Best Makeup – 1980

My Nominations: Cannibal Holocaust. The Elephant Man. Inferno. Altered States.

It was the lack of a nomination, an award, any respect for the outstanding work on The Elephant Man in 1980 which prompted (finally) The Academy to introduce an official category. That means from next year I’ll have Official Nominations to look at for the first time, as well as my own picks. The Elephant Man is always going to be the winner this year, kicking off arguably the greatest decade of Makeup in Cinema’s history, with the great Christopher Tucker picking up my win. It’s not the only significant entry in Makeup this year, with Cannibal Holocaust’s realistic work enough to lead to official murder charges being placed on director Deodato’s head. Even now there is a gritty, disturbing realism to the blood and guts we are treated to. Inferno is less concerned with realism and more concerned with how memorable and shocking its kills are. This being Argento, you know you’re going to get some unforgettable set-pieces with garish makeup to boot. Finally, Altered States is something of a fever dream, and as such it relies on all manner of visual enhancement and trickery with Dick Smith’s makeup an important part of making the final product so trippy.

The Elephant Man review – David Lynch's tragic tale of compassion | The Elephant Man | The Guardian

My Winner: The Elephant Man

Let us know your winner in the comments!

Best Writing (Adapted) – 1980

Official Nominations: Ordinary People. Breaker Morant. Coal Miner’s Daughter. The Elephant Man. The Stunt Man.

A mixture of the interesting and the expected this year. Naturally, Ordinary People was the winner, the tale of suburban alienation striking a chord with those in charge. Coal Miner’s Daughter and The Elephant Man were dead certs to be nominated thanks to the calibre of people involved behind the scenes, and the same can be said for The Stunt Man. Breaker Morant is the offbeat choice, the tale of a (no matter which side of the argument you fall) bit of a scumbag military man who committed a series of War Crimes but claimed he was ‘only following orders’. The film was incredibly successful in its native Australia, possibly explaining this courtesy nomination.

My Winner: The Elephant Man

NEW The Elephant Man And Other Reminiscences by Sir Frederick Treves | Elephant, Man, Joseph merrick

My Nominations: The Elephant Man. Airplane! Altered States. Raging Bull. The Shining.

Only The Elephant Man to me is really worthy of coming across to my list given its quotability and heart. Airplane! is one of the many quotable comedies of the 80s and one of the first and finest examples of sketch type humour which would be expanded upon in the decade. Altered States gets a nomination because it’s a marvel it was able to make its way to screen with any sort of coherence, while Raging Bull always felt like a strange snub given the other praise and awards heaped upon the film. My final choice, and perhaps my controversial winner, is The Shining – a much colder ghost story than King’s novel but one with an equal, if different power. There’s no escaping some of the one-liners either, even 40 years on.

My Winner: The Shining

Let us know your winner in the comments!

Best Stuntwork – 1980

My Nominations: The Empire Strikes Back. The Stunt Man. The Big Brawl. The Blues Brothers. The Young Master.

What is always one of my favourite categories, because I’m a big silly action lovin’ boy, is a bit of a turd this year. There was a batch of War movies which don’t break any new ground, but the action genre was in a bit of a mire until the explosion which occurred later in the decade. With the name and plot of The Stunt Man you would rightly expect the film to contain a lot of stunts. In this instance that’s like saying The Wrestler has a lot of wrestling. There are stunts as this is the world the movie is set in, but they’re not the focus and they’re not pushing any boundaries. Still, there are a few nice car and chase gags. The Empire Strikes Back has a lot of practical action but we’re beginning to push action into the realms of gadgets, machines, and computers rather than solely having living performers putting their bodies on the line. It’s still one of the most action packed and stunt filled films of the year. In The Big Brawl and The Young Master Jackie Chan makes a few personal strides – into the US and as a director. Neither is one of his best efforts, but both features plenty of his trademark lightning fast and innovative fight scenes and acrobatic stunts. The clear winner for me this year has to be The Blues Brothers, thanks to its ridiculously excessive car chases, stunts, and pile-ups.

Incredible stunt driving in 'The Blues Brothers' 'was all real' - Chicago Sun-Times

My Winner: The Blues Brothers

Let us know your winner in the comments!

Best Visual Effects – 1980

My Nominations: The Empire Strikes Back. Altered States. Flash Gordon. The Fog. Superman II.

