Best Actor – 1983

Official Nominations: Robert Duvall. Michael Caine. Tom Conti. Tom Courtenay. Albert Finney.

In an unimpressive year, the Academy falls back on one of its favourite ‘bits’ – chucking the Best Actor award over to someone who should have won one already. Robert Duvall wins at the fourth attempt, for Tender Mercies. It’s a good performance – it’s Robert Duvall for fudge’s sake – and it feels a little cynical to say that it’s a heritage award. That’s what it is, but I’m not sure anyone else deserves the win over him, in this particular category in this particular year. He’s certainly not losing to Michael Caine in Educating Rita, a film I’ve never had much affection for.

In fact, the whole category is a little bit ironic; it’s like the non-movie version of the Hollywood villain trope – all British people are evil. You see, Robert Duvall, the sole American is the winner against Caine and three other Brits. Tom Conti, like Duvall in Tender Mercies, plays something of a soulful drunk and scumbag. Guess what – he’s good, but not winning against Duvall. Finally, Tom Courtenay and Albert Finney team up in The Dresser as <insert title here> and the actor he… dresses. Guess what – both good.

It’s a very ‘these actors are good and give good performances, but the movies are a little dull’ category.

My Winner: Robert Duvall

Tender Mercies (1983) starring Robert Duvall, Tess Harper, Betty Buckley, Wilford Brimley, Ellen Barkin directed by Bruce Beresford Movie Review

My Nominations: Robert Duvall. Jeroen Krabbe. Robert De Niro. Tom Conti. Al Pacino. James Woods.

Look, I’m all for nominated people who deserved to have won or should have been nominated in a previous year, but not to the detriment of others in the current year. Especially when those people are Robert De Niro for The King Of Comedy and Al Pacino for fucking Scarface. 

So Duvall gets a nomination from me, and Conti does too, but for Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence, a film which doesn’t and didn’t get the credit it deserves. James Woods is manic, but not sheer insanity, in Videodrome while Jeroen Krabbe gives one of those full blooded, all-in performances in The Fourth Man. 

Which leaves an equal choice between De Niro and Pacino. Both actors are hamming it up to the extreme, in places, but between those extremes is some of the finest characterisation of their careers. Who do you go with? Who did I go with?

My Winner: Al Pacino

Let us know your winner in the comments!

Best Cinematography – 1983

Official Nominations: Fanny & Alexander. Flashdance. The Right Stuff. WarGames. Zelig

Once again we can omit Fanny & Alexander’s official win due to it being a 1982 release, which leaves our choices wide open. WarGames is an interesting inclusion given that it is mostly seen as a kids/teen movie, yet there’s no doubting how inventive it was for the time. Flashdance was one of a handful of movies in the 80s which inexplicably made dancing look mildly interesting – much of that coming from the music video look and feel where everything is shadowed and sultry. Zelig is the only real competition to my winner, with Woody Allen and Gordon Willis combining to give the film an authentic newsreel, documentary style.

But The Right Stuff is a clear winner here, a film which could so easily have come off as a bland spectacle but perfectly blends experimentalism with realism and character to create something as colourful and entertaining as it is beautiful.

My Winner: The Right Stuff.

THE RIGHT STUFF (1983) Cinematographer: Caleb Deschanel Aspect Ratio:  1.85:1 Director: Philip Kaufman | Cinematography, Movie scenes, Cinema

My Nominations: The Right Stuff. Zelig. Liquid Sky. Blue Thunder. Le Dernier Combat. Eureka. The Hunger. The Keep. Rumble Fish. Scarface.

A bunch of potential winners added to my list. Getting the least likely offers out of the way, Blue Thunder is mostly remembered for its thrilling, and wonderfully shot helicopter action scenes through LA, while Le Dernier Combat is notable for its stark end of the world black and white visuals. The Keep is ultimately a bit of a mess, but it has moments of visual brilliance, contrasted with The Hunger whose visual brilliance is more sustained and coupled with a more interesting story.

