Official Nominations: Warren Beatty. Louis Malle. Hugh Hudson. Mark Rydell. Steven Spielberg.
Warren Beatty was a cert for the win here – once again, had he directed any other film on this list he still would have won the award. Fine film, Beatty handles the material well, but it’s Oscar bait and not something I’d pick. Louis Malle is an interesting pick given he was almost exclusively a director of French Cinema. We immediately drop him from the list given Atlantic City was a 1980 release – probably wouldn’t have picked him anyway. Hugh Hudson didn’t make anything of note before or after Chariots Of Fire (Greystoke is good), but that’s not a problem in and of itself, especially when that one film is heralded as a classic. For me, it suggests either that the film and nomination was a fluke or a result of political shenanigans. I don’t deny that Hudson’s film is good, but I don’t think it’s Top Five of the year good. Mark Rydell hit his peak with On Golden Pond after a series of well received and Oscar nominated films. The film is Oscar bait and I feel again (with no evidence, naturally) that any other director for hire could have equally hit the jackpot with the material. Finally, our winner, Steven Spielberg. Spielberg may have cemented his name as a blockbuster maker with Raiders Of The Lost Ark, but when you compare the film with later and earlier blockbusters, you can spot the Spielberg traits almost unique to him which make the film both stand out and remain in the zeitgeist.
My Winner: Steven Spielberg
My Nominations: Steven Spielberg. John Landis. Lawrence Kasdan. Uli Edel. Sam Raimi. Peter Weir. George Miller. Margarethe von Trotte. Milos Forman. Terry Gilliam.
I get it – my list very much looks like a list of personal favourites. You’re going to see a lot of that in the 1980s. But it’s more than simply personal favourites – it’s an acknowledgment of the cultural impact and influence that most of these films and their directors have had, over and above the others on the list, along with the belated critical praise they have received. As such, Spielberg is the only Official Nominee to make it over to my list.
Starting with Horror, John Landis perfected the Horror Comedy genre in a film which is arguably still its best example. An American Werewolf In London handles both humour and horror equally, while also providing an engaging story involving romance and existential drama. In the same vein is The Evil Dead, a film which is certainly more Horror oriented than its sequel. Sam Raimi’s film, and his directorship, shows more ingenuity and originality in just a handle of scenes than most films and directors in the Official Nominations have in their entirety. Terry Gilliam’s Time Bandits is also wildly inventive and visionary, but as it’s ostensibly a kids movie, there’s no way The Academy would recognise Gilliam for it.
Lawrence Kasdan’s neo-noir Body Heat was groundbreaking and heralded a new era of similarly sexually charged thrillers, while simultaneously being more classy then what it influenced. Peter Weir and Milos Forman are the two filmmakers who could feel aggrieved for not being nominated here this year – Gallipoli was unforgivably ignored entirely by The Academy and Forman’s Ragtime earned plenty of nominations, but not here where it was maybe most deserved.
George Miller’s The Road Warrior was a seminal action movie, and one which was oft echoed but never equalled until Miller’s own Fury Road decades later – a film which did ironically receive the critical attention it too deserved. Finally, a couple of little seen German films made by directors who would make minor additional splashes – Uli Edel’s Christiane F is a stark anti-glamorous look at addiction which Hollywood wouldn’t come close to mirroring until Requiem For A Dream – Edel would later adapt Selby’s Last Exit On Brooklyn for the US. Von Trotta’s Marianne And Juliane continues her fascination with and presentation of sisters, women, placed in often impossible positions, and cemented her position as one of the finest proponents of New German Cinema.
My Winner: Steven Spielberg
Let us know your winner in the comments!