Fanny and Alexander (1983): Ingmar Bergman's triumphant farewell to film-making (which didn't mean he stopped making films)

My Top 20:

  1. Fanny and Alexander
  2. Terms of Endearment
  3. The Big Chill
  4. The Right Stuff
  5. Zelig
  6. Betrayal
  7. Star Wars Episode VI: The Return of the Jedi
  8. Local Hero
  9. Educating Rita
  10. Denton
  11. The Year of Living Dangerously
  12. The Return of Martin Guerre
  13. Silkwood
  14. Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life
  15. The Mirror
  16. The King of Comedy
  17. Trading Places
  18. The Evil Dead
  19. L’Argent
  20. El Bruto

Academy Awards:

  • Best Picture:  Terms of Endearment
  • Best Director:  James L. Brooks  (Terms of Endearment)
  • Best Actor:  Robert Duvall  (Tender Mercies)
  • Best Actress:  Shirley MacLaine  (Terms of Endearment)
  • Best Supporting Actor:  Jack Nicholson  (Terms of Endearment)
  • Best Supporting Actress:  Linda Hunt  (The Year of Living Dangerously)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay:  Terms of Endearment
  • Best Original Screenplay:  Tender Mercies
  • Best Foreign Film:  Fanny and Alexander

Consensus Awards:

  • Best Picture:  Terms of Endearment
  • Best Director:  James L. Brooks  (Terms of Endearment)
  • Best Actor:  Robert Duvall  (Tender Mercies)
  • Best Actress:  Shirley MacLaine  (Terms of Endearment)
  • Best Supporting Actor:  Jack Nicholson  (Terms of Endearment)
  • Best Supporting Actress:  Linda Hunt  (The Year of Living Dangerously)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay:  Terms of Endearment
  • Best Original Screenplay:  The Big Chill  /  Local Hero
  • Best Foreign Film:  Fanny and Alexander

Tarkovsky's The Mirror (1975, U.S. rel. 1983)

Top 10 Films  (Top 1000):

  1. The Mirror –  #69
  2. Fanny and Alexander –  #74
  3. L’Argent –  #201
  4. El Bruto –  #315
  5. Local Hero –  #332
  6. The King of Comedy –  #415
  7. Videodrome –  #505
  8. Scarface –  #507
  9. The Right Stuff –  #594
  10. Zelig –  #647

Top 5 Films  (1983 Best Picture Awards):

  1. Terms of Endearment
  2. The Night of the Shooting Stars
  3. The Dresser
  4. Educating Rita
  5. Tender Mercies  /  The Big Chill  /  The Right Stuff

Note:  Terms of Endearment becomes the first film since A Man for All Seasons to win 5 Best Picture awards.

Top 10 Films  (Award Points):

  1. Terms of Endearment –  2112
  2. Fanny and Alexander –  771
  3. Tender Mercies –  672
  4. The Dresser –  618
  5. Educating Rita –  580
  6. The Right Stuff –  480
  7. Local Hero –  437
  8. Silkwood –  427
  9. The Night of the Shooting Stars –  378
  10. The Big Chill –  345

Note:  Terms of Endearment sets a new record with 2112 points which will stand until 1990.  Local Hero has the highest points of any Oscar-eligible film that failed to earn any Oscar nominations.  The Night of the Shooting Stars sets a new record for a film that only earns points from critics groups.

Top 10 Films  (Box Office Gross):

  1. Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi –  $252.58 mil
  2. Terms of Endearment –  $108.42 mil
  3. Flashdance –  $92.92 mil
  4. Trading Places –  $90.40 mil
  5. WarGames –  $79.56 mil
  6. Octopussy –  $67.89 mil
  7. Sudden Impact –  $67.64 mil
  8. Staying Alive –  $64.89 mil
  9. Mr. Mom –  $64.73 mil
  10. Risky Business –  $63.54 mil

Ebert Great Films:

  • A Christmas Story
  • The Right Stuff
  • Scarface
  • Fanny and Alexander
  • Diva
  • Tender Mercies

Nighthawk Golden Globes:

Drama:

  • Best Picture:  Fanny and Alexander
  • Best Director:  Ingmar Bergman  (Fanny and Alexander)
  • Best Actor:  Jeremy Irons  (Betrayal)
  • Best Actress:  Shirley MacLaine  (Terms of Endearment)
  • Best Supporting Actor:  Jack Nicholson  (Terms of Endearment)
  • Best Supporting Actress:  Linda Hunt  (The Year of Living Dangerously)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay:  Terms of Endearment
  • Best Original Screenplay:  Fanny and Alexander

A great ensemble. A great soundtrack. A great screenplay. The Big Chill is just a great film.