Eureka is a lesser seen Nic Roeg film, but one which you can rely on to provide haunting and unique visuals. Liquid Sky is highly experimental in its look, feel, and how its story unravels, and Rumble Fish gave Coppola a chance to be somewhat more challenging with his presentation. Finally, Scarface nails the excess of its story by being shot with a leery, sweaty, gaudy glaze.

My Winner: The Right Stuff.

Let us know your winner in the comments!

Nightman’s Updated Favourite Films Of 1983

Greetings, Glancers! We continue my new series of posts which will detail my favourite films of every year since 1950. Why 1950? Why 10? Why anything? Check out my original post here. As with most of these lists the numbering doesn’t really matter much, though in most cases the Number 1 will be my clear favourite. As I know there are plenty of Stats Nerds out there, I’ll add in some bonus crap at the bottom but the main purpose of these posts is to keep things short. So!

10: Project A (HK)

A period Jackie Chan movie about clashing cops and bad guys, but most importantly it features some of Chan, and Cinema’s most death-defying stunts.

9: The Hunger (UK/US)

Tony Scott’s sultry, stylish vampire story starring David Bowie, Catherine Deneuve, and Susan Sarandon is a feast for the eyes and the loins.

8: The Dead Zone (US)

The first of two David Cronenberg movies on my list, it’s perhaps amusing that the story of a man who can see the awful shit which is going to happen in the future just by touching a person, is not the strangest of his two entries. One of the finest, understated Stephen King adaptations, it’s a very straight film considering the director and the cast, and is sadly one of the most prescient films of today considering when it was released.

7: Le Dernier Combat (France)

Luc Besson’s thrilling, low-budget debut is chocked full of the ambition and style he would show in later movies once funds caught up with him. It’s an end of the world story about holding on to the final scraps which make life worth living and a damning statement on humanity darkest aspects.

6: Blue Thunder (US)

Helicopter action was all the rage in the 80s, what with Airwolf, Rambo III, and this. Starring Roy Scheider and featuring a young Daniel Stern, Malcolm McDowell, Warren Oates, and Candy Clark, it’s a thriller with plenty of familiar faces and even if the plot is your typical Cop versus Shady Crim Org, the helicopter action more than makes up for any nonsense.

5: Rumble Fish (US)

My four and five are interchangeable and similar in many ways. Both directed by Coppola and sharing a lot of ideas and both featuring a young cast of up and comers, Rumble Fish is the more visually striking of the two. This one follows the relationship between two brothers – one who is trying to move away from the violence of his thug life, and one who is trying to get into it.

4: The Outsiders (US)

The Outsiders is another film focused on youth, brothers, and friendship, this time featuring a more extensive cast, overlapping plots, and a more straightforward directing approach. It’s one of the great teen movies.

3: Videodrome (Canada)

A film which could have only come out in the 80s and only from the mind of David Cronenberg. A small-time TV Exec discovers what appears to be an underground TV show which presents mainly snuff footage and other assorted treats and becomes obsessed with finding out about the show, believing it to be the future of entertainment. The more he learns, the more unhinged he becomes, and both he and the viewer become unsure of what is real or fantasy or if such distinctions even matter any more. A twisted satire on entertainment, culture, and political causes, it’s a showcase for Cronenberg’s Body-Horror ethos and Rick Baker’s wizardry.

2: Scarface (US)

One of the all time great remakes, Brian De Palma’s Scarface is quintessentially 80s. While most of us were rightfully lapping up Spielberg and Amblin, and dreaming of BMX adventures, something more sinister was spreading across the US. Crime, drugs, and all manner of related excess was rampant and the acquiring of the American Dream no longer meant rolling up your sleeves and getting stuck in to your particular craft, instead it meant meeting (or killing) the right person, and cheating, gambling, and shooting your way to the top until there was nobody left to stand in your way. Al Pacino’s sneering performance is one for the ages, the Miami setting is seedy in the extreme, and the supporting cast featuring Michelle Pfeifer, Robert Loggia, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Steven Bauer, and F Murray Abraham is stellar.

1: Return Of The Jedi (US)

Covered in my favourite movies of the Decade post.

