the land is unwisely divided among the sons in Akira Kurosawa's Ran (1985)

My Top 20:

  1. Ran
  2. Blood Simple
  3. The Purple Rose of Cairo
  4. Kiss of the Spider Woman
  5. Brazil
  6. Back to the Future
  7. Witness
  8. The Color Purple
  9. Prizzi’s Honor
  10. After Hours
  11. A Private Function
  12. Queen Kelly
  13. The Official Story
  14. The Breakfast Club
  15. Silverado
  16. Plenty
  17. The Sure Thing
  18. Cocoon
  19. Dance with a Stranger
  20. Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind

Academy Awards:

  • Best Picture:  Out of Africa
  • Best Director:  Sydney Pollack for Out of Africa
  • Best Actor:  William Hurt for Kiss of the Spider Woman
  • Best Actress:  Geraldine Page for Trip to Bountiful
  • Best Supporting Actor:  Don Ameche for Cocoon
  • Best Supporting Actress:  Anjelica Huston for Prizzi’s Honor
  • Best Adapted Screenplay:  Out of Africa
  • Best Original Screenplay:  Witness
  • Best Foreign Film:  The Official Story

Consensus Awards:

  • Best Picture:  Prizzi’s Honor
  • Best Director:  John Huston for Prizzi’s Honor
  • Best Actor:  William Hurt for Kiss of the Spider Woman
  • Best Actress:  Meryl Streep for Out of Africa
  • Best Supporting Actor:  Klaus Marie Brandeur for Out of Africa
  • Best Supporting Actress:  Anjelica Huston for Prizzi’s Honor
  • Best Adapted Screenplay:  Prizzi’s Honor
  • Best Original Screenplay:  The Purple Rose of Cairo
  • Best Foreign Film:  Ran

I'm not the only one who thinks Ran is the best film of 1985

Top 10 Films  (Top 1000):

  1. Ran  –  #121
  2. Shoah  –  #152
  3. Brazil  –  #176
  4. Come and See  –  #357
  5. Back to the Future  –  #392
  6. Vagabond  –  #674
  7. Witness  –  #687
  8. Queen Kelly  –  #722
  9. The Purple Rose of Cairo  –  #741
  10. Out of Africa  –  #848

Top 5 Films  (1985 Best Picture Awards):

  1. Prizzi’s Honor
  2. Out of Africa
  3. Ran
  4. The Color Purple
  5. Witness

Top 10 Films  (Awards Points):

  1. Prizzi’s Honor  –  1667
  2. Out of Africa  –  1471
  3. Witness  –  928
  4. Ran  –  836
  5. The Color Purple  –  759
  6. The Purple Rose of Cairo  –  623
  7. Kiss of the Spider Woman  –  577
  8. Brazil  –  464
  9. Back to the Future  –  409
  10. A Private Function  –  280

Top 10 Films  (Box Office Gross):

  1. Back to the Future  –  $210.60 mil
  2. Rambo: First Blood Part II  –  $150.41 mil
  3. Rocky IV  –  $127.87 mil
  4. The Color Purple  –  $94.17 mil
  5. Out of Africa  –  $87.07 mil
  6. Cocoon  –  $76.11 mil
  7. The Jewel of the Nile  –  $75.97 mil
  8. Witness  –  $68.70 mil
  9. The Goonies  –  $61.38 mil
  10. Spies Like Us  –  $60.08 mil

Ebert Great Films:

  • Ran
  • A Year of the Quiet Sun
  • The Color Purple
  • Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters
  • After Hours

Nighthawk Golden Globes:

Frances McDormand and the Coen Brothers made a hell of an impression with Blood Simple


  • Best Picture:  Ran
  • Best Director:  Akira Kurosawa for Ran
  • Best Actor:  William Hurt for Kiss of the Spider Woman
  • Best Actress:  Frances McDormand for Blood Simple
  • Best Supporting Actor:  Klaus Marie Brandeur for Out of Africa
  • Best Supporting Actress:  Mieko Harada for Ran
  • Best Adapted Screenplay:  Ran
  • Best Original Screenplay:  Blood Simple


  • Best Picture:  The Purple Rose of Cairo
  • Best Director:  Woody Allen for The Purple Rose of Cairo
  • Best Actor:  Jack Nicholson for Prizzi’s Honor
  • Best Actress:  Kathleen Turner for Prizzi’s Honor
  • Best Supporting Actor:  Denholm Elliot for A Private Function
  • Best Supporting Actress:  Anjelica Huston for Prizzi’s Honor
  • Best Adapted Screenplay:  Prizzi’s Honor
  • Best Original Screenplay:  The Purple Rose of Cairo

note:  I feel the need to point out that Brazil, while it didn’t win any of my Golden Globes, came in second in the Comedy awards for Picture, Director, Actor (Jonathan Pryce), Supporting Actor (Michael Palin) and Original Screenplay.

