Tom Hulce is brilliant as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

My Top 20:

  1. Amadeus
  2. A Passage to India
  3. The Killing Fields
  4. This is Spinal Tap
  5. Ghostbusters
  6. Broadway Danny Rose
  7. Under the Volcano
  8. A Soldier’s Story
  9. Once Upon a Time in America
  10. The Cotton Club
  11. The Bounty
  12. Gremlins
  13. Beverly Hills Cop
  14. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
  15. The Hit
  16. Romancing the Stone
  17. Dangerous Moves
  18. After the Rehearsal
  19. Entre Nous
  20. Sixteen Candles

A couple of notes here.  First, like in 1977 with Annie Hall and Star Wars and in 1992 with Unforgiven and The Crying Game, this is a virtual tie.  In eight categories they finish 1-2 and in five of those (Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Editing, Cinematography – where Passage wins), I could easily reverse the results with no hesitation.  Second, this is not your average list.  We have seven comedies (two straight – Broadway Danny Rose and Sixteen Candles and five genre comedy mixes – Spinal Tap, Ghostbusters, Gremlins, Beverly Hills Cop and Romancing the Stone ), an old-fashioned adventure, a fantasy film, three crime films and, down at the bottom, three Foreign films.  Part of this is that there are so many well-made enjoyable genre films, but part of it is the huge gap between #3 and 4.

Academy Awards:

  • Best Picture:  Amadeus
  • Best Director:  Milos Forman  (Amadeus)
  • Best Actor:  F. Murray Abraham  (Amadeus)
  • Best Actress:  Sally Field  (Places in the Heart)
  • Best Supporting Actor:  Haing S. Ngor  (The Killing Fields)
  • Best Supporting Actress:  Peggy Ashcroft  (A Passage to India)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay:  Amadeus
  • Best Original Screenplay:  Places in the Heart
  • Best Foreign Film:  Dangerous Moves

Consensus Awards:

  • Best Picture:  Amadeus
  • Best Director:  Milos Forman  (Amadeus)
  • Best Actor:  F. Murray Abraham  (Amadeus)
  • Best Actress:  Sally Field  (Places in the Heart)  /  Vanessa Redgrave  (The Bostonians)
  • Best Supporting Actor:  John Malkovich  (Places in the Heart  /  The Killing Fields)
  • Best Supporting Actress:  Peggy Ashcroft  (A Passage to India)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay:  Amadeus
  • Best Original Screenplay:  Places in the Heart
  • Best Foreign Film:  A Sunday in the Country

Jennifer Connelly isn't in Once Upon a Time in America for very long, but damn, does she make an impression

Top 10 Films  (Top 1000):

  1. Once Upon a Time in America  –  #143
  2. The Terminator  –  #294
  3. Paris, Texas  –  #299
  4. Amadeus  –  #341
  5. Love Streams  –  #419
  6. Stranger than Paradise  –  #433
  7. This is Spinal Tap  –  #458
  8. Yellow Earth  –  #642
  9. Broadway Danny Rose  –  #827
  10. And the Ship Sails On  –  #912

Top 5 Films  (1984 Best Picture Awards):

  1. Amadeus
  2. The Killing Fields
  3. A Passage to India
  4. Places in the Heart
  5. A Soldier’s Story

Top 10 Films  (Award Points):

  1. The Killing Fields  –  1685
  2. Amadeus  –  1665
  3. A Passage to India  –  1661
  4. Places in the Heart  –  797
  5. A Soldier’s Story  –  353
  6. Romancing the Stone  –  326
  7. Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes  –  321
  8. Once Upon a Time in America  –  286
  9. A Sunday in the Country  –  273
  10. Broadway Danny Rose  –  265

Note:  The margin of victory for The Killing Fields (2o points) is the smallest since 1971 and no film since has had a smaller one.  The Killing Fields becomes the first film since A Streetcar Named Desire to finish top in award points without winning either Picture, Director or Screenplay at the Oscars.