How Many Of My Films Were In The Top 10 Grossing Of The Year: One (the top grosser)

How Many Of My Films Were Nominated For the Best Picture Oscar: Zero

Best Make-up – 1983

My Nominations: Videodrome. Liquid Sky. Return Of The Jedi. Krull.

No official picks this year, but plenty of potential nominees. This is peak post Star Wars and post Conan, meaning many many cheap and cheery copy-pastes and a few higher budget efforts. There are so many of these in 1983, and of course so many of them are terrible, but at least had some entertaining effects and Make-Up work. Sadly, they’re not up to par with the best of the year’s work.

Which leads nicely into Krull. Hokey even a few years later, it nevertheless was brimming with ambition and was a showcase for the makeup and effects team who (including Nick Maley of Star Wars fame) crafted an array of creatures to make the imaginative world feel real. The little seen but influential cult film Liquid Sky is most often remembered for its visuals and soundscapes. However, the Makeup would come to be a highlight of ’80sness’ and the bridging of the gaps between emerging underground scenes and imagined futures.

You can’t avoid Return Of The Jedi here, with an opening 30 minutes containing more work and skill than most other films of the year combined, and yet it can’t be my winner. There can only be one winner here, and that’s David Cronenberg’s infamous Videodrome, and an example of what the Body Horror genre could be if given a decent budget and a strong cast. This was always one of those films you heard about in whispers on the school yard – it didn’t matter what the plot was, but that it contained a bit where a guy hides a gun inside his belly. Talking with the older brothers and sisters and friends would give tantalizing insights concerning other such delights within, ironically mirroring the voyeuristic nature of the story. The visuals are just as impressive once you see them for real, and they still hold up today.

My Winner: Videodrome

Film Review] Videodrome (1983) — Ghouls Magazine

Let us know your winner in the comments!

Best Animated Feature – 1983

My Nominations: Barefoot Gen. Fire & Ice. Rock & Rule.

Another year without a mainstream Disney feature, but given this is the 80s we more than make up that absence with oddities and Japanese classics. Rock & Rule is a Canadian animated musical, mostly notable for the musical acts involved (Blondie, Iggy Pop, Earth Wind & Fire) and for it being the first animated movie to feature some CG. More interestingly is the plot (it’s not for kids) which sees a faded, bitter rock star in a post apocalyptic world who wants to summon a world eating demon through the power of song. Again, it was the 80s. It’s funny for how weird it is, but it’s very dated and mostly worth seeing for cult value.

Ralph Baski tried to cashki in on the swords and sandals boom of the era by creating Fire & Ice, the story of a princess trying to escape the clutches of an evil Queen and her son as they plan to kidnap her while also wiping out humanity. Again – 80s. It’s maybe the most straight-forwards Baski film, unusual to say as his satires typically deal with modern American society. This is mostly a cut and dry fantasy, but it has an interesting look with plenty of washed out wastelands and action.

That leaves my clear winner. Barefoot Gen is yet another Japanese film rooted in World War 2, though this time it isn’t one which deals with a futuristic world born out of nuclear forces, but instead is one which deals with the immediate impact and aftermath of the bomb. It’s horrific stuff. It’s not up there with the beauty and sadness of Grave Of The Fireflies, but it’s not an easy view for something which at first seems so cutesy. It follows the titular Gen, as he and his family try to get out of Hiroshima. The footage of the bomb dropping is breath-taking stuff, gruesome but wonderfully animated, and everything afterwards is gripping and tragic.

My Winner: Barefoot Gen.

Barefoot Gen (1983) - IMDb

Let us know your winner in the comments!

Best Score – 1983

Official Nominations: The Right Stuff. Terms Of Endearment. Return of The Jedi. Cross Creek. Under Fire. Yentl. The Sting II. Trading Places.

