Directed by Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins
Screenplay by Ernest Lehman
Starring Natalie Wood, Richard Beymer, Rita Moreno, George Chakiris and Russ Tamblyn
I never really noticed it before, but musicals can be pretty dark. On the surface they seem all happy and shiny because they tend to be in the bright sunshine, have the singing and dancing, and a generally joyful sensibility.
Underneath, though, they can go to so real terrible places.
Midnight Cowboy (1969)
Directed by John Schlesinger
Written by Waldo Salt, based upon the novel by James Leo Herlihy
Starring Jon Voight and Dustin Hoffman
Midnight Cowboy seems an unusual choice to win the Oscar – after all, until it’s win in 1969, no movie with any real, honest-to-goodness grit to it, save for maybe Marty, managed to snag the top prize. And those that did have a tinge of grit to it – or darkness, if you prefer another word – were about big, important things, e.g. The Best Years of Our Lives. In other words, if a dark movie, rooted in real life, wanted to win Best Picture, it had to go big and make epic statements about important topics (anti-Semitism, WWII), because, aside from that sweet little film about the lonely butcher – Marty – you couldn’t win.
Directed by Sydney Pollack
Screenplay by Kurt Luedtke, from the books Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen, Isak Dinesen: The Life of a Story Teller by Judith Thurman, and Silence Will Speak by Errol Trzebinski
Starring Meryl Streep, Robert Redford and Klaus Maria Brandauer
Out of Africa is a typical 80’s movie. Not in the way that Top Gun is an 80’s movie, with all the bombast, jingoism, reductionist story-lines and bonanza box office. No, it’s an 80’s movie in the way Ordinary People and Ghandi and The Killing Fields are all 80’s moves: it’s earnest, epic, about something sort-of important, and, above-all, fairly dull.
In other words, it’s the movie the Academy typically fell in love with in the 80’s and dumped a butt-load of Oscars on.
Even as I say that, with all the weariness and disdain I can muster V just imagine me rolling my eyes when I write typically – it really comes as no surprise bloated, boring epics were the name of the game in the 80’s, as far as the Academy was concerned. Giving awards to this kind of film was just what they did. And honestly, just like this isn’t the first time I’ve said it, it probably won’t be the last I say it, either. No, what will be said here first – at least by me – is the reason I think the 80’s went the way they did.
Directed by Elia Kazan
Screenplay by Moss Hart, from the novel by Laura Z. Hobson
Starring Gregory Peck, Dorothy McGuire, John Garfield, Anne Revere and Celeste Holm
Throughout the long and winding road I’ve traveled for the Best Picture Project, I’ve learned more than a few things. Most prominent amongst those lessons, oh my brothers and only friends, is there is no predictability about the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. At least not in the traditional sense of predictability. Continue reading
Directed by Jonathon Demme
Screenplay by Ted Tally, based on the novel by Thomas Harris
Starring Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins
It’s somewhat funny that, as I work myself through this project, I’ve described various Best Picture winners as ‘perhaps the darkest Best Picture winner ever,’ or some sentiment along those lines. I’ve said this about Oliver!, I’m sure I said it about The Lost Weekend, and if I didn’t say it about Platoon, I don’t know why. The reason this is funny is that, there can truly only be one film to hold the title of ‘darkest Best Picture’, and with all due respect to those other films that I might have tried to include in the race, the reality is that The Silence of the Lambs is easily the darkest of the Best Picture winners ever, hands down. Continue reading