This year there was no official category, but Empire won a Special Achievement award. If there had been a category, Empire likely would have been the winner. There’s the argument that it doesn’t do too much over and above what was set up in A New Hope but when you consider the scale of Hoth and Bespin as well as all of the space battle stuff the foundations laid out three years earlier have been built upon tenfold. Altered States is a movie which takes a theoretical scientific approach into other states of consciousness as prompted by drugs, sensory overload and depravation etc, and as such the need to accurately convey these states on screen is vital for the film’s success. The effects are as dated as anything else from this time, but powerfully aid the film’s nightmarish quality. I’m loath to include effects as dated as those seen in Flash Gordon, but I guess a lot of kids would have been enchanted by them back in the day. With The Fog, less is more and the ever spreading fog and flashes of what lies within lead to a gripping atmosphere and plenty of suspense. Superman II doesn’t up the ante from 2 years earlier, but more of the same is good enough for a year like this.

Strawberry Dragon Project: Film Review: The Empire Strikes Back

My Winner: The Empire Strikes Back

Let us know your winner in the comments!

Best Costume Design – 1980

Official Nominations: Tess. The Elephant Man. My Brilliant Career. Somewhere In Time. When Time Ran Out.

It’s the clothes category again. It’s always the period piece which wins, and given the fact that I’m not much of a Period movie fan this isn’t a category I care about. A potential shame because there’s so much interesting Sci Fi and Fantasy out there which should be nominated here. Somewhere In Time isn’t a great movie, but I love the Matheson work and I think it deserves a callout here. When Time Ran Out – no idea why it’s here as nothing stands out about the Costumes or anything else. My Brilliant Career – period piece which is perfectly fine – The Elephant Man, equally deserving of the nomination but nothing exceptional. Tess is your winner out of this bunch.

My Winner: Tess

Costumes from the movie "Tess" directed by Roman Polanski (1979) | Vintage  costumes, Fashion film, Fashion

My Nominations: Tess. The Elephant Man. The Empire Strikes Back. The Blues Brothers. Fame. Flash Gordon. Heaven’s Gate. Kagemusha. Popeye. Xanadu.

Again, you could drop three of the official nominations and replace with three more suitable movies from the Academy’s favourite genres. You’d want to slap a Musical in here – The Blues Brothers is the most iconic and varied, Xanadu is insane, and Fame is your modern traditional musical so the most likely candidate. Heaven’s Gate could have had a nomination here – throw it a bone at least – and Kagemusha was in with a shot. Popeye, as much as I hate it, manages to look like the cartoon/comic and Flash Gordon is the same, but again with more variety. There’s a winner here, an obvious winner, and it’s The Empire Strikes Back and John Mollo.

My Winner: The Empire Strikes Back

Let us know your winner in the comments!

Best Art Direction – 1980

Official Nominations: Tess. Coal Miner’s Daughter. The Elephant Man. The Empire Strikes Back. Kagemusha.

I can see why Tess wins this. A literary adaptation and a costume drama given the Polanski treatment. It had to win something, right? I can’t deny the skill involved in making it look so good. But there’s at least two films officially nominated which it doesn’t stand a chance against. Coal Miner’s Daughter – it’s here to top up the number of nominations The Academy felt it should receive. The Elephant Man is on a level with Tess if not a step above, while Kagemusha benefits from Kurosawa’s switch to colour and Yoshiro Muraki’s attention to detail. You could say this was a veteran nod, but it’s deserved as the entire film is a feast for the eyes. Your only winner, surely, has to be The Empire Strikes back, expanding the living, breathing Star Wars universe to an endless array of locations each with their own design hinting at cultures stretching back centuries.

My Winner: The Empire Strikes Back

The effect of 'Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back' can still be felt after 40 years | Space

My Nominations: The Empire Strikes Back. Kagemusha. The Changeling. City Of Women. Tess. The Elephant Man. The Fog. Inferno. The Shining.

I Bring over four of the official choices and add a batch of horror movies. City Of Women isn’t a horror movie but its dreamlike qualities and dazzling Circus like style certainly warrants a nomination. While Inferno is not as visually daring or dazzling as Suspiria, it does take things up a notch with its abstract stage like vision of New York complete with abnormal shadows and lights, curtains, apartment blocks, books, and cellars. The Changeling is quant by comparison but is more of an updated version of the creaking haunted house movies of the 60s. It retains much of the style of those movies with the grand old house set up to look as foreboding and as ominous as possible. The Shining takes the haunted house idea further, instead placing a familiar story inside the confines of a sprawling, senseless hotel, a labyrinth of illogical corridors and the excess of a world long dead. Finally, The Fog takes the ghost story to its next logical step by haunting an entire town, the seaside idyll of Antonio Bay with the vengeful spirits too busy stabbing and scaring than stopping to appreciate the boats, lighthouses, streets, homes, and churches which Carpenter, Cundy, and Wallace provide for us.