I didn’t intend to always pick Star Wars as the winner in this category, but look at what other options we have this year – there’s not a lot to go on. The Right Stuff is decent – filled hope, patriotism, and makes you think of ambition – it has always reminded me of Band Of Brothers. Terms Of Endearment is one of those films. It’s one of the best of one of those films, but still. The central pieces – those piano themes – are nice enough, but on their own they are nothing special and feel more like something off the cuff for a Hallmark movie or a TV soap than a big budget weepie. Jedi doesn’t have as effective original themes as the previous two movies, but the introduction of the Ewoks gives Williams a chance to try out some new percussive themes and rhythmic beats and the remixes on the popular pieces are all the more epic this time around. Cross Creek is a film almost no-one remembers, even if it was nominated for four Oscars, including two for acting. It’s a gentle, pastoral score, and quite lovely in places – just not memorable. Under Fire features another dramatic, tension fuelled score by Jerry Goldsmith – if the film was more widely remembered you think the score would be so too. I like how it merges the traditional grand orchestra of US Cinema with South American guitars, panpipes, and outbursts.

The final three nominees had their own special category this year, presumably created/modified so that Yentl could notch up a win. If all you know about Yentl is from The Simpsons, then that’s all you need to know. It has a few catchy songs… really I’m not sure if this category should be merged here or with the Best Original Song. Doesn’t matter, none of them are going to win in my book. Credit to Streisand for making the whole thing happen, and of course to Legrand and the Bergmans. The Sting 2 is mostly unnecessary and the music isn’t that great. I’m not sure if Trading Places should be here given that much of its score is taken from Mozart and several Christmas standards.

My Winner: Return Of The Jedi

Star Wars: Return of the Jedi (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) - Album by John Williams | Spotify

My Nominations: Return Of The Jedi. Christine. The Dead Zone. Flashdance. Krull. The Outsiders. Scarface. Videodrome.

Another year, and another Carpenter nomination. Christine isn’t one of my favourite movies by him, but it does have a decent soundtrack. Alan Howarth accompanies, as he always did in those days. It’s another primarily synth based piece, but much of the film gets bogged down by traditional rock music and the lovely originals tend to be forgotten. Many of the pieces are short, mood setting rather than pieces of music in the classical sense. Keeping it horror, Cronenberg gets two entries this year with Videodrome and The Dead Zone. Long term musical partner sits out duties on The Dead Zone, instead working on Videodrome – his work moving from grand orchestral suites to synthetic, computerized pieces which increasingly lack foundation. The Dead Zone is a more traditional score – Michael Kamen stepping up for active duty – but it has enough good old mystery and grandeur to remind us that this is horror.

Flashdance continues the 80s pop musicals, and while it’s a film you remember more for the songs than the general score it has enough emotive and inspiring piano and synth pieces to stand on its own. Krull is one of the many Star Wars rip-offs – one I enjoyed when I was younger but realized how crappy it is when seen as an adult. One of the many things these movies borrow from Lucas and Williams is the epic operatic scores – James Horner was employed for this one and fills the score with choirs ans horns to give an old world Knights and adventure feel. While Coppola released two films this year, The Outsiders (scored by Carmine) is the more interesting of the two. Rumble Fish is more experimental, this one is more dramatic. Finally, the Scarface score is a mixture of Cuban beats, industrial rock, and 80s hip hop, though some of Morodor’s pieces remind me of Goblin and The Wall. 

My Winner: Return Of The Jedi

Best Costume Design – 1983

Official Nominations: Fanny & Alexander. Cross Creek. Heart Like A Wheel. The Return Of Martin Guerre. Zelig.

You can always rely on the Best Costume Design category to throw up a batch of films most people won’t remember seeing. The average film-going audience of today. Even back in 1983, these weren’t the most popular films. Lets avoid any Population fallacies and judge the movies on their own merits. Fanny & Alexander picked up the win – the Academy giving Bergman movies the soft wins when they can. Marik Vos had been nominated alongside Bergman before, and finally picked up a deserved win. However, it’s a 1982 film, and for my intents and purposes shouldn’t be here.

In the same vein, The Return Of Martin Guerre can be discounted as a 1982 film. Most people will know it as the film Sommersby was the remake of. Decent performances, decent music, and plenty of detailed costumes apparently accurate to what 16th Century French peeps wore.

Cross Creek is a decent, if dull Biography. It was (in 1983) a sort of period piece, and those always get nominated here. Fine. Heart Like A Wheel is similar, but takes place in a more modern period and focuses on Drag Racing, while Zelig follows suit – a Woody Allen effort told in an interesting style. None of the films are the sort of thing I would nominate here, but I have to pick a winner.

