I posted something the other day about how I think the Academy should wait 10 years, at least, before naming the Best Picture of 2011.
I think you need perspective to see what’s really great and what’s merely good … or merely popular or pretentious or politically correct or especially well promoted.
Amy, who blogs at FixItorDeal, commented that she thought “Raising Arizona” should have won Best Picture of 1987.
I loved that movie. I remember skipping class and going to a matinee with my girlfriend at the time. I didn’t know anything about the movie except that it was by the brothers who made “Blood Simple.” I laughed so hard I cried. I’ve quoted the movie ever since, and when I was in Phoenix a few years ago, I made a pilgrimage to the “hayseed bank” Gale and Evelle Snoats robbed in the movie. (“Well, which is it, young feller? You want I should freeze or get down on the ground?”)
Amy’s comment made me wonder, though: Why didn’t “Raising Arizona” win Best Picture?
Probably, I thought, because it’s a comedy, and comedy’s never win, but, also, it turns out that 1987 was a great year for movies.
“Raising Arizona” came out the same year as:
- “The Princess Bride,” a fairy tale everyone remembers and loves. (“Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die!”)
- “Radio Days,” Woody Allen’s look at a Brooklyn family’s life during the Golden Age of Radio.
- “Cry Freedom,” a politically important apartheid drama with Denzel Washington as Stephen Biko.
- “The Untouchables,” which earned Sean Connery an Oscar as an honest cop who taught Eliot Ness (Kevin Costner) how to do things “the Chicago way.”
- “Dirty Dancing,” which put Baby in a corner.
And what’s funny is that those movies weren’t even nominated for Best Picture, because 1987 was also the year of:
- “Wall Street,” Oliver Stone’s indictment of corporate greed. “Greed, for lack of a better word, is good.”)
- “Full Metal Jacket,” Stanley Kubrick film about U.S. Marines during the Vietnam War.
- “Good Morning, Vietnam,” with Robin Williams as an irreverent disc jockey on Armed Forces Radio during the Vietnam War.
- “Empire of the Sun,” Steven Spielberg’s film about an upper middle class English boy (a young Christian Bale) living in Shanghai who is separated from his parents and placed in a Japanese internment camp.
- “Roxanne,” Steve Martin’s charming take on “Cyrano de Bergerac.” (“We haven’t had any irony here since about, uh, ’83, when I was the only practitioner of it, and I stopped because I was tired of being stared at.”)
And none of those movies were nominated for Best Picture, either.
The Best Picture of 1987 was “The Last Emporer,” a beautiful epic about the last emporer of China before the Communist revolution.
The other nominees were:
- “Broadcast News,” a brutal smackdown of the network news business, disguised as a romantic comedy. (“I’ll meet you at the place near the thing where we went that time.”)
- “Fatal Attraction,” a thriller about a mistress who stalks her boyfriend after he breaks up with her.
- “Moonstruck,” a romantic comedy that won Cher a Best Actress Oscar. (“Fear of death?”)
- “Hope and Glory,” about a London family during the Blitz.
I read somewhere it’s almost impossible to make a great movie, because so many pieces have to fall into place, but sometimes the gods smile, and on this, the 25th anniverary of 1987, it’s pretty clear 1987 was a great year for movies.