February 2, 2018 at 4:42 pm #1202486203
There are many insane decisions the Academy made during the 1980s. Best Picture wins for forgettable films like Chariots of Fire, Gandhi, Out of Africa, Rain Man, and Driving Miss Daisy. A sympathy win for Marlee Matlin over Kathleen Turner and Sigourney Weaver. Morricone losing best Score for The Mission to Herbie Hancock.
But I still cannot believe in 1982 they denied by far the 2 Best Screenplays that year and 2 screenplays listed on the WGA Top 100 screenplays of all time, Tootsie and The Verdict. Tootsie lost to Gandhi and The Verdict lost to Missing. How did this happen? How could the 2 best Sceenplays that year lose out in 2 seperate categories? It makes no sense. There is nothing in Gandhi and Missing that is particularly quotable or memorable. Tootsie had so many great lines. The entire “reveal” scene. “I’m Edward Kimberly!” The ending scene. Every line that came out of Teri Garr’s mouth. The Verdict had lines and scenes that still sends chills up my spine. “Who were these men I wanted to be a nurse!”
The only conclusion we can come to nearly 30 years later is that many in the Academy were on drugs that year. Sad!February 2, 2018 at 6:58 pm #1202486249
With Gandhi they just went down the ballot and checked every category practically that it was nominated for. Jokes about how it won costumes despite the main character just being wrapped in sheets for most of the film were popular.
Tootsie had a lot of behind the scenes problems with who actually wrote what in the script. There were multiple versions and all that stuff just got in the way of getting votes.
Missing is a good film but I think that was more due to the direction than the writing. I’m guessing since they weren’t giving Costa-Gavras the directing award they gave him the screeplay one instead.
(BTW just a little Missing story I read: Costa-Gavras’ English wasn’t that perfect and it was a difficult shoot with snipers and things firing at them. At one point he asked Sissy Spacek “do you need anything?” and she said “just a hug.” She said he stared at her and walked away and so she figured I guess he’s just not a hugger. Years later she was working with a wardrobe person again who had worked on Missing. The woman told her how it was funny one day on the set of Missing that Costa-Garvas came to her and said Sissy needs a “hug” could you get her one? He didn’t know what hug meant.)February 2, 2018 at 10:25 pm #1202486289
Hancock is a legend, he would’ve never had an oportunity to win an Oscar, they guessed Morricone would win later. They were actually right.
I think this dark age of the Academy is for George Lucas to blame, he literally changed the definition of cinema. The modern blockbuster was born, revolutionized special effects and films jumped to the merchandising world.
Films used to be spectacles, intellectual explorations, documents or extensions of literary narratives. Now are seen as mere products, even when B films where produced on series in early Hollywood, there was this notion of the ephemeral nature of cinema, just as theater or dance.
So I think the American industry was changed and the zeitgeist was to keep that more commercial side afloat, like to have a consensual winner with the audience, therefore voting was dumbed down until early 2000’s.
I saw an interview somewhere with Coppola and Scorsese talking about this sudden shift.February 3, 2018 at 5:54 am #1202486428
What’s especially remarkable about the Gandhi win is it didn’t even garner a WGA nomination. But indeed, the Academy went supremely head over heels for the film, which decidedly was not the case with Tootsie. And indeed, a problem there was, a sense that if you’re not going to honor Elaine May and Barry Levinson for their significant (uncredited) contributions to the script, it just seemed odd to hand it the Oscar. That said, Tootsie of course should’ve won.
Over in Adapted, I’m actually partial to Victor/Victoria for the victory. This was Blake Edwards’ sole competitive Oscar nomination. Both it and Missing scored WGA wins, in Adapted Comedy and Adapted Drama, back when the categories were set up like that. The Verdict is a solid Mamet script but no way did it have a prayer of winning.
For the finest in film reviews and awards analysis (and my annual Oscar predictions contest), please visit me at The Awards Connection!February 3, 2018 at 6:04 am #1202486433
Some things are obvious only with time. Ask today anybody who knows anything about writing which of two screenplays, “Witness” or “The Purple Rose of Cairo”, holds up better today and was more important in the history of the cinema. Yet, the other one won Oscar.February 3, 2018 at 4:58 pm #1202486707
It is odd that Tootsie didn’t win, but thanks for clearing up why. I never knew about the writers thing- that’s too bad. Don’t know if that was the strongest factor though because the Academy really did love Gandhi.February 3, 2018 at 5:03 pm #1202486711
I think the Academy loved the politics and the person Gandhi.
At the time there was lots of talk how a lot of people didn’t even see it. It was three hours long and there were no screeners back then. You had to go to a theater. (although I’d guess pre-screeners there were many, many movies nobody saw. I saw a tape of the 1988 red carpet entrances and Lloyd and Jeff Bridges admit they haven’t seen any of the nominees due to working. Bridges said he wanted Glenn Close to win but even there I don’t think he saw the movie. She was a former co-star (Jagged Edge.)February 10, 2018 at 12:15 pm #1202491287
Original–John Briley (GANDHI)
nominees: Barry Levinson (Diner), Melissa Mathison (ET), Douglas Day Stewart (An Officer and a Gentleman), Larry Gelbart and others (Tootsie)
Adapted–Costa-Gavras, Donald Stewart (MISSING)
Nominees: Wolfgang Petersen (Das Boot), Alan J. Pakula (Sophie’s Choice), David Mamet (The Verdict), Blake Edwards (Victor/Victoria)
The first thing that has to be noted is “what a line-up!” Ten great scripts for ten great movies. I have no idea how anyone could take the Academy to task this year… any of these movies would have been worthy winners. That said, my choice for the best script that year would have been STAR TREK 2. However, Nicholas Meyer was uncredited for his rewriting, so they wouldn’t have been nominating the right guy, even if they had seen things my way.
It’s true that a comedy is going to seem more like a writer’s medium than a historical drama. However, I would argue that they are simply different skill sets. The ability to take a lifetime of politics and philosophy and condense it into three hours is a skill Larry Gelbart might not have, even if he is funnier than Briley.
THE VERDICT is a great movie, but we griped about it in law school. How could we possibly cheer for a lawyer who intentionally failed to convey a worthwhile offer to his client? That’s as bad as Cher using a juror to investigate a case in SUSPECT! However, I had a very strong reaction to THE VERDICT the first time I saw it. I somehow had it in my head that Paul Newman was going to lose, so the whole thing felt almost too painful to bear. Imagine my relief when the verdict is read and the camera swoops in in that wonderful shot. A similar thing happened when I saw THE CHINA SYNDROME… I had heard that the movie ended with a nuclear meltdown and everyone being killed. Whoo! Barely dodged that one!
The name that sticks out here is Douglas day Stewart. Most of the films nominated this year had writers with long careers of memorable achievements. Briley and Mathison each had at least one other great movie (CRY FREEDOM and BLACK STALLION respectively). But Stewart? Looking over his long list of credits (THE BLUE LAGOON?), there is no other movie in this ballpark. Oh, well. Good for him. He got his nomination on his best movie. May all be so lucky.