My Winner: Zelig

Zelig (1983) - Photo Gallery - IMDb

My Nominations: Flashdance. The Hunger. Krull. Project A. Return Of The Jedi. Scarface. Something Wicked This Way Comes.

None of the official picks make it over to my list. Admittedly, I could cut mine down to five by removing Krull – a film whose budget limitations and datedness gets in the way of its imagination, and Something Wicked This Way Comes which always felt like a TV movie even with its cool costumes for Mr Dark and The Dust Witch.

Flashdance then – a musical, a rags to riches tale of sorts – all fodder for The Academy and the sort of thing you would normally expect to get a nomination or two here. Dancing, and tight leotards, and danger zones were all the rage in the 80s so this seems like a worthy pick here. The Hunger is more offbeat, an exercise in style and one which has a keen eye for fashion and beauty and obsession. Project A is a Hong Kong movie so stood no chance of picking up any nominations – even less so because it’s a Martial Arts movie. But it’s also a period piece which looks swell.

If any of my picks could be classed as snubs here, Scarface would maybe be the one you would pick, its notable excesses exemplified at various points through the use of its often hilariously over the top costuming. My winner, unsurprisingly, is Return Of The Jedi. The sheer effort in crafting costumes, often highly individualised yet fitting for the race involved, for some many people and creatures, is once again ridiculous and makes any other option in this category null and void.

My Winner: Return Of The Jedi

Let us know your winner in the comments!

Project A – Get Rekt!

Rekt PNG Images, Free Transparent Rekt Download - KindPNG

Greetings, Glancers! Today I run a more critical eye over my tenth favourite movie of the year 1983, seeking to ignore my bias and provide a fair score based on the 20 criteria I feel are most important in the creation of a film. Today’s movie is Project A, one of Jackie Chan’s most famous Hong Kong films.

Sales: 4.  major success in the native Hong Kong, and fairly successful throughout Asia with notable minor returns elsewhere.

Critical Consensus: 4. Arguably the most well received of any Jackie Chan movie till this point.

Director: 4. I’m going to be generous here, though it’s more likely a 3. Because the action is so good and the pacing is swift, I’ll go with a 4. Chan and Hung don’t do anything out of the ordinary in terms of their wheelhouse, but they do it bigger and better.

Performances: 3. This will rely heavily on your exposure to Martial Arts movies, and Asian comedies. If you are a fan, you’ll be more liable to enjoy the performances, if you’re new to things then you’ll likely be a little confused. There’s no doubting Chan is charismatic, and he’s ably backed by Sammo Hung, Hoi Sang Lee, Yuen Baio, and other Asian action legends.

Characters: 3. I could see people going as low as 2 here. If you’ve seen any Hong Kong cop or action movie, then you’ll be familiar with all of the character types here.

Cinematography: 3. It’s shot neatly enough to accentuate the period of the piece and place, but nothing out of the ordinary.

Writing: 3. You’ll be seeing a lot of threes for this film. It’s a fun action comedy, and not trying to be anything more. Subjectively, sterner critics could go 2 here. It serves the purpose of showing us the characters and plot, it has a few zingers, and that’s yer lot.

Plot: 3. Martial arts movies are rarely known for the most amazing of plots. This one merges the genre with a straighter action/comedy style. There’s not much to it – a bunch of cops who protect the Hong Kong coast from pirates and other maritime badness, have a bit of a rivalry with the ‘normal’ cops. When the Coast Cops see their ships go up in smoke, they are forced to retrain with the normies, while trying to work out who the baddies are. Throw in the usual corruption and a hunt for 100 guns, and that’s it. The plot exists to allow Jackie and pals to have fun with stunts.

Wardrobe: 4. It’s a period piece, so a lot of care and attention is put into the wardrobe. Good.

Editing: 4. Fast and fun. I love the style of this period of action cinema.

Make up and Hair: 3. Sure.

Effects: 3. It’s pre-CG (kind-of), so effects are hand-made. There isn’t much in th way of ‘effects’, because most of what you see happens on camera, and your typical gore gags and explosions and miniatures aren’t involved.

