Friday, February 26, 2010

1937 - The Good Earth

New York is once again enveloped by a snowstorm, and as it stretches into its second day of near constant snowfall, what better way to pass the time indoors than watching movie outtakes. I stumbled across a fascinating collection of classic bloopers that Warner Brothers created on a yearly basis for about a decade or so. It is somehow reassuring to know that even the greats like Humphrey Bogart and Bette Davis and James Cagney screwed up now and then as well. It is also abundantly clear that "Nuts!" was the curse word of the time.

P.S. Don't forget to vote for which early 1970s year we should cover next. Poll is on the right.

Yesterday began the journey into the ten-deep set of nominees involved in the battle for Best Picture of 1937...

The Good Earth
Sidney Franklin
Talbot Jennings, Tess Slesinger & Claudine West
(based on the novel by Pearl S. Buck)
Paul Muni, Luise Rainer, Walter Connolly, Tilly Losch, Charley Grapewin
Academy Awards:
5 nominations
2 wins, including Best Actress (Rainer)

Wang Lung (Muni) is but a simple Chinese farmer. He weds ex-slave O-Lan (Rainer) and the two carve out a living on their farm, raising three children along the way. Famine forces them to move to the big city to find work. But when O-Lan comes into some unexpected wealth, Lung begins to lose sight of what is truly important.

The first thing that smacks you in the face about The Good Earth is that, for a film that purports to be a celebration of Chinese heritage and Chinese people, it sure has a lot of white people in it. Every character in the film is Chinese and yet the main cast consists of the least Asian people imaginable. As Lung's father, Charley Grapewin (most famous for playing Dorothy's Uncle Henry in The Wizard of Oz) seems far more suited to portraying old codgers in Westerns. And both of Lung's wives sport European accents (which I guess is at least geographically closer to Asia than the Old West). Plus, and I can't be certain, but I think Paul Muni is attempting a Chinese accent. If he is, it's a horribly unsuccessful attempt.

The impressive cinematography and editing (both Oscar-nominated, the former winning) have a more modern sensibility than the film's 1937 release date might suggest. Despite the inherent implausibility of the film as a genuinely Chinese tale, director Sidney Franklin and his film-making collaborators, through their innovative style, create some breathtakingly effective sequences. Most notable is the looting of the city, which is followed by a suspenseful scene involving O-Lan's attempt to avoid a firing squad. Also thrilling is the locust plague, complete with several close-ups of the spindly critters. Not for the squeamish.

Paul Muni's performance is oddly immature. In fact, at times, he appears to be a simple-minded buffoon, especially when he laughs hysterically ... which he does a lot. Luise Rainer, on the other hand, is touching as O-Lan, winning the second of her back-to-back Best Actress awards. Despite that double win (her only two nominations, I might add), she has remained a far lesser-known actress than her contemporaries, which goes to show that Oscar isn't everything. It certainly hasn't affected her longevity, though, as she turned 100 years old last month, making her the oldest surviving Oscar winner.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Best Picture of 1981

The last few verdicts have proved to be simpler decisions than most and that pattern continues with 1981's evaluation. One clear favourite emerged in my estimation despite some commendable competition.

The nominees for Best Picture of 1981 are:
  • Atlantic City
  • Chariots of Fire
  • On Golden Pond
  • Raiders of the Lost Ark
  • Reds
Right off the bat, it is easy for me to remove Atlantic City from the running. Mostly because it just wasn't my cup of tea ... or any other beverage, for that matter. I don't really know what it was. On Golden Pond is next to go. While it contains much that is praise-worthy, its melodramatic tendencies kept me at a distance. To continue the earlier analogy, it may have been my cup of tea, but someone just put too many lumps of sugar in it.

Being the well-crafted film that it is, it is easy to see why the Academy selected it as their winner. And although it is difficult to find specific fault with Chariots of Fire, there was nonetheless something undefined missing - not a particularly constructive piece of criticism, I know - so I am compelled to say goodbye to those slow-motion runners also. A nice cup of tea, but perhaps not quite enough milk ... or maybe honey.

The most action-packed and overtly entertaining of the five, Raiders of the Lost Ark comes in a close second. Pure spectacle from the start, but the conclusion lacked a certain substance. To switch to a different hot drink: Raiders is like drinking an amazing hot chocolate, but discovering that there are no delicious gobs of gooey chocolate to slurp at the bottom of the cup. That's the best part!

