Milos Forman

Tom Hulce as the world's greatest composer, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in Amadeus (1984)

Tom Hulce as the world's greatest composer, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in Amadeus (1984)

  • Born:  1932
  • Rank:  48
  • Score:  579.30
  • Awards:  2 Oscars / 2 DGA / 3 Golden Globes / BAFTA / LAFC
  • Nominations:  3 Oscars / 2 DGA / 4 Golden Globes / 2 BAFTA’s
  • Feature Films:  13
  • Best:  Amadeus
  • Worst:  Taking Off

Top 5 Feature Films:

  1. Amadeus – 1984
  2. One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest – 1975
  3. Ragtime – 1981
  4. Man on the Moon – 1999
  5. The Fireman’s Ball – 1968

Top 10 Best Director Finishes (Nighthawk Awards):

  • 1966 – 1oth – Loves of a Blonde
  • 1975 – 5th – One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest
  • 1981 – 7th – Ragtime
  • 1984 – 1st – Amadeus

Milos Forman began his directing life in his native Czechoslovakia in the 60’s, quickly finding international acclaim for his early films Loves of a Blonde and The Fireman’s Ball (both nominated for Best Foreign Film at the Oscars).  After the Prague Spring in 1968 and the resulting crackdown by the Soviets, he left for the United States.  In 1975, he suddenly ended up on everyone’s radar with the Oscar winning One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest and became known as a major director.  He followed that up with a solid version of Hair, a very good adaptation of Ragtime, then earned himself a second Oscar with Amadeus.  After that, he slowed down considerably, taking 5 years off before returning with Valmont, which suffered from being released after Dangerous Liaisons, then waiting another 7 before coming out with The People vs. Larry Flynt (which earned him a third nomination).  He only took 3 years before making Man on the Moon, but then had another 8 year gap before finishing Goya’s Ghosts, a film that went almost entirely unnoticed.

Amadeus – #1 film of 1984

It’s an incredible task to release a film the same year David Lean ends his 14 year gap with a brilliant epic (A Passage to India) and still win the Oscar and deserve it.  1984 is one of the few years in history where I wish there could be a tie for Best Picture, because both films are so equally deserving, but when push comes to shove, it’s Amadeus I feel comes out on top.

Of course, it didn’t just win Best Picture.  It won 8 Oscars in total, richly deserving all but one.  The only one I don’t feel the Academy got right was giving F. Murray Abraham Best Actor, but that’s because I feel Tom Hulce, with his manic portrayal of Mozart as an idiot savant, a hyperactive prodigy was who really deserved the Oscar.  And not only did it deserve the nominations for the other 3 categories, I feel that Elizabeth Berridge, with her great performance as Mozart’s wife also should have gotten a nomination.

Of course, the key to the film, just like the key to the play, is that it is not simply a standard biopic of Mozart.  There are tons of music biopics and none of them are as good as Amadeus (the only one even close is Yankee Doodle Dandy).  The brilliant idea that Anthony Shaffer had when he wrote the play was to focus on the character of Salieri, the jealous composer who both wants to revel in the beautiful music that he knows he is not capable of composing, while also toppling Mozart off the throne as the court composer.  And though I feel Hulce should have won, Abraham does a fantastic job, so perfectly invigorating the character with a combination of hatred and fascinated awe at this bizarre creature who is so messed up, yet so amazingly brilliant.

And of course, there are the technical aspects.  It won Oscars for Best Sound, Best Art Direction, Best Costume Design and Best Makeup and who can blame it, for it ranks among the very highest achievements in all of those categories in all of film history.  And then there is the music.  The beautiful, beautiful music.

There are many Beethoven fans in the world (deservedly), and there are those who praise Brahms or Chopin or Vivaldi or Puccini.  But it is Mozart who reigns supreme, Mozart who gave us more amazing music than any person who ever walked this planet.  And then he was gone.  For as the song reminds us: “1791, Mozart composes The Magic Flute / On December 5 of that same year, Mozart dies.”  35 years old, composer of so much beautiful music, including my own favorite piece (“Eine Kleine Nachtmusik”), and he was gone.