Comedy:

  • Best Picture:  The Big Chill
  • Best Director:  Lawrence Kasdan  (The Big Chill)
  • Best Actor:  Michael Caine  (Educating Rita)
  • Best Actress:  Julie Walters  (Educating Rita)
  • Best Supporting Actor:  William Hurt  (The Big Chill)
  • Best Supporting Actress:  Glenn Close  (The Big Chill)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay:  Educating Rita
  • Best Original Screenplay:  The Big Chill

Nighthawk Awards:

  • Best Picture:  Fanny and Alexander
  • Best Director:  Ingmar Bergman  (Fanny and Alexander)
  • Best Actor:  Michael Caine  (Educating Rita)
  • Best Actress:  Shirley MacLaine  (Terms of Endearment)
  • Best Supporting Actor:  Jack Nicholson  (Terms of Endearment)
  • Best Supporting Actress:  Linda Hunt  (The Year of Living Dangerously)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay:  Terms of Endearment
  • Best Original Screenplay:  Fanny and Alexander
  • Best Editing:  The Big Chill
  • Best Cinematography:  Fanny and Alexander
  • Best Original Score:  Terms of Endearment
  • Best Sound:  Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi
  • Best Art Direction:  Fanny and Alexander
  • Best Visual Effects:  Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi
  • Best Sound Editing:  Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi
  • Best Costume Design:  Fanny and Alexander
  • Best Makeup:  Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi
  • Best Original Song:  “Every Sperm is Sacred”  (Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life)
  • Best Foreign Film:  Fanny and Alexander

Nighthawk Notables:

  • Best Film to Watch Over and Over:  Star Wars Episode VI: The Return of the Jedi
  • Best Line (Comedic):  “The Ku Klux Klan, who saw Zelig as a Jew, that could turn himself into a Negro and an Indian, saw him as a triple threat.”  (Patrick Horgan in Zelig)
  • Best Opening:  The Big Chill
  • Best Ending:  The Big Chill
  • Best Scene:  “Every Sperm is Sacred” in Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life
  • Best Use of a Song (dramatic):  “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” in The Big Chill
  • Best Use of a Song (comedic):  “Gee Officer Krupke” in Terms of Endearment
  • Best Ensemble:  The Big Chill
  • Funniest Film:  Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life
  • Most Over-rated Film: Scarface
  • Worst Film:  Human Highway

Film History: 20th Century-Fox becomes the first studio to openly solicit deals for the display of brand names in its films.  Ingmar Bergman announces his retirement after the release of Fanny and AlexanderReturn of the Jedi is released, completing the original Star Wars trilogy.  Like the previous two films, it grosses over $200 million and by the end of its run becomes the sixth film ever to reach that mark, all of which involve either George Lucas or Steven Spielberg (or both).  The Ballad of Narayama wins the Golden Palm at Cannes but the Special Jury Prize goes to Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life.  George Cukor dies in January, Norma Shearer in June and Luis Buñuel in June.  Ralph Richardson dies in October, several months before the release of his final film, Greystoke, and a year and a half before he will receive an Oscar nomination for his performance.

Academy Awards: Terms of Endearment becomes the first film to win three critics awards and then win at the Oscars.  The Right Stuff becomes the first film since 1976 to earn a Picture nomination without a Director or Screenplay nomination.  For the first time since 1968, two films are nominated for Director and Screenplay, but not Picture (Silkwood and Fanny and Alexander).  It is, surprisingly, the first time Bergman has done this – he had been nominated 4 times previously for Screenplay and twice for Director, but the only time he was nominated for both (Cries and Whispers), it also earned a Best Picture nomination.  Fanny also sets a new points record for a Foreign film (245), which will stand until 1998, a new record for wins by a Foreign Film (4) which would be tied in 2000 and ties the record for nominations for a Foreign Film (6), which would be broken in 1998.  It also becomes the third Bergman film nominated for Best Foreign Film and the third to win the award (which are the only three times Sweden has won the award).