That leaves us with Reds, Warren Beatty's intelligent exploration of communism in America. It was a relatively easy choice for me. Reds moved me far more than any of its competitors with its witty script and fine performances. Hence, it receives the Matt vs. the Academy stamp of approval. A spectacular cup of tea, even if you don't like tea.

Best Picture of 1981
Academy's choice:

Chariots of Fire

Matt's choice:


Your choice:

Vote for your own favourite with the poll above. Next up on Matt vs. the Academy, we will be taking a look at 1937, a year of ten nominees. Appropriate, considering this year's ceremony (in a little under two weeks) will feature the return of the ten-way Best Picture race.

And the nominees for Best Picture of 1937 are:
  • The Awful Truth
  • Captains Courageous
  • Dead End
  • The Good Earth
  • In Old Chicago
  • The Life of Emile Zola
  • Lost Horizon
  • One Hundred Men and a Girl
  • Stage Door
  • A Star Is Born
Also, over the next few posts leading up to the Oscars show, I will weigh in on my picks for the awards.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

1981 - On Golden Pond

Matt vs. the Academy's next year of review seems like a foregone conclusion, but there's still time for a late rush of voting, so make your voice heard in the poll on the right.

In the meantime, let me conclude my summation of the 1981 Best Picture nominees with my thoughts on...

On Golden Pond
Mark Rydell
Ernest Thompson
(based on his play)
Katharine Hepburn, Henry Fonda, Jane Fonda, Doug McKeon, Dabney Coleman
Academy Awards:
10 nominations
3 wins, including Best Actor (Henry Fonda) and Best Actress (Hepburn)

Elderly couple Norman (Henry Fonda) and Ethel Thayer (Hepburn) spend their summers in a lake house on Golden Pond. This year, their daughter Chelsea (Jane Fonda) visits with her new beau Bill (Coleman) and his son Billy (McKeon). When Chelsea and Bill leave to travel on their own, Billy is left in the care of the aging duo. Estranged with his own child, Norman at first has difficulty bonding with the boy, but soon learns to let loose.

Considering the cast's pedigree, I really wanted to like On Golden Pond. Unfortunately, my overall impression of it is of a superficial melodrama. There are occasional moments of wit and poignancy but they are just too occasional to outweigh the overwhelming sweetness.

The fault, as I see it, is mostly in Mark Rydell's direction. Too much cheese. Everything is just a little overdone. Despite witty dialogue, the script is often made to sound like a soap opera. Despite naturalistic performances, the relationships between the characters are mostly clichéd and unreal. Despite beautiful cinematography, some wordless sequences are reminiscent of the background montages on a karaoke machine. Despite evocative themes, the score is overproduced and used far too often. This musical diarrhea is particularly evident during the scene in which Norman loses his way in the woods. The use of dramatic suspense music borders on parody.

The main conflict in the story is the strained relationship between father and daughter and, to be honest, I just didn't buy it, which is especially troubling considering that Henry and Jane (real life father and daughter) were said to have had a similar relationship. There is plenty of talk within the script that portrays Norman as a cantankerous curmudgeon, yet instead of coming across as emotionally distant, he just seemed like a lovable old fuddy-duddy to me. Sure, he was sarcastic and a bit grumpy, but I never took his grouchiness too seriously. It just seemed like he was playing around. And yet, everyone around him was positive he was nasty and aloof.

None of this is in any way a criticism of Henry Fonda's performance. He is absolutely delightful. But it's almost as if he's in a different movie than the other characters. Katharine Hepburn, too, is a pleasure to watch. She and Henry both won Oscars for their roles here and I certainly can't begrudge them that. And for all my quibbling, their final scene together is genuinely touching, proving that the film is not completely without merit. Jane Fonda is surprisingly the most artificial, as is her 80s hair. And I was particularly impressed with Dabney Coleman, delivering an intelligent and vulnerable performance.

Monday, February 15, 2010

1981 - Raiders of the Lost Ark

It's no secret that I'm a film buff. I've been a fan of movies for as long as I can remember. When browsing through my local video store as a teenager, I often avoided the new releases, choosing instead to scour the other shelves for classic films or those must-see pictures. For a while, I took great advantage of their 10 weeklies for $10 deal. Sometimes, I would select a director and rent as many of his films as they had in stock. My knowledge of Alfred Hitchcock's and Woody Allen's bodies of work is directly due to such proceedings. In fact, in a precursor to Matt vs. the Academy, I attempted to view every film that had been awarded the Best Picture Oscar, succeeding in watching all but six winners, a state of affairs that will obviously be remedied upon this project's conclusion.

