Right, now that I've insulted America's pastime, which, incidentally, I enjoy watching in lieu of my beloved cricket, let's move on now to the latest Best Picture nominee from 1984 to be viewed, which was...
(based on his play)
F. Murray Abraham, Tom Hulce, Elizabeth Berridge, Roy Dotrice, Simon Callow, Christine Ebersole, Jeffrey Jones
8 wins, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor
One of the greatest essays on jealousy ever written, Amadeus is the tale of 18th century Austrian Court Composer Antonio Salieri and his bitterness at being outshone by a younger composer with the manners and graces of a nine-year-old. The younger composer is, of course, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and as soon as he enters Salieri's world, Salieri is consumed with jealousy of his musical genius. However, Salieri has a more pressing rivalry - that with God. Convinced that God is mocking him through Mozart, Salieri vows to destroy the famed composer in a treacherous attempt to show the Almighty who's boss.
Amadeus falls into that genre of film in which the protagonist essentially doubles as the antagonist. Salieri is the audience's main point of contact and, indeed, the story is told in flashback by Salieri himself. Just as he is conflicted by his genuine awe of Mozart's innate talent and his utter disgust at Mozart's buffoonery, we, too, are conflicted in our perception of Salieri. On the one hand, he elicits great sympathy by his desperate and unfulfilled longing to create memorable compositions. However, his diabolical plot to bring down Mozart at every turn tests the limits of our empathy. The result is an absolutely delicious portrayal of jealousy at its most primal, an emotion to which I'm sure we all can relate, no matter how much we are disinclined to admit it.
Most of this captivating deliciousness occurs in the first half of the film with jealous discovery after jealous discovery yanking our emotional strings. There is an unfortunate lull during the latter half of the film, but, in spite of that, all the other elements of this fine picture guarantee its entertainment value. For instance, the extravagant design is exactly as spectacular as you would expect from a period piece of this calibre. And then there's the music. Granted, you can hardly go wrong using Mozart's emotive compositions, but to make each selection perfectly appropriate for the images it is supporting, as is the case here, is a fine skill indeed.
F. Murray Abraham claimed the Best Actor Oscar for his sublime portrayal of Salieri, perfecting the many subtle crestfallen expressions of insecurity required of him. His co-star Tom Hulce received a nomination, too, supplying Mozart with a combination of irreverence and passion. Although etched in my mind as Ferris Bueller's principal, Jeffrey Jones is utterly delightful as the Austrian Emperor. Keep an eye out for Sex and the City's Cynthia Nixon as the Mozarts' maid. And keep the other eye out for the man inside R2D2, Kenny Baker, appearing in an operatic parody.