Our friends at the Academy have announced a change to the recently-adopted rule concerning the number of nominees for Best Picture. After only two years of a ten-horse race, next year's shortlist will consist of anywhere between five and ten nominees, depending on how many films receive the requisite five percent of first-place votes during the nominating procedure. After studying the hypothetical results that this method would have produced in the past decade, it appears we may consistently have seen greater than five nominees, but fewer than ten. In other words, forcing only five nominees sometimes may have left some worthy films by the wayside, yet making it compulsory to cite ten films for the top award may have allowed one or two less than stellar pictures to sneak in.
Undoubtedly, this new change will have its critics. Some will certainly say that the Academy is changing its rules too often. Indeed, it seems plausible that this announcement is in response to criticism of its move to ten nominees two years ago. However, for me, at the risk of once again sounding like an Academy lackey, I'm going to put my hand up in support of this development. Each year presents us with a different number of excellent films, so it makes sense not to constrict the number of nominees. In that context, this approach seems the most appropriate way to gauge Academy members' opinions.
Meanwhile, we kick off our review of 1982's nominees for Best Picture with a look at...
Costa-Gavras & Donald Stewart
(based on the book by Thomas Hauser)
Jack Lemmon, Sissy Spacek, Melanie Mayron, John Shea, Charles Cioffi, David Clennon
1 win, for Best Adapted Screenplay
Beth (Spacek) and Charlie (Shea) are living in a politically volatile South American country when things get shaky. With a curfew in place, Beth is unable to get back home from visiting friends when she misses the last bus. The next morning, she arrives home to an empty house and her neighbour tells her that Charlie was arrested yesterday by the country's military officers. Attempts at some answers from the U.S. Consulate prove fruitless and soon Beth is joined by her father-in-law Ed (Lemmon) who has travelled from New York to help find his son. A conservative man with little respect for his son's leftist leanings, Ed initially rubs Beth the wrong way. But the two must learn to work together to unravel the mystery of exactly what happened to Charlie.
Even before the mystery of Charlie's disappearance becomes the focus, Missing's opening act is somewhat mysterious itself. As a result of the filmmakers' attempts at avoiding explicit references to certain real-life people and places, I found myself a little confused as to where exactly the film was set and, more importantly, why on earth the protagonists were there in the first place. Perhaps it is my lack of knowledge on South American history, for only a very small amount of research is needed to discover that the film's location is Chile during the coup d'etat of 1973.
Missing also boasts a superb cast. Sissy Spacek and Jack Lemmon (pictured) work extremely well together, resulting in them both being nominated for lead Oscars. Then, there is the cornucopia of well-known faces from television. As the subject of the film's title, John Shea (known to Lois & Clark fans as Lex Luthor) is charming and passionate. Melanie Mayron (an Emmy winner for thirtysomething) plays the inquisitive and supportive friend. Joe Regalbuto (famed as Frank Fontana in Murphy Brown) portrays another victim of the new regime. Finally, Jerry Hardin (known for his role as Deep Throat in the definitely conspiratorial-themed The X-Files) appears as a U.S. Army Colonel.