Top 10 Films  (Box Office Gross):

  1. Beverly Hills Cop  –  $234.76 mil
  2. Ghostbusters  –  $229.24 mil
  3. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom  –  $179.87 mil
  4. Gremlins  –  $148.16 mil
  5. The Karate Kid  –  $90.81 mil
  6. Police Academy  –  $81.19 mil
  7. Footloose  –  $80.03 mil
  8. Romancing the Stone  –  $76.57 mil
  9. Star Trek III: The Search for Spock  –  $76.47 mil
  10. Splash  –  $69.82 mil

AFI Top 100 Films:

  • Amadeus  –  #53  (1998)

Ebert Great Films:

  • This is Spinal Tap
  • Amadeus
  • Paris, Texas
  • El Norte
  • A Sunday in the Country

Nighthawk Golden Globes:


  • Best Picture:  A Passage to India
  • Best Director:  David Lean  (A Passage to India)
  • Best Actor:  Albert Finney  (Under the Volcano)
  • Best Actress:  Judy Davis  (A Passage to India)
  • Best Supporting Actor:  Haing S. Ngor  (The Killing Fields)
  • Best Supporting Actress:  Peggy Ashcroft  (A Passage to India)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay:  A Passage to India
  • Best Original Screenplay:  After the Rehearsal

Mia Farrow gives one of the best performances of her career in Woody Allen's Broadway Danny Rose

Comedy / Musical:

  • Best Picture:  Amadeus
  • Best Director:  Milos Forman  (Amadeus)
  • Best Actor:  Tom Hulce  (Amadeus)
  • Best Actress:  Mia Farrow  (Broadway Danny Rose)
  • Best Supporting Actor:  Jeffrey Jones  (Amadeus)
  • Best Supporting Actress:  Elizabeth Berridge  (Amadeus)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay:  Amadeus
  • Best Original Screenplay:  This Spinal Tap

Nighthawk Awards:

  • Best Picture:  Amadeus
  • Best Director:  Milos Forman  (Amadeus)
  • Best Actor:  Tom Hulce  (Amadeus)
  • Best Actress:  Judy Davis  (A Passage to India)
  • Best Supporting Actor:  Haing S. Ngor  (The Killing Fields)
  • Best Supporting Actress:  Peggy Ashcroft  (A Passage to India)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay:  Amadeus
  • Best Original Screenplay:  This Spinal Tap
  • Best Editing:  Amadeus
  • Best Cinematography:  A Passage to India
  • Best Original Score:  The Natural
  • Best Sound:  Amadeus
  • Best Art Direction:  Amadeus
  • Best Visual Effects:  Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
  • Best Sound Editing:  Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
  • Best Costume Design:  Amadeus
  • Best Makeup:  Amadeus
  • Best Original Song:  “If You Were Here”  (Sixteen Candles)
  • Best Foreign Film:  Dangerous Moves

It's bad enough when everyone forgets your 16th birthday, but when a guy named Long Duck Dong is looking at you? That's too much for the lovely Molly Ringwald in Sixteen Candles.

Nighthawk Notables:

  • Best Film to Watch Over and Over:  This is Spinal Tap
  • Best Line (Comedic):  “These go to eleven.”  (Christopher Guest in This is Spinal Tap)
  • Best Line  (Dramatic):  “My god, Bones, what have I done?”  “What you had to do.  What you’ve always done.  Turned death into a fighting chance to live.”  (William Shatner and DeForest Kelley in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock)
  • Best Opening:  Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
  • Best Ending:  The Killing Fields
  • Best Scene:  the 11 scene in This is Spinal Tap
  • Best Use of a Song:  “Imagine” in The Killing Fields
  • Best Soundtrack:  This is Spinal Tap
  • Sexiest Performance:  Kathleen Turner in Romancing the Stone
  • Performance to Fall in Love With:  Molly Ringwald in Sixteen Candles
  • Best Ensemble:  A Passage to India
  • Funniest Film:  This is Spinal Tap
  • Most Over-rated Film:  Paris, Texas
  • Read the Book, SKIP the Film:  The Hotel New Hampshire
  • Worst Film:  Conan the Destroyer

Film History:  The MPAA establishes a new rating: PG-13.  Disney establishes Touchstone Films, to release films that are aimed towards an adult audience, with Splash as the initial release.  Michael Eisner becomes the head of Disney.  Richard Burton dies, just before the release of his final film, 1984.  William Powell dies in March.  Francois Truffaut dies in October and Sam Peckinpah in December.  The Supreme Court rules that taping movies for personal use does not violate copyright laws.  Jerry Lewis is honored by the French government as a “genius of film comedy.”  Paris, Texas wins the Golden Palm at Cannes.  Love Streams wins the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival.  Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in America is released, but gets 88 of its 277 minutes cut for the U.S. release.

