Wednesday, March 13, 2024

What We Saw: The 1984 Academy Awards

I wasn't feeling a strong connection to the 2024 Academy Awards, so with the help of YouTube, I went back in time and watched the 1984 Academy Awards this weekend. What is funny is that by choosing a nice round number for the anniversary--40 years ago!--I picked a night that celebrated a crop of movies with which I connect even less.

Before I address that, let me share the one thing that stands out to me most when watching the Oscars of 40 years ago. It's not the greater star power. I could comment on that, but it would be "grumpy old man out of touch with today's movies" kind of stuff, and I don't want to rip on today's crop of influencers--er, stars. Besides, they gave us exactly the kind of star I might yearn for, Al Pacino, and that didn't turn out so well.


No, the one thing that stands out today is the lack of reaction shots. It is noticeable throughout the entire program, but check out the opening, which contains the best part of the night, Johnny Carson's monologue:

Current awards shows have the tendency to find someone faking a smile or doing a mock pout (or, OK, I concede it happens--showing genuine emotion) after just about every single bit. It's not even every bit, but lines within a bit if presenters are on stage. Look at how, during Carson's segment, the director shoots it like a talk show monologue. The camera is on him almost the entire time. It's almost alarming! Yet I find it refreshing. I like the emphasis on the host and, throughout the ceremony, the people on the stage.

There aren't a lot of great moment for me in this show because I STILL haven't seen most of the big winners, and, boy, you can bet I didn't see them yet. This Oscar night illustrates how the movies of 1983 are a big gap for me. I never saw Terms of Endearment, Tender Mercies, Fanny and Alexander, The Dresser, and even--gasp--The Right Stuff (haven't seen it straight through all the way). I have never seen Silkwood nor Yentl (I actually tried to avoid that one when it was on HBO all the time in the Eighties) nor Educating Rita nor Cross Creek. Therefore a lot of the winners and races don't resonate with me much 40 years later.

Here are some movies of 1983 I DID see: Return of the Jedi, Flashdance, Trading Places, WarGames, Octopussy, Staying Alive, Sudden Impact, Mr. Mom, Risky Business. Those happen to be the other 9 of the top 10 movies (excluding Terms) of 1983. I am not making a popular vs. critical darling argument, just pointing out that I did see a lot of the movies of that year, but somehow I missed most covered at the Oscars. 

I would be more excited about Local Hero, King of Comedy, or others if we are talking critical faves. If we are talking person faves, well, young me saw Superman III and National Lampoon's Vacation.

I am not saying what the Oscars SHOULD HAVE honored, just that I don't have an affinity for what the show did honor. But would it have killed them to nominate Private School so Phoebe Cates could get an invite?

Shirley McLaine's speech is well remembered (Is it one of the first commenting on how long the show is?), and many of the "lesser" awards yield sincere and affecting (if not starpowered) speeches.

Actually, one thing that strikes me is how Carson makes multiple jokes about how people don't really care about those awards--maybe right on the edge of going to insulting. Carson himself is a clear highlight in his final outing as emcee. He is funny, appealing, and always in control.

A highlight is Cary Grant's appearance. Talk about class and star power!

Overall, it was not a great show, but it was a nice watch on a lazy Sunday...broken up into multiple clips in a convenient playlist. Seeing the 215-minute long ceremony at once without breaks might be a bit too much, at least without bigger roles for the likes of National Lampoon's Vacation (To be fair, Christie Brinkley does appear as a presenter).

No comments:

Post a Comment