But along with my love of movies, I'm also fascinated by the process of making movies. I am simply enamoured with all those behind-the-scenes documentaries and audio commentaries and so on. Hence, I was thoroughly enthralled by my visit today to the Museum of Moving Image here in New York. There are fine exhibits explaining all the different departments involved in putting a film together, from writing to editing and everything in between. Plus, scattered throughout the museum are piles of movie memorabilia, including a miniature from Blade Runner, Robin Williams' Mrs. Doubtfire costume, a cast of Al Pacino's face, a shooting script from Citizen Kane and the Chewbacca head that Peter Mayhew wore, amongst many other things. As you can imagine, I was like a kid in a toy store. It really reminded me of the magic of movies.

Last night, I watched one of the few action blockbusters to be nominated for Best Picture, this one from 1981...

Raiders of the Lost Ark
Steven Spielberg
Lawrence Kasdan
(story by George Lucas and Philip Kaufman)
Harrison Ford, Karen Allen, Paul Freeman, Ronald Lacey, John Rhys-Davies, Denholm Elliott
Academy Awards:
9 nominations
5 wins, including Best Visual Effects

It almost seems irrelevant to add to the millions of words that have been written about Indiana Jones. The phenomenon began with Raiders of the Lost Ark and it is this first instalment that is generally favoured by critics and fans alike. Consequently, it has achieved such renown that it is far more important than anything I could ever write. Then again, I'm not narcissistic enough to believe that any of my humble reviews ever outshine the objects of their opinions, but in this case, considering the film's blockbuster status, my review may not even shine at all.

Not that you need to be reminded of its story, but in the interests of consistency, here's a quick recap. It's 1936 and archaeologist Indiana Jones (Ford) is sent by US Army Intelligence to procure the much sought after Ark of the Covenant. His ex-lover Marion Ravenwood (Allen) is in possession of an artifact that holds the key to the Ark's location but rival French archaeologist René Belloq (Freeman) and a bunch of Nazis will stop at nothing to find the Ark first.

There is simply no doubt that Raiders of the Lost Ark is pure escapism. With a rugged leading man, a feisty love interest, a trusty sidekick and a scheming foreign villain, you know you're in action/adventure territory. No more than five or ten minutes go by in between action scenes and there is enough adventure and romance to satisfy even the most die-hard fan of the genre.

The bulk of the film's entertainment is, of course, embodied in the character of Indiana Jones - a rugged adventurer with the perfect balance of determination and sarcasm. He is just so darn lovable, mostly because he is anything but invincible. In fact, he spends a vast majority of the film in situations where he has no control. At every turn, he seems to bungle along with little clue as to what he's doing, yet somehow he heroically finds his way out of every sticky situation with a delightful sense of humour ... And the audience cheers.

The remarkable John Williams delivers another stirringly memorable score capturing the heroism of the story. I couldn't help but notice, however, the uncanny similarity to elements of his even more memorable score for Star Wars. Granted, every composer has his own distinct style, and perhaps none is more distinct than John Williams, but there were phrases in this orchestration that almost seemed like note for note reproductions.

So rare is it that an action film is recognised by the Academy in the Best Picture category that I am hesitant to discuss the film's flaws. While Raiders is entertaining and adrenalin-pumping, there is little in the way of an emotional journey for the main character. He doesn't really learn anything or grow as a human being. Nor is he positively involved in the film's conclusion which is slightly unsatisfying. His attempts to recapture the Ark from Belloq initially fail and then, when the bad guys are all supernaturally disintegrated (which includes the truly spectacular melting face effect), Indy gains the Ark by default. Even then, when he delivers it to the Army guys, he doesn't even get the satisfaction of seeing it displayed in a museum as he desired. Everything just happens around him without his input ... apart from the fight scenes, of course. He's good at that.