It would have seemed like the perfect time for another Foreign film to finally make the top 5.  But with the more respected The Big Chill and The Right Stuff failing to earn Director nominations and The Dresser surprisingly making it into the Picture and Director categories, it seems like people were splitting their votes and Fanny and Alexander was left out.  It obviously had strong support, with Director and Screenplay nominations (it’s stunning that they didn’t give it the Screenplay Oscar in this instance) and won four Oscars (Cinematography, Art Direction, Costume Design, Foreign Film), all of which it richly deserved.  The Best Original Score category is the toughest.  John Williams did another brilliant Star Wars score, but Terms of Endearment is one of my favorite scores of all-time and always has been and I can’t complain about the actual winner, The Right Stuff, as one piece from it, “Yeager’s Triumph” is the second most played track on my iTunes.  The two Oscars for Tender Mercies aren’t bad choices, but as they are the only Oscar winners not to earn Nighthawk nominations, I don’t think they’re particularly good choices either, especially since they passed over Zelig and Local Hero for nominations and Bergman for the Oscar to give it to Tender Mercies.  Among the acting the biggest omissions would be Jeremy Irons (Betrayal), Robert DeNiro (King of Comedy), William Hurt (The Big Chill) and Jan Malmsjo (Fanny and Alexander).

  • Worst Oscar:  Best Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen for Tender Mercies
  • Worst Oscar Nomination:  Best Editing for Blue Thunder
  • Worst Oscar Omission:  Best Picture for Fanny and Alexander
  • Worst Oscar-Nominated Film:  Flashdance
  • Best Eligible Film with No Oscar Nominations:  Local Hero
  • Best Foreign Film Submitted But Not Nominated:  And the Ship Sails On
  • Worst Oscar Category:  Best Original Song
  • Best Oscar Category:  Best Actress
  • Oscar / Nighthawk Award Agreements:  Best Screenplay Based on Material From Another Medium, Actress, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Cinematography, Art Direction, Costume Design, Foreign Film, Visual Effects (special award)

Golden Globes: Yentl becomes the only film to ever win Picture and Director at the Globes but fail to earn a Picture nomination at the Oscars and Barbra Streisand becomes the first director since 1969 to win the Globe for Director but fail to earn an Oscar nomination.  For the first time since 1969, the Best Picture (Comedy / Musical) winner (Yentl) fails to earn a nomination at the Oscars while one of the losing films (The Big Chill) does get nominated.  Terms of Endearment is the big film with 6 nominations, 4 wins (Picture, Screenplay, Actress, Supporting Actor) and is the only film nominated for Picture, Director and Screenplay.  The Dresser earns nominations for Director and Screenplay, but is ineligible for Picture, getting nominated instead for Foreign Film.  Tender Mercies, Silkwood and Fanny and Alexander are the other Director nominees (with Fanny winning Foreign Film, the first actual Foreign language film to do so since 1979 and the sixth Bergman film to win at the Globes) while Educating Rita, Reuben, Reuben and The Big Chill get the Screenplay nominations.  Educating Rita is the one not nominated for Picture, instead joining The Dresser and Fanny in the Foreign Film category, while winning both Acting (Comedy) categories.  The Right Stuff becomes the film since Manhattan to earn a Picture (Drama) nomination but no other nominations.

