November 12, 2013 at 4:52 pm #118000
In my many years of tracking Oscars, there are three films that I would tie for first place on my list of best films (that got nominated) that didn’t win Best Picture.
Goodfellas, Pulp Fiction and Mississippi Burning.
Mississippi Burning stands as one of the most affecting films I’ve ever seen. The film is beautifully composed, strikingly well-written and features the career-best performance of the defining American actor Gene Hackman (who I’ve met, and he’s a real sweetheart).
That’s what I said when the film came out, but it was hit with controversy about not being historically accurate, and for glorifying white characters despite being about racial injustice.
I’d like to hear some of you younger film watchers think of this film now. I recently re-watched it and I was proud to feel that it held up incredibly well; and when it comes to the topic it addresses, it’s still surprisingly effective and puts rather silly movies like The Butler to shame.November 12, 2013 at 4:58 pm #118002
I wouldn’t agree that it’s the best film to lose Best Picture, but I agree that it’s extremely effective. Trevor Jones’ theme that plays every time a hate crime is occuring is one of the most haunting pieces of music ever written for film.
One thing is for certain – Gene Hackman should have waltzed off with the Best Actor trophy that year. It’s certainly career-best work from him, and he creates such a notable character and churns out a masterclass in acting. I can’t picture any actor playing that role the way he did, most other actors would have hammed it up and made a mess out of it. No way he was gonna lose to Hoffman’s Oscar-bait performance, though.
Dafoe and McDormand were solid as well.November 12, 2013 at 5:12 pm #118003
I loved Mississippi Burning…everything about it.
It was one of my top 5 nominees for 1988.
Gene Hackman, Willem Dafoe, Brad Dourif and Frances McDormand
all gave exceptional performances.. the script was engaging although
there was a bit of backlash regarding “actual facts”..
But , for me…it is way down on the list of films that lost best picture.
first of all…Rainman was and is over-rated…My favorite film of 1988
was The Accidental Tourist..
For me, the 5 greatest films of all-time to lose best picture are:
Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?
A Place in The Sun
To Kill a MockingbirdNovember 12, 2013 at 5:24 pm #118004
Mississippi Burning is a film I need to watch again. It was a very gritty film that was effective but I never had the burning desire to see it again, though this thread makes me want to.
I do think that Gene Hackman was stellar in this, and Dafoe was quite good. Frances McDormand had a wonderful moment that stuck with me due to its beautiful simplicity (and it was her Oscar clip): “Hatred isn’t something you’re born with….it gets taught”.November 12, 2013 at 10:12 pm #118005
It’s been a while since I’ve seen it, but I truly loved the film. I think Gene Hackman’s perf is one of his best. It was so powerful, and intense. It’s one of the few times where, brutal violence didnt make me cringe. It’s far from the kind he shows in Unforgiven, imo. The story, also really got to me. There’s no doubt in my mind that atrocities depicted in the film have happened, whether it was entirely ‘accurate’ or not.
The cinematography I found stark and jolting, and entirely masterful. I was ok with Hoffman winning that year, but he didnt give my favorite performance. From the nominees, it was Hackman, then Hanks, for me. It was also a varied, interesting field of Directors that year, and again, Parker, Crichton, and Nichols are all ahead of Levinson for me.
Mississippi Burning wrenched a lot of emotion from me at the time, and looking back, it still evokes the same. It was tough for me to watch, but I havent forgotten a moment of it.November 13, 2013 at 1:51 pm #118006
It’s the best film of the nominated lineup, but my Best Picture that year is Dangerous Liaisons.
Agree with the mentions of Hackman. I find the term “tour de force” wildly overused around these parts, but his performance in this film is one that I would fairly slap that label on. He is the greatest American actor of all time, and this performance should have been his THIRD Oscar win. Such a stunningly brilliant portrait of a man who knows the right thing to do, but doesn’t want to show it.
I also agree with the mention of Trevor Jones’ haunting score.November 17, 2013 at 10:28 am #118007
I wrote a paper on the film a yet ago. Very engrossing cinematography and score for sure, but my issue with the film were the broad evil white people and the love story between Gene and Frances characters which felt out of place.November 18, 2013 at 3:49 am #118008
Mississippi Burning is
The problem with it is not
its technical competence, which is very strong.
The problem with it is
that it is a fairy tale masking as fact, a naïve simplification of a historical
It’s ridiculous that Alan
Parker (not the subtlest of directors) had no faith in the power of the real
story and felt the need to tie it in a big red bow ribbon: The white folks of
the south terrorize the blacks, 2 white folks from out of town come in to
defend the blacks, the white terrorists get caught, go to jail and justice is
served, the end.
While dramatic license is
invoked in almost very movie adaptation of real life events, this completely
subverts the core of the story that needs to be told!
Watching it today, rather
than force us to confront our identities in post-racial America, this film
gives us the false illusion that there is no such thing as post-racial America,
that there isn’t even such a thing as racial America, because the civil rights
movement is simply a bunch of white and black folks who can be easily
pigeonholed into convenient types and boxes.
There are movies that make
us think and question – and there are movies that do all the thinking for us by
numbing us into thinking that the world is essentially a place made up of good
and evil people (no shades of grey in between) and that once evil people get
caught, the world will be a happy place again, and we can all rest in comfort
knowing that the civil rights movement is all about convicting evil people and
putting them to jail, and there shalt be no more racism left in America.
Even as fiction, it does
not provide any insight, drive any conversation about racism in this country
(whether it was seen in the 80s or today).
Yes – Mississippi Burning
is a nicely made little thriller that could be about any piece of criminal
event, and if only that were the case, it’d have been a very fine film.
But if you want to tackle
RACISM as the core subject in your film, make sure you’re up to the task and
give it the gravity and the dimensions it deserves, instead of whitewashing it
by giving a conventional Hollywood treatment.
Separately – while Gene
Hackman & Frances McDormand were PHENOMENAL in this film (and phenomenally
let down by it), and gave stronger performances than Dustin Hoffman & Geena
Davis who won Oscars in their respective categories, I’d have given my vote to
Jeremy Irons (Dead Ringers) & Michelle Pfeiffer (Dangerous Liaisons) for
the BEST of 1988.
But no way Mississippi
Burning deserved its nomination for Best Picture or Best Director, much less a
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