My Winner: The Empire Strikes Back

Let us know in the comments which movie you would pick!

Best Director – 1980

Official Nominations: Robert Redford. David Lynch. Martin Scorsese. Richard Rush. Roman Polanski.

If there’s one certainty about this year’s Academy Awards, it’s that Robert Redford should not have won Best Director. He’s a good Director, but he’s an Academy Director. Ordinary People is an Academy film. You get the sense that you could have handed the job to any Director for hire and the end result would have been fairly similar. This is a two horse race between Lynch and Scorsese. For me, Scorsese wins this because Raging Bull plays to his personal strengths more than Elephant Man does for Lynch. While Lynch doesn’t let the fact that this was a ‘big movie’ get in the way of his artistry, he’s not exactly going full Lynch. Polanski was going to get a nomination for anything at this point, so why not get one for Tess, and Rush is a bizarre nomination, there to make up the numbers. It’s Rush’s finest moment as a Writer and Director, but there are a number of other Directors who could have filled this spot.

My Winner: Martin Scorsese

This Is Overwhelming”: Why Martin Scorsese Almost Didn't Make Raging Bull | Vanity Fair

My Nominations: David Lynch. Martin Scorsese. Ken Russell. Samuel Fuller. John Landis. Federico Fellini. Irvin Kershner. Michael Cimino. Akira Kurosawa. Francois Truffaut. Stanley Kubrick.

Look at that list of names – every one of those guys either was an Oscar winner, or should have been. Outside of maybe Kirshner and Fuller, and possibly Landis, every one of these guys will appear on any Best Directors list. In reality you were never going to drop Redford from the official list, but Rush and Polanski could have been dropped. In reality, either one of Kurosawa and Truffaut should have made it on (both veteran nods, both Foreign Film nominees), and most likely Kirshner for The Empire Strikes Back. It was a sequel, so maybe not. Kubrick would have been nominated, except The Academy hates Horror. Altered States was too controversial and Heaven’s Gate was a flop. The Blues Brothers is too anarchic, they weren’t going to go for another War movie after Apocalypse Now so Fuller is out, and City Of Women was overlooked completely. Regardless, each of those movies and directors is more deserving, to me, of a nomination here than Redford, Rush, or Polanski.

My Winner: Martin Scorsese.

Let us know your winner in the comments!

Best Cinematography – 1980

Official Nominations: Tess. The Blue Lagoon. The Coal Miner’s Daughter. The Formula. Raging Bull

Another instance of a fairly hefty snub. We all know Raging Bull should be winning this one, by some distance. Tess looks great, The Blue Lagoon actually doesn’t look that great especially in retrospect, and The Coal Miner’s Daughter is more a case of the movie needing to be nominated because it’s also in the bigger categories. The Formula is a long forgotten John G Avildsen movie which also features John Gielgud, George C Scott, and Marlon Brando. It’s not great, but with that list of names you have to give it a go. It looks fine, doesn’t need to be nominated, hasn’t a chance to win, and look at the films which were missed.

My Winner: Raging Bull

Michael Chapman, Cinematographer of 'Raging Bull' and 'Taxi Driver,' Dies at 84 — World of Reel

My Nominations: Raging Bull. The Empire Strikes Back. Altered States. The Big Red One. The Elephant Man. The Fog. Heaven’s Gate. Inferno. Kagemusha. The Shining.

What a banging list, all worthy, but only one an Official Nominee. I still think Raging Bull wins this so it’s of no consequence, but some of these come close and have stood the test of time. Altered States sees Russell and Jordan Cronenweth pulling out all the stops as reality blurs, while The Empire Strikes Back is arguably the best looking, best shot Star Wars movie. Adam Greenberg – known for his moody sci-fi work – cut his teeth in the big time many years into his career on The Big Red One, a downbeat grizzled war movie. The Elephant Man not getting a nomination is ridiculous, Heaven’s Gate was so destroyed critically and commercially that it was never going to get nominated (even though time has shown it to be a gorgeous movie), and Kagemusha deserved a nomination given the Western Producing influence (beyond the quality of the movie). My final three picks fall to the Horror genre – Inferno isn’t quite on the level of Suspiria but it’s only a slight notch down, The Shining is cold, distant, spacious and claustrophobic, and The Fog is one of the most underrated Horror movies in terms of how it looks, which is unfortunate because it nails the look of a campfire ghost story better than anything else I’ve ever seen.

