James L. Brooks

Jack Nicholson, Debra WInger and Shirley MacLaine in Terms of Endearment (1983)

Jack Nicholson, Debra Winger and Shirley MacLaine in Terms of Endearment (1983)

  • Born: 1940
  • Rank: 72
  • Score: 533.50
  • Awards: Oscar / DGA / LAFC / NYFC / NBR (also Oscar / 2 WGA / Golden Globe / BSFC / NYFC for Screenplay)
  • Nominations: Oscar / 3 DGA / 3 Golden Globes
  • Feature Films: 5
  • Best: Terms of Endearment
  • Worst: Spanglish

Films (in rank order):

  1. Terms of Endearment – 1983
  2. Broadcast News – 1987
  3. As Good as It Gets – 1997
  4. I’ll Do Anything – 1994
  5. Spanglish – 2004

Top 10 Best Director Finishes (Nighthawk Awards):

  • 1983 – 2nd – Terms of Endearment
  • 1987 – 8th – Broadcast News

Before he ever made a film, Brooks had already had a distinguished career. He was a writer on the Mary Tyler Moore Show, created Taxi and Lou Grant and would later help create The Simpsons with Matt Groening (fake porn titles in The Simpsons have included Sperms of Endearment and I’ll Do Anyone). He has won, by my count, 20 Emmys. Then he decided to start making films. His first film, Terms of Endearment was easily the most highly praised film of 1983, winning best picture from 4 of the 5 major critics groups, the Golden Globe, DGA, WGA and then winning 5 Oscars including Picture and Director. His follow up, Broadcast News also won a bunch of awards and was nominated for Best Picture. It took him until 1994 to finally make a third film, I’ll Do Anything, an okay comedy. Then he returned with As Good as It Gets, again garnering critics raves and a Best Picture nomination. His one mis-step was Spanglish, because for some reason he decided to cast Adam Sandler. But he’s working on a new film at the moment and it should be worth seeing.

Terms of Endearment – #2 film of 1983

For my external Top 1000, I use the list from They Shoot Pictures Don’t They, who uses hundreds of lists to make their list. But they don’t use awards. So, Terms, which was far and away the most awarded film of 1983, yet is not one of the 15 films from 1983 included on the list. It not only makes my list of Top 1000, it almost makes my list of Top 100 (of course the creators of that site aren’t including their opinions – they are culling the opinions of others).

Terms is a great film and deserved most of the awards it got. It is only my #2 film because it is from the same year as Fanny and Alexander. But it is still my winner for Best Actress (MacLaine, in one of the all time great film roles), Best Supporting Actor (Nicholson at his most devilish and most charming at the same time), Best Adapted Screenplay (such a fantastic script – better than the McMurtry novel it was based on), and Best Original Score (that is evident right from the start, when the music comes on as poor baby Emma is woken up and is obviously treasured by many because it is used in film montages all the time).

Terms is most of all a fantastic movie because the characters are real. It deals with the real things that happen to people (the way people find out about adultery, how people react when they move away from home, the horror of not having enough money to pay for the groceries). Most importantly, when Debra Winger starts to get sick, it’s not some movie disease. It’s the dreaded word – cancer – and the way they react when they first hear that word is the way that people often react. And in the end, it is a heartbreaking scene, because how do you explain to your kids that they have to be good because you won’t be around to take of them anymore. And behind all of it is that brilliant score, the one that everybody remembers.