Nighthawk Awards:

  • Best Picture:  Ran
  • Best Director:  Akira Kurosawa for Ran
  • Best Actor:  William Hurt for Kiss of the Spider Woman
  • Best Actress:  Frances McDormand for Blood Simple
  • Best Supporting Actor:  Klaus Marie Brandeur for Out of Africa
  • Best Supporting Actress:  Mieko Harada for Ran
  • Best Adapted Screenplay:  Ran
  • Best Original Screenplay:  The Purple Rose of Cairo
  • Best Editing:  Blood Simple
  • Best Cinematography:  Ran
  • Best Original Score:  Back to the Future
  • Best Sound:  Ran
  • Best Art Direction:  Ran
  • Best Visual Effects:  Back to the Future
  • Best Sound Editing:  Ran
  • Best Costume Design:  Ran
  • Best Makeup:  Ran
  • Best Original Song:  “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” from The Breakfast Club
  • Best Animated Film:  Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind
  • Best Foreign Film:  Ran

Back to the Future (1985): winner of 6 Nighthawk Notables

Nighthawk Notables:

  • Best Film to Watch Over and Over:  Back to the Future
  • Best Line:  “I was just thinking of the immortal words of Socrates, who said, ‘I drank what’?”  (Val Kilmer in Real Genius)*
  • Best Opening:  Back to the Future
  • Best Ending:  Back to the Future
  • Best Scene:  the race against the lightning in Back to the Future
  • Best Use of a Song:  “Johnny B Goode” in Back to the Future
  • Best Soundtrack:  Back to the Future
  • Best Original Song from a Bad Film:  “Weird Science” from Weird Science **
  • Performance to Fall in Love With:  Michelle Pfeiffer in Ladyhawke
  • Sexiest Performance:  Kathleen Turner in Prizzi’s Honor
  • #1 Reason to Remember Being 11 in 1985:  Kerri Green in Goonies
  • Best Ensemble:  Ran
  • Best Guilty Pleasure:  Clue
  • Funniest Film:  The Breakfast Club
  • Most Over-Rated Film:  Out of Africa
  • Worst Sequel:  Rambo: First Blood Part II
  • Worst Film:  The Last Dragon

*  –  this took a long time.  I kept going back and forth with lines from Back to the Future (“Last night Darth Vader came down from Planet Vulcan and said if I didn’t ask Lorraine to the dance he’d melt my brain.”), The Breakfast Club (“What if your dope was on fire?”  “That’s impossible.  It’s in Johnson’s underwear.”), The Sure Thing  (“Nick. Nick’s a real name. Nick’s your buddy. Nick’s the kind of guy you can trust, the kind of guy you can drink a beer with, the kind of guy who doesn’t mind if you puke in his car.”), Fletch (“If you shoot me, you’re gonna lose a lot of these humanitarian awards.”), Clue (“Life after death is as improbable as sex after marriage.”) and Better Off Dead  (“I want my two dollars.”), but ultimately I went with one of my favorite lines of all-time.

**  –  I had to decide which part was more important – the better the song or the worse the film.  The first thing was to cut off the line for a bad film as being ** or less.  That eliminated songs from A View to a Kill (“A View to a Kill”) and St. Elmo’s Fire (“St. Elmo’s Fire (Man in Motion”).  But I had to decide to go with the better song – “Weird Science” or the worse film – Rocky IV (which has “Burning Heart”).  I decided my phrase was “best” original song, so the best original song written for any film that was ** or less ended up being my decision.  “Weird Science” it is.

Film History:  Blood Simple wins the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance.  Rupert Murdoch takes control of 20th Century-Fox.  Colorized films are shown on television (fuck you Ted Turner!).  Rock Hudson dies of AIDS related complications.  The Brown Derby closes.  Emmanuelle ends its 10 year run at the Triomphe theater in Paris.  Jean-Luc Godard is hit in the face with a pie at Cannes where When Father Was Away on Business wins the Golden Palm.  Gene Kelly is honored with AFI’s Life Achievement Award.  Woody Allen signs a contract with Orion Pictures; included is a clause that forbids the marketing of his films in South Africa in protest over apartheid.  Yul Brynner and Orson Welles both die on 10 October – Welles just days before he is supposed to go speak at Chapman College (where my dad was teaching at the time).  Critics are snuck in to see Brazil and it wins the L.A. Film Critics, thus embarrassing Universal enough that they release the film.  Rambo: First Blood Part II becomes the first film to open in more than 2000 theaters and later goes on to win the Razzie Award for Worst Film.  Beautiful and talented silent star Louise Brooks dies on 8 August.  Back to the Future becomes the first non-Star Wars film that I see in the theater multiple times (3).

Academy Awards:  Out of Africa becomes the first film in 11 years to win Best Picture at the Oscars without winning Best Picture from any of the critics groups.  It is the fourth consecutive film with 11 nominations to win Best Picture, but it will be five more years before another film reaches double digits in nominations.  The Color Purple ties The Turning Point with 11 nominations with no wins.  Argentina becomes the first South American country to win Best Foreign Film (for The Official Story).  The Color Purple becomes the first film to win the DGA but fail to get an Oscar nomination for Best Director.  In spite of Out of Africa‘s 7 wins, we have the largest number of Oscar-winning feature films in 7 years (11).  For the only time, none of the acting Oscar winners won a Golden Globe.  The Oscars have a much more art-house feel than the guilds – giving Director nominations to Akira Kurosawa and Hector Babenco rather than Steven Spielberg and Ron Howard and nominating the screenplays for The Official Story, Kiss of the Spider Woman and Brazil rather than Cocoon, Agnes of God and Mask.

But they don’t go far enough.  Ran, The Purple Rose of Cairo and Brazil get important nominations but get passed over in the Best Picture race for the bigger old-time Oscar type films of Out of Africa, The Color Purple and Witness.  The latter two aren’t bad choices but Out of Africa is the weakest winner in a generation.  This year is an argument that having 10 nominees is better because then Kurosawa would almost certainly have a Best Picture nominee on his resume.  But even that would still leave Blood Simple on the list of greatest films to not earn a single Oscar nomination (#20 on that list to be precise).  The acting lists are ridiculous.  While I agree with Hurt’s win and Huston comes in second on my list, neither Page nor Ameche even make my top 6.  In fact, the only nominee in either of those two categories who make my nominee lists is Brandeur.  My Best Actress nominees are Frances McDormand (Blood Simple), Kathleen Turner (