Art and Set: 4. It’s a period piece, so a lot of care and attention is put into the art and set. Good.

Sound And Music: 4. A lot of the Hong Kong movies from this period either aped US Jazz, featured some wailing 80s Asian pop music, or was just forgettable stock strings and horns. Project A stands out, actually making the music sound of the period – you have jaunty sailor heigh ho music, stuff that sounds like it belongs in a circus, and lots of amusing copying from Classical artists. It’s probably a 3, but I have a lot of fondness for how fun it sounds within the film, but it’s unlikely going to be music you just stick on for daily listening pleasure.

Cultural Significance: 3. Your score here will depend on how you define cultural significance. What lens do you, or should you use? In the grand scheme of things, the impact the movie had worldwide was minimal, yet in China and even Japan, the film was a landmark. It did enough to land a sequel, which is a baseline metric for how significant a film is, and it was important enough that a white kid from Northern Ireland got a hold of it in the 90s and is blogging about it 30 years later.

Accomplishment: 4. Most will go with a 3, but I think that in terms of the action accomplished, the fact that Chan did not die doing what he did, and that it was one of the first films he made after returning from an unsuccessful stint in the US, adds up to a 4 for me.

Stunts: 5. Is there any doubt? If you haven’t seen the film, and you enjoy action movies, you owe it to yourself to see it. If you really don’t enjoy Asian movie, at the very least you should check out the stunt highlight on Youtube – I’m sure there’s a compilation out there. Remember, no strings, no stand-ins, and fuck it – not safety nets, just a bunch of veterans throwing their bodies and lives on the line in over the top, extravagant, dangerous, and amusing ways for our entertainment. It’s a Top 5 Chan Stunt movie.

Originality: 3. There’s little originality in the story, plenty of films of this type have been set in this period and place with these types of characters, but it’s all about the creativity of the action. Again, a sterner critic could go 2.

Miscellaneous: 4. I’m going 4 here because Project A was one of the first films to truly go balls deep in terms of dangerous physical stunts, and because it was the first time Jackie and his school mates Sammo and Yuen worked together.

Personal: 4. It’s one of my favourite Jackie Chan movies, from right at the start of his peak, and it’s a joy for those who enjoy his particular brand.

Total Score: 72/100

Let us know your scores in the comments!

Best Foreign Film – 1983

Official Nominations: Fanny & Alexander. The Ball. Carmen. Entre Nous. The Revolt Of Job.

Fanny & Alexander was this year’s winner, a 1982 Ingmar Bergman film. It’s one of Bergman’s best films but it’s not one I return to or think about much given its length and its retreading of many common Bergman themes including family and religion. It does look exquisite, but it’s a bit of a slog, especially if you’re not a fan of Bergman’s approach or tropes. In any case, it’s a 1982 movie so won’t be getting a vote from me.

Le Bal is one of the more unique, artistic, and bizarre movies to ever receive a main Academy nomination – it’s essentially a group of ballroom dances conveying various moments in 20th Century French history. It looks great, and as someone who generally avoids all things related to dance, it manages to work some charm upon even the most ‘could not give two shits’ viewer. It’s completely dialogue free, but for me it would have had a greater impact had it been around the 90 minute mark, max.

Carmen is in a similar vein, a film centred around dance, this time with dialogue, this time a retelling of both the story and Opera. It’s fine, but again if you’re like me and are not enchanted by dance in any way, it’s likely going to be a slog.

Entre Nous is more frustrating than anything as it has potential to be better but is limited by the usual tropes of ‘woman has affair’ and ‘woman is too fragile for this world’. The ending feels rushed, which is a shame because spending the film with Miou-Miou, Huppert, and Marchand is a good time, and it closes on a bit of a whimper rather than a yell.

Finally, The Revolt Of Job is something of a coming of age/childhood film, except its set in the Hungarian countryside during World War II. It’s likely only something for Cinephiles to check out given the pace and solitude and mood of the film, but it’s a film with such an air of tragedy surrounding it given its slow walk towards an inevitable ending. Beautifully photographed, it’s more a film about family, about learning and giving, with a stark bite in its final moments.