Harrison Ford adopts his role with great confidence, bringing out Indy's exasperated wit marvellously. Karen Allen as the spunky Marion is either annoying or brilliant, I can't decide which. Also worth noting are Paul Freeman, who supplies a dry strength to the sinister Belloq, and John Rhys-Davies, whose jolly Sallah is a nice counterpoint to his irascible Gimli in a more recent blockbuster franchise. And that's a young Alfred Molina making his film debut alongside Indy in the opening Peruvian jungle adventure.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

1981 - Reds

Today, I experienced my first New York blizzard. Snow, snow and more snow. There is now a blanket of white over just about everything - trees, houses, cars, pedestrians. Yes, pedestrians. I witnessed two young men throwing snowballs from the rooftop of the building next door on to unsuspecting passersby. Really? Do you have to? Thankfully, they had moved on when I eventually left the apartment to go to work. I also discovered the one benefit of a blizzard - there are plenty of seats on the subway.

It was also the perfect day to watch a movie, as I did with the next Best Picture nominee from 1981's contest...

Warren Beatty
Warren Beatty and Trevor Griffiths
Warren Beatty, Diane Keaton, Edward Hermann, Jerzy Kosinski, Jack Nicholson, Paul Sorvino, Maureen Stapleton, Gene Hackman
Academy Awards:
12 nominations
3 wins, including Best Director and Best Supporting Actress (Stapleton)

As relevant today as it was almost thirty years ago when it was released, Reds dares to feature a communist as its protagonist. Jack Reed is a writer and political activist who shacks up with fellow radical Louise Bryant. Their relationship is rocky, however, mostly because Jack's attempts to change the world result in neglect of his lover. Nonetheless, they travel to Russia together to write about and take part in the Revolution of 1917 that saw the communists take over the government. In an attempt to bring these socialist ideals to America, Jack finds himself torn between his love of Louise and his desire to bring about political change.

In an interview for the special edition DVD, Warren Beatty indicates that, with Reds, he wanted to address the "mistaken paranoia about communism" that pervaded American society. Communism, whether you agree with its philosophy or not, is a legitimate political movement. However, through some clever marketing, the words communism and socialism somehow became synonymous with evil. Of course, like any political ideal, it has its flaws and the idealistic and passionate Jack Reed tried his darnedest to make it work, seemingly misunderstood from all sides. The right wing hated him for obvious reasons, but even his own comrades took issue with him occasionally, as he watched the party lose sight of its initial intentions.

At its heart, though, Reds is a love story. For all their decrying of the culture of marriage, Jack and Louise quite obviously can't live without each other. They may advocate sexual freedom and denounce any sense that either belongs to the other, yet when push comes to shove, they need each other like a flower needs a bee.

Scattered throughout the unfolding drama are excerpts from interviews with some contemporaries of the real Jack and Louise. On paper, a bunch of elderly people reminiscing about old times seems more appropriate for a retirement home than a serious motion picture, but these fascinating characters are anything but old farts. Their insights and anecdotes, seamlessly integrated into the story, are utterly engaging. There's something about a wrinkled face that screams, "I've lived!"

Wearing four different hats, Warren Beatty is clearly the mastermind behind Reds. Along with Orson Welles, he holds the rare distinction of receiving Oscar nominations for acting, directing, writing and producing the same film. Unlike the Citizen Kane helmer, though, Beatty has done it twice - first for Heaven Can Wait, and three years later for Reds. And all four nominations are certainly well deserved here. His script with co-writer Trevor Griffiths is nothing short of superb. Witty and, if you can believe it, economical. Despite its almost three and a half hour running time, the story - the first half in particular - unfolds in a whirlwind of short scenes that deliver exactly the necessary information - no more, no less. Its wit is evident in such exchanges as the one in which Reed is asked his occupation by a threatening foe. After hearing the response, the man quips, "You write? Uh-uh. You wrong."

Beatty's direction, too, is a brilliant achievement, lending the film a real fly-on-the-wall feel, an attribute enhanced by the improvisational quality of the performances. Beatty, Keaton, Nicholson, Hackman - could you ask for more? Maureen Stapleton rightfully earned her Best Supporting Actress award for her fine portrayal of activist Emma Goldman. And 80s sitcom fans should keep an eye out for ALF patriarch, Max Wright, as one of Jack's bohemian colleagues.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

1981 - Chariots of Fire

The poll for Matt vs. the Academy's next year of review is ready, itching for your input. There it is just to the right.

An amusing anecdote: Tonight, in my capacity as an usher for an off-Broadway theatre, I was compelled to inform a chocolate-eating patron that we do not allow food or drink inside the theatre. Evidently, she was aware of this policy since she didn't dispute it. Her response, rather, was that she didn't think that chocolate was considered food. If only...