Awards: With 5 wins and 378 points, Night of the Shooting Stars becomes the most successful film at the critics awards to fail to earn any accolades from any of the other groups (Oscars, Globes, guilds, BAFTA), winning Picture and Director from the National Society of Film Critics and Boston Society of Film Critics and Foreign Film in Boston.  But it is Terms of Endearment that sets new points (1057) and wins (15) records.  It takes home the other three Picture awards (sharing the National Board of Review with Fanny and Alexander), Actress from every group but Boston, Supporting Actor from every group, Director from the NBR and Director and Screenplay from the LAFC.  Fanny and Alexander takes what is left – Director from New York, Cinematography from LA and Foreign Film from NBR, New York and LA to go along with its one Picture award.  For Supporting Actress it is Linda Hunt from The Year of Living Dangerously as the big winner, taking home everything but the NSFC.  Best Actor has little consensus with the winners including Robert Duvall for Tender Mercies (NYFC, LAFC), Tom Conti for Reuben, Reuben and Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence (NBR), Gerard Depardieu for Danton and The Return of Martin Guerre (NSFC) and Eric Roberts for Star 80 (BSFC).

All four films which earn nominations for the DGA and WGA end up with Oscar nominations for Picture (Terms of Endearment, Tender Mercies, The Big Chill, The Right Stuff), though the latter two are passed over for Best Director; all but The Right Stuff end up winning at the WGA.  Fanny and Alexander is the final DGA nominee while Reuben, Reuben is the final WGA winner.  WGA nominee WarGames wins the American Cinema Editors over The Right Stuff and Flashdance while the four Motion Picture Sound Editors awards go to The Right Stuff, The Grey Fox, Never Cry Wolf and Octopussy.

There is a split among the major winners at the BAFTAs.  Educating Rita wins Picture, Local Hero wins Director and Heat and Dust wins Adapted Screenplay (the first time there are separate Screenplay awards – King of Comedy wins the Original Screenplay award).  Meanwhile, Tootsie, which has the most nominations (9) and ends up with the most points (315) only wins Actor (a tie with Educating Rita) and Makeup.  Educating Rita also wins Actress for a total of 3 wins in 5 nominations, but Local Hero and Heat and Dust each win only the one award though they both end up with 7 nominations including all of the big three.  Trading Places wins both Supporting Acting awards while none of the 1983 Picture nominees, because of different release dates, are nominated at all.  Fanny and Alexander does win Cinematography but actually loses Foreign Film to Danton.

Local Hero (1983): a lovely film that the Academy missed out on

Under-appreciated Film of 1983:

Local Hero (dir. Bill Forsyth)

Films love to make use of small little towns.  Strangers come to these towns and fall in love with them and want to stay.  But what most films don’t show is the flip side of small towns.  There are a lot of people who have been stuck in those small towns and they want to get out.  Local Hero is wonderful in the way it makes use of both sides of this coin.  It gives us a small little Scottish town which the American MacIntyre falls in love with when he is sent there to buy it up to make way for an oil refinery.  When he sees the northern lights and tries to describe them to his boss back in Houston, it is wonderful in the way that he is overwhelmed by the sheer force of nature.  But it also gives us the natives of this town, desperate to sell out and get the hell to Edinborough.

The head among the townspeople is Denis Lawson.  For those of us who grew up as die-hard Star Wars fans we hear that name and we instantly think Wedge!  But of course, he has had a long, distinguished acting career, even if this is the biggest prominent film role he ever had.  He is both a lawyer, the innkeeper and a de facto mayor.  He is trying to get as much money out of the oil company as he can.  But he also keeps running upstairs to be with his wife.  The DVD case describes him as “lusty”, but it’s not really true.  He just passionately loves his wife and he happens to have a position in life that allows him to indulge that.

Aside from Lawson, the other great performance in the film (there are no bad performances – it is one of those ensemble films where everyone perfectly falls into the right places) is Burt Lancaster.  Lancaster is the head of the oil company and he is obsessed with a comet.  In the end, this will work out well for him, even if it doesn’t necessarily work out so well for some of the others.  His performance is intriguing and reminds us that Lancaster has always been one of film’s greatest actors.

The film is written and directed by Bill Forsyth, and for a time there, with this and 1981’s Gregory’s Girl it looked like he would have a long distinguished career making films appreciated by critics and the BAFTA’s but destined not to do much in the States, but his career started to fade out in the late 80’s and he never quite lived up to his promise.  But this, his best film, is always worth seeing.  And, oh yeah, it has a soundtrack by Mark Knopfler.  The soundtrack ended up making more money than the film itself.  It’s also worth checking out.  But watch the film and enjoy them together.

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