hurt is often fine or acceptable in movies that I really dislike. The best thing going for Broadcast News is that it isn’t The Accidental Tourist. I don’t hate the nomination, but I don’t love it.
4. Marcello Mastroianni is the only reason to watch Dark Eyes, and even he isn’t a good enough reason to watch it a second time. It’s not often that you can find someone who is truly capable of pulling off being a romantic lead in his 60s, but Mastroianni was that guy. That he is the best thing in this movie, sadly, doesn’t say a great deal. Dark Eyes is far too long and concerns characters who don’t really deserve any sympathy, or really much of our time. Sure, Marcello is good in the role, but to what purpose?
3. Every now and then, it’s good to be reminded that Jack Nicholson could do a great deal more than just be a variation of himself on the screen. Ironweed is one of those cases. It’s also a case, though, where at least part of the role is taken over by another actor; Frank Whaley handles the role in frequent flashbacks. It’s also one where one of the most notable moments in the film is someone else’s, and in this case, that someone else is Meryl Streep. Nicholson is great and could win in other years, but not this one.
2. I could probably be argued to give this to Robin Williams in Good Morning, Vietnam. It’s a classic Williams performance, one where almost certainly there exists hours of footage of him ad-libbing the radio bits and taking them in completely different, ridiculous directions. Given some structure, Williams could be brilliant, especially when he had something to bite into, as he did here. Williams is insane on the air and human in the rest of the film—it’s exactly what is needed for this, and he genuinely delivers.
1. A lot of Oscars are handed out for memorable moments, and then 1980s had few more defining cinematic moments than the “Greed is good” speech in Wall Street. Michael Douglas was the perfect, perhaps only person who could deliver that as it needed to be done. It’s a great performance all the way through, one that not only defines the movie, but in many ways defines the entire era. It’s a rare case where Oscar showed a little bit of prescience. The Reagan years were always going to be defined by financial excess and greed, and Michael Douglas gave us that defining moment. If for no other reason, he was the right choice.