Academy Awards:  Milos Forman becomes the fourth director (after William Wyler, Billy Wilder and Fred Zinnemann) to have two films win Picture, Director and Screenplay.  Amadeus and A Passage to India compete directly in 8 categories – Amadeus wins 6 of them.  The only two it doesn’t win (Editing and Cinematography) are won by The Killing Fields, which competes directly against the two films in five categories.  For the third time, a David Lean film is nominated for all five major technical awards.  For the first time since it became a competitive award in 1956, no film from France or Italy is nominated for Best Foreign Film.  Amadeus becomes the first Best Picture winner to win Best Makeup.  Amadeus becomes the first film to win Adapted Screenplay without the WGA win since 1973 and the first to win without a WGA nomination since 1966 (and the last until 2002).

The Academy gets it mostly right.  They heap nominations and awards on Amadeus, A Passage to India and The Killing Fields, all of which richly deserve them.  They do well with the lead acting (though they reward Sally Field, the weakest of the Best Actress nominees), but with supporting they leave out Richard Burton (1984), Denzel Washington (A Soldier’s Story), Elizabeth Berridge (Amadeus) and Suzannah Hamilton (1984).  They prove they can laugh by nominating Beverly Hills Cop and Splash but ignore the better scripts from This is Spinal Tap, Ghostbusters and Sixteen Candles.  They do well in the technical categories, but the songwriters chunk it, nominating the weak Footloose songs and Stevie Wonder rather than the more daring Spinal Tap songs, the great “If You Were Here” or Prince’s best song: “When Doves Cry.”

  • Worst Oscar:  Best Original Song for “I Just Called to Say I Love You” from The Woman in Red*
  • Worst Oscar Nomination:  Best Original Song for “Let’s Hear It for the Boy” from Footloose
  • Worst Oscar Omission:  Best Original Song for “If You Were Here” from Sixteen Candles
  • Worst Oscar-Nominated Film:  Footloose
  • Best Eligible Film with No Oscar Nominations:  This is Spinal Tap
  • Worst Oscar Category:  Best Original Song
  • Best Oscar Category:  Best Original Score
  • Oscar / Nighthawk Award Agreements:  Best Picture, Director, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Sound, Art Direction, Visual Effects, Costume Design, Makeup, Foreign Film

* – “Do we look like the kind of store that sells ‘I Just Called to Say I Love You’?  Go to the mall.”  (Jack Black in High Fidelity)

Golden Globes:  A Passage to India, like Gandhi, wins Best Foreign Film while getting Director and Screenplay nominations (and winning Supporting Actress and Score), but is ineligible for Best Picture.  But Amadeus is the big winner, taking home Picture, Director, Screenplay and Actor (as well as nominations for Actor and Supporting Actor) – the first film in nine years to win Picture, Director and Screenplay (the previous film to do so was also directed by Milos Forman – One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest – he is still the only director to do this twice at the Globes).  The big three films combine for 17 nominations and 8 wins with no other film getting more than 3 nominations and Romancing the Stone, which take home Picture (Comedy) and Actress (Comedy) managing more than one win and they are the only three nominated for Director and Screenplay.  The Cotton Club gets Picture and Director, but no other nominations, Once Upon a Time in America gets Director but only Score to go with it while Places in the Heart (Picture nomination, Actress win), and A Soldier’s Story (Picture nomination) are the other two Screenplay nominees.

Awards:  The big three are big again.  Amadeus dominates the LA Film Critics, taking home Picture, Director, Screenplay and Actor.  A Passage to India and The Killing Fields spread out their awards.  The Killing Fields takes home Cinematography from New York, LA, Boston and the National Society of Film Critics, adding Supporting Actor to the last and adding Picture, Actor and Supporting Actor from Boston.  Peggy Ashcroft is the big winner for A Passage to India – winning Supporting Actress in Boston and LA, but getting the award for Actress from New York and the National Board of Review.  Judy Davis takes home Actress in LA.  In New York, Passage also takes Picture and Director, while from the NBR it also takes Picture, Director and Actor.  The National Society goes their own way, giving Picture to Stranger Than Paradise and Director to L’ArgentPlaces in the Heart does manage four awards, but none of them are for Sally Field; instead John Malkovich wins Supporting Actor for this and his performance in The Killing Fields from the NSFC and Boston, just for this at the NBR and the New York critics give it Best Screenplay.