My Winner: Entre Nous

Entre nous (1983) | MUBI

My Nominations: The Ballad Of Narayama. The Fourth Man. Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence. Monty Python’s The Meaning Of Life. Project A. Videodrome.

A great year for foreign film, so much so that I had to cut out at least four films from my original list. I cut the more obscure ones for the bigger names, and truthfully, I do enjoy these ones more. The Ballad Of Narayama is probably the least known film of the bunch, an interesting little film concerning something so culturally alien that anyone in the slightest bit curious should give it a go; Set in rural Japan in the 1800s, an aging woman decides to put her town, family, and friends in order knowing she has a year to live. She’s in perfect health, but there is a tradition that once any person reaches the age of 70, they leave the village, travel to a mountain, and die of starvation. It’s like a non-sci fi Logan’s Run where instead of fighting back the oldies willingly go to their death. Like all old people should.

Staying with Japan, Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence features David Bowie in his second movie of the year along with Tom Conti, Takeshi Kitano, and Ryuichi Sakamoto as a group of soldiers in a Japanese PoW camp. It’s not a film which focuses on the harshness and brutality you may expect, but instead upon guilt, resilience, and the relationships between the men in the camp. It’s a great introduction to Japanese Cinema for the uninitiated as well as a surprisingly musical film.

Closing out our jaunt through Asia is one of Jackie Chan’s seminal movies, Project A, and one of the first films to truly introduce Western Audiences to Chan. Set in the late 1800s, Chan plays a cop who is trying to prevent and catch the bad guys on the Hong Kong coast who are raiding boats an markets and getting up to all manner of badness. The story, as you may expect from a martial arts movie, is secondary to the amazing action and stunts – not a shred of CG and seemingly zero fucks given to personal safety or health.

Project A has plenty of laughs and the same can be said for The Meaning Of Life. While not as memorable or groundbreaking or smart as their previous two films, this one is a series of deliberate vignettes meaning you never stick with one idea for long and there’s always something fresh to keep you on the hook even as other moments fall flat.

The Fourth Man is Paul Verhoeven in the horror realm for maybe the only time, even though all of his films contain some elements of the genre. It follows an alcoholic writer who becomes obsessed with a scientist he has sex with and one of the other men she is involved with. He begins having nightmares about them, which bleed into waking visions, which bleed into reality. There’s a load of sex and violence, it looks beautiful and the central trio of Jeroen Krabbe, Renee Soutendijk, and Thom Hoffman are excellent.

It’s between The Fourth Man and Videodrome for my winner, with Cronenberg’s film also being focused on obsession, sex, and violence. I think Videodrome edges it for me thanks to its imagery and ideas.

 My Winner: Videodrome.

Let us know your winner in the comments!

Best Director – 1983!

Actual Nominations: James L Brooks. Peter Yates. Ingmar Bergman. Mike Nichols. Bruce Beresford.

Yikes. Of all the movies and Directors we could have picked from this year, how the Academy got it so wrong is embarrassing, and that isn’t just me with my fanboy hat on. There are so many other objectively better options. More on that below. James L Brooks was the winner here. Terms Of Endearment was a hit and won Best Picture – it was a darling and an inevitable nomination here. Brooks got his win. It’s not much a Director’s movie – it’s not a movie you watch and say ‘who made this’. It’s a big cast tear-jerker and it’s all about the characters and the names. In terms of context, I’m okay with Brooks being here but in terms of quality – nah.

You could basically repeat all of the above for Peter Yates and The Dresser. It’s yet another stage adaptation, with little done to make it cinematic. That was likely the point. But why nominate for Best Director? I’d have picked him for Krull over this.

Bergman is the big name here and perhaps you’d think he was in with a shot at the third attempt with Fanny & Alexander. But Bergman is too art house even at his most accessible and The Academy never goes for stuff that the general public would give at least a cursory glance to. Or foreigners. Of the choices in this list though, Bergman is the standout for his work. Unfortunately, it’s a 1982 film and as such is immediately out.