Yesterday, I had the chance to view a classic sports-themed Best Picture nominee from 1981...

Chariots of Fire
Hugh Hudson
Colin Welland
Ben Cross, Ian Charleson, Nigel Havers, Ian Holm, John Gielgud
Academy Awards:
7 nominations
4 wins, including Best Picture

The film that launched a thousand running-in-slow-motion parodies, Chariots of Fire follows the career progression of a bunch of young British runners, culminating in their performance at the 1924 Paris Olympic Games. The story mainly focuses on two rival British athletes - Eric Liddell (Charleson), a devout Christian, and Harold Abrahams (Cross), the son of a Jewish immigrant. Liddell, an ex-Rugby star and naturally talented runner, struggles to balance his love of athletics with his commitment to his family's mission, while Abrahams, the star of Cambridge university's track team, deals with his intense fear of losing.

If Chariots of Fire were an ice cream flavour, I imagine it would most likely be vanilla. Not French Vanilla, either. Just vanilla. Not the most exciting or innovative flavour, but a safe, solid choice to satisfy the large majority of taste buds. There is no particular aspect of this film that is specifically poorly realised and yet I am nonetheless disinclined to pronounce any great love of it. Nor do I wish to criticise it, either, unless, of course, labeling it plain is a criticism. Which I suppose it is. Which is unfortunate because I don't mean it to be.

The script, based loosely on real events, is well-crafted. It's almost inspiring. Everything is in place for an incredibly inspiring story - passion, ambition, tests of character. Perhaps its greatest flaw, however, is that there lacks a true antagonist. Liddell and Abrahams are initially pitted as rivals, yet when they finally reach the Olympics, not only do they compete for the same team, but they don't even run the same race.

At just over two hours long, Chariots of Fire is by no means a lengthy film but neither does it seem short, possibly due to its healthy use of slow motion. The oft-used effect is spellbinding, made all the more so by Vangelis' evocative and memorable score. Plus, there is the added bonus of witnessing in fine detail the humorous action of Liddell's running style - head back, mouth open, arms flailing about (pictured).

The cast are strong, led by Cross and Charleson. I particularly enjoyed Nigel Havers' portrayal of the cheeky Lord Andrew Lindsay. Also delivering an impressive performance as Abrahams' idiosyncratic trainer is Ian Holm, better known to modern audiences as Bilbo Baggins. And from that other epic fantasy franchise from the '00s, Richard Griffiths, before he was Harry Potter's uncle, appears here as Harry Abrahams' head porter.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

1981 - Atlantic City

The Oscar nominations have finally been announced without any major surprises. I suppose The Blind Side's nod for Best Picture was not expected by most (except for Roger Ebert), but other than that, only a few minor upsets. My predictions stood up fairly well, especially the ones I discussed in detail here. 9 out of 10 Pictures, all the lead Actors and Actresses, and 4 out of 5 for the Supporting, Director, Screenplay and Animated Film categories. A total of 44 out of 50 correct. I should have stopped there and held off from linking to my complete predictions because my performance in the minor categories was a little shameful. Although, I pegged all three Visual Effects nominees.

A few trivia tid-bits about this year's nominees: Lee Daniels becomes only the second black director to be nominated, with Kathryn Bigelow the fourth woman acknowledged in the same category. Up is just the second animated film to be cited for Best Picture after 1990's Beauty and the Beast.

Meanwhile, today I began my review of the Best Picture contest from 1981 with a viewing of...

Atlantic City
Louis Malle
John Guare
Burt Lancaster, Susan Sarandon, Kate Reid, Robert Joy, Hollis McLaren
Academy Awards:
5 nominations
0 wins

Trying to make a life for herself in Atlantic City's up and coming gambling scene, Sally Matthews (Sarandon) takes croupier classes while working in the seafood section of the casino's eatery. When her deadbeat husband Dave (Joy) shows up to sell drugs he stole from some mobsters, he manages to persuade Sally's next-door neighbour, Lou (Lancaster), to make some deliveries. Past his prime, Lou imagines he was once a gangster to be reckoned with, although he now seems to be little more than an errand boy. Sally and Lou strike up an unlikely relationship, both dreaming of success.