The WGA finally goes along with the Oscars, reducing their categories to just Adapted and Original.  They, however, choose their own winners, going with The Killing Fields and Broadway Danny Rose while not even nominating eventual Oscar winner AmadeusAmadeus thus becomes the third Oscar winner in four years to not get a WGA nomination, something that has only happened once since (Gladiator).  For the third time, all of the DGA nominated films get nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars, and like the previous two times, one film doesn’t get a Director nominations (1975 – Jaws, 1978 – An Unmarried Woman, 1984 – A Soldier’s Story), and for the second time, the fifth Director slot goes to Woody Allen.  Amadeus wins the American Cinema Editors award over The Killing Fields and Romancing the Stone, while Stone, Places in the Heart, The River and Phar Lap win the Motion Picture Sound Editors awards.  Romancing the Stone and The Natural are the only WGA nominees not to earn Oscar noms – replaced by Beverly Hills Cop and Amadeus.

The Killing Fields earns the second most nominations ever at the BAFTA’s (12), ties for the second most wins (7), and earns the third most points (555), but fails to win Director.  It does win Picture, Actor, Screenplay, Editing, Cinematography, Sound and Art Direction.  Its Best Picture competitors are A Private Function (not Oscar eligible until 1985 – 5 nominations, 3 wins, for Actress, Supporting Actor and Supporting Actress), The Dresser (which earns 7 nominations, including Picture, Director and Screenplay but wins none) and Paris, Texas (only 4 noms, but is nominated for Picture, Director (which it wins) and Screenplay).  Terms of Endearment, like Ordinary People, only manages to get an Actress nomination in the year after its Oscar win while Amadeus and A Passage to India wouldn’t be BAFTA nominated until the following year.  Once Upon a Time in America is the final Director nominee (among 5 nominations) while Woody Allen wins his third BAFTA writing award, this time for Broadway Danny Rose.

The under-rated 1984 film The Bounty.

Under-rated Film of 1984:

The Bounty  (dir. Roger Donaldson)

The first major film version of Mutiny on the Bounty won Best Picture.  The second version, though a commercial flop and an artistic mess was nominated for Best Picture.  The third version was an even bigger commercial flop (grossing some $8 million on a $25 million budget) but was very well made.  However, whether because people were tired of it, because this kind of film had gone out of vogue, or because of the box office failure, it was mostly ignored.  Which is a shame, really, because it is very well made, one of the better films in a weak year.

First of all, just look at the cast.  There is a weak spot in Mel Gibson.  This isn’t quite yet the over-acting horrible Gibson from Braveheart, but he is no longer the quiet, solid actor from Gallipoli and The Year of Living Dangerously.  Here he seems to have taken the introspection to a new level and it does not make him particularly effective as Fletcher Christian.  But he is more than made up for by the powerful performance of Anthony Hopkins as Captain Bligh and the very good supporting cast (Laurence Olivier, Edward Fox, Daniel Day-Lewis, Liam Neeson, Philip Davis, Bernard Hill).  Though the latter four weren’t particularly well known back then, they all give fine performances.

Then there is the script.  This film allows us a better understanding of Bligh and perhaps even a better understanding of the dilemma that Christian felt that he faced.  This is because Robert Bolt (a man used to writing epics, having written Lawrence of Arabia and Doctor Zhivago) went, not to the Nordhoff and Hall novel, but to Richard Hough’s book on the subject.  He treats this as a historical narrative rather than simply an adventure story on the high seas.  There is also Roger Donaldson.  On the one hand, in Hollywood in the nineties he directed such crap as Cadillac Man, The Getaway and Dante’s Peak.  But before that he had directed this and No Way Out and he would later direct the criminally under-rated Thirteen Days.

The production values on the film are absolutely first-rate (it had better Cinematography, music and sound than Oscar nominee The River – another Gibson film).  And it manages to tell the film from a balanced perspective.  We are reminded that Bligh is usually considered a classic villain, but he managed some damn impressive feats getting his crew across all that open water and he is more complex than usually portrayed.  Perhaps that is what people didn’t care for?  They didn’t want a history lesson, perhaps, but rather a big old adventure?  Whatever the reason, it is a film that often gets overlooked but doesn’t deserve to.  It ranks 43rd on the IMDb for the year, even behind The Karate Kid and Top Secret.  It didn’t receive a single award or even nomination from any major awards group.  And it finished 86th on the year in box office gross.  And let’s face it – you probably haven’t seen it either.