Mike Nichols picked up another nomination for Silkwood, but again it’s one where we’re so focused on the plot and the characters. He’s likely my second choice here though, given his handling of the material and the humanity of Karen.

Finally, Bruce Beresford gets a nomination for Tender Mercies. Another Academy darling… if you’re not a fan of Nichols you could go with Beresford, but there’s nothing here to suggest a Best Director nomination is warranted. All in all, it’s a poor year. I can’t pick Bergman, so it’s between Yates and Nichols. I would want to pick Yates for Krull, which is breaking the rules. So…

My Winner: Mike Nichols

Silkwood (1983)

My Nominations: Luc Besson. Nicholas Roeg. Paul Verhoeven. Tony Scott. Martin Scorsese. Francis Ford Coppola. Jackie Chan. Richard Marquand. Philip Kaufman. Brian De Palma. David Cronenberg.

Let’s get the silliness out of the way first. There’s no way The Academy is ever nominating Jackie Chan, or a Martial Arts movie, but if you’re going to nominate a single Jackie Chan movie it may as well be Project A. It broke a lot of ground and was obviously a key learning experience for Chan. Luc Besson was not yet established – if he’d come out with a romance first instead of a silent Black and White post-apocalyptic action movie… every so often The Academy will chuck a pity nomination to a first-time foreign director, so you never know. For the last of the silly ones, it’s a film I only saw recently. Nic Roeg’s Eureka is a little-known film and was much derided at release due to its violence, but similar to other 80s movies it struck a chord with fans and later critics have now re-assessed it with a more positive response. It’s about a gold prospector in the early 20th Century, played by Gene Hackman, who becomes a millionaire and how he deals with the mob and the general paranoia and suspicion which comes with having so much money – distrusting friends and family. You have Rutger Hauer, Theresa Russell, and Mickey Rourke, but also Joe Pesci and Joe Spinell in smaller roles. It’s a little overall and goes to some strange places about magic and voodoo, and it doesn’t have the overt, full-blown Roeg flair, but has plenty of snappy cuts and dreamlike woozy. It’s surprisingly bloody, too.

A step up from those impossibilities would be Tony Scott and Paul Verhoeven. Scott’s The Hunger is maybe his most visually interesting movie, arguably to the detriment of everything else. But it’s a gorgeous, dark, unique vampire movie starring David Bowie, Catherine Deneuve, and Susan Sarandon Scott pulls out all the stops. Verhoeven is very visual and sultry with The Fourth Kind, a film which did receive very positive reviews around the world and likely gave him the final stepping-stone to hit the Hollywood big time. But the violence would have been too much for The Academy. Finally on the Sci-Fi front, Richard Marquand closes out the original Star Wars trilogy with Return Of The Jedi. It’s a mixture and an expansion of the prior movies, blending the scope and action of the first with the darker look and feel of the second, while obviously playing with a wider set of tools and aiming at a more family friendly tone for the conclusion of the saga.

If you’re going to nominate any of the directors of Best Picture nominees, surely it has to be Philip Kaufman. Out of all of the films, this is the one with Directing you pay attention to. It’s bizarre the others were nominated over him, and The Right Stuff is a genuinely great movie. Elsewhere, a couple of big Academy hitters were overlooked – Francis Ford Coppola doubly for The Outsiders and Rumble Fish which both shows two sides of his more experimental approach, and Martin Scorcese for The King Of Comedy which sees him tackling satire more directly than he had till this point. You’d think looking back that Brian De Palma would be a certainty for Scarface, given how iconic the film has become but also because of how well he handles the crime saga, the tension, the performances, the violence, and the social commentary while also using the sweaty, hyper 80s Miami backdrop. Finally, it’s David Cronenberg for Videodrome, as visionary a piece of film-making as you’re ever likely to see.

I honestly don’t know who to go for here, and if you were to ask me in a few days I’d change my answer. It’s between De Palma, Scorsese, and Cronenberg. I think I can take Martin out because he’s done better and will have more opportunities to win in the future, while De Palma and Cronenberg’s chances will be less. I think it’s De Palma’s best film.

My Winner: Brian De Palma.

Let us know your winner in the comments!