Atlantic City opens with the rather strange image of Susan Sarandon rubbing lemon juice over her breasts while Burt Lancaster spies on her from across the way, and that's just the beginning of a bucketload of strange. I recently pointed out the incomprehensibility of Zorba the Greek, which I now see has competition from Atlantic City in the incoherency stakes. It reaches its surreal heights in a scene in which singer Robert Goulet croons a song to an oblivious Sally while in a phone booth in the middle of a hospital.

The story loses some of its vagueness halfway through the picture as the narrative comes together. Even the lemon juice incident receives an explanation - Sally was just trying to wash off the fishy smell from work. A totally normal thing to do ... in front of the kitchen window.

The characters in this film are dysfunctional, to say the least. But even so, I just didn't connect with them on any real emotional level. They all behave in such a stiflingly staged manner, with little semblance to actual human behaviour. I understand that this is a different world but I ought to still relate to the characters in some vaguely meaningful way, and these characters just felt so foreign to me. Lou almost seems mentally disturbed by the end of the film, proudly confessing his criminal activity to all who will listen.

It doesn't help that the script and direction are somewhat reminiscent of soap opera. For instance, in one scene, while Lou is packing a small suitcase, he picks up a gun and decides not to pack it, throwing it on the bed. He heads for the door, stops dramatically, walks back to the bed, flings the suitcase down, picks up the gun and walks out the door with determination. Then, there are the contrivances, including one sequence which sees Sally inexplicably shove a tape player into her handbag, allowing her to conveniently pull it out when she is later offered a cassette on the boardwalk.

Most of the performances, too, are a little plastic. However, Burt Lancaster manages to retain his casual charm considering the words he is asked to deliver. In fact, the entire cast could easily be forgiven for a script that contains such enigmatic lines as the one Dave utters when Lou explains that Atlantic City used to be called the lungs of Philadelphia: "If we stay here long enough, we could be the nose of Philadelphia." What the...?

Monday, February 1, 2010

Best Picture of 1964

Tomorrow morning, bright and early, the Oscar nominations will be announced. Over the last few posts, I've offered my thoughts on who will be recognised in the major categories. I have also toiled away behind the scenes to predict all the other categories as well (except for the Short Film awards), so for those who are interested in that sort of thing, I present to you my complete 2009 Oscar nominations prediction list. The most sure thing of all the categories: Best Visual Effects will be won by Avatar.

As a new year of titles vie for the top award, I am delivering a verdict on the 1964 race. I have previously commented on the absurdity of comparing family films to period dramas, so it boils down to personal preference, which made this decision relatively easy.

The nominees for Best Picture of 1964 are:
  • Becket
  • Dr. Strangelove
  • Mary Poppins
  • My Fair Lady
  • Zorba the Greek
Two family friendly musicals, a biting political satire, an intense period drama and one film that defies genre categorisation. If I were my wife, there is no doubt that I would be choosing between Mary Poppins and My Fair Lady, both superb examples of the musical genre that she adores. As it happens, though, I am unsurprisingly not my wife, and therefore, my appreciation of their worth notwithstanding, my affections lie in another direction.

Zorba the Greek, though gripping in sections, suffers from a lack of cohesion, so it is easy for me to strike that from the list, which leaves us with two films that I enjoyed immensely: the provocative Becket and the incisive Dr. Strangelove. Again, two films of incredible merit, yet clearly with different approaches. The intimately emotional exploration in Becket is extremely engaging (no alliteration intended), but I find it difficult to go past a well-made satire. It is that mixture of humour and depth that gets me every time, especially when its treated with such subtle precision as in Dr. Strangelove. So, the Academy may have lauded My Fair Lady but I will be giving my honours to Stanley Kubrick's cold-war black comedy Dr. Strangelove.

Best Picture of 1964
Academy's choice:

My Fair Lady

Matt's choice:

Dr. Strangelove

Your choice:

Vote for your own favourite with the poll above. For the next year of focus in Matt vs. the Academy, you have made your voice clear, by choosing 1981, another eclectic year of nominees. (But, really, is there a year that isn't eclectic?) I will honour that collective decision and so we shall tackle the following films over the next couple of weeks.

And the nominees for Best Picture of 1981 are:
  • Atlantic City
  • Chariots of Fire
  • On Golden Pond
  • Raiders of the Lost Ark
  • Reds
And I will again let you decide on the next year of review, so look out for that poll coming soon.