My Winner: Raging Bull.

Let us know your winner in the comments!

Best Animated Film – 1980

My Nominations: Doraemon. The King And The Mockingbird. The Missing Link.

The 80s will forever be the decade which saw Television Animation excel, with Saturday morning cartoons inspiring a generation of children and later, a host of ill-advised big budget adaptations or remakes. On the big screen, the Animated Feature had a bit of a lull in the 80s, not least because Disney was still trying to find its mojo. Japan would pick up the ball and usher in a new wave of more adult oriented fare, while still attempting (and often succeeding) to beat Disney at their own game. 1980 saw the first entry in the ultra successful Doraemon series – can’t say I get it myself, but it’s suitably cutesy and influential enough to earn a spot. The King And The Mockingbird famous took almost thirty years to make, mainly due to a dispute over rights. You would expect something like this to go two ways – an incoherent mess due to the time and associated cultural lapses, or a masterpiece. Thankfully it’s closer to the latter, and if anything, it’s a film you can clearly point to as inspiring much of Ghibli’s later output not only in its animation but in its approach to melding and updating classic literature and Cinema. Had this category existed in 1980, this would have been your winner.

The Missing Link is a French animation which takes its inspiration from the bawdy US animation of the 70s. It looks cheap now and in fairness the animation seemed dated even for 1980, but it’s funny in places and there’s a lot of nudity if you’re into that sort of thing. I think we have a clear winner this year.

My Winner: The King And The Mockingbird.

The King and the Mockingbird (1980) | MUBI

Let us know your winner in the comments!

Best Actor – 1980

Official Nominations: Robert De Niro. John Hurt. Robert Duvall. Jack Lemmon. Peter O’Toole.

We all know who’s winning this, right? It’s almost a shame because we have multiple deserving winners in any other year. Jack Lemmon gets another shot, his second in a row. Raging Bull is one of the must sees of the 80s and the movie which cemented De Niro as a master (if it wasn’t apparent from Taxi Driver and The Godfather II). De Niro delivers one of the most iconic all time performances by putting himself a gruelling regime and body changes which would inspire the likes of Daniel Day Lewis, ushering in a new era of near over-committing to a role. Physically embodying a character is one thing, but delivering a performance which you cannot take your eyes off is another.

In any other year John Hurt would be your winner, and even here it’s a pretty close race. While the prosthetics seem like the star, there’s a man underneath, an actor who gives a passionate, sympathetic performance. Rather than Merrick himself, you need to look past the surface. It may be Hurt’s best work, and he’s had numerous classics. Robert Duvall is the only other likely winner, already on an upwards trajectory and in The Great Santini he is very strong as the stern authoritarian military pilot who wants to control his family and command their respect in the same way he expects from his co-workers. Good performance, decent film, but not as memorable, interesting, or powerful as the big boys.

The final two nominations are legacy noms, with O’Toole and Lemmon a cert for noms in most years. O’Toole is as good as ever in the underrated The Stunt Man while Lemmon is perfectly fine as the dying man trying to make amends in Tribute. 

My Winner: Robert De Niro

Revisiting the Violence and Style of Martin Scorsese's “Raging Bull” | The New Yorker

My Nominations: Robert De Niro. John Hurt. Donald Sutherland. William Hurt. Tatsuya Nakadai. Bob Hoskins. Jack Nicholson.

I carry over the front-runners to my own nominations, which include one snub, one impressive debut, and one huge star going full Nicholson. Nicholson, of course, goes full Nicholson in The Shining – as fashionable as it has become to say his performance is at 100% from the first scene, it’s much more nuanced than that. It’s clear he’s unhinged, and the character isn’t as well written or rounded as in the novel, but Nicholson steps through levels of mania, withdrawal, and obsession, topping it off with some of horror’s most famous moments.

Tatsuya Nakadai is more worthy of a legacy nom than most, appearing in the likes of The Seven Samurai, Yojimbo, The Human Condition Trilogy, and Kwaidan, but his performance as both the titular Kagemusha and his double, the scheming feudal Lord is strong enough for a regular nomination. Sticking with the foreign performances, Bob Hoskins made his first major impact as the cockney gangster in over his head in The Long Good Friday, leading to bigger offers in Britain and the US.

William Hurt made his debut in Ken Russell’s eternally bewildering Altered States, experimenting on his mind and body to the point of obsession and of no return. A difficult role and subject matter to tackle, Hurt’s devolution is convincing and would open the door for the body horror sub-genre.

My Winner: Robert De Niro

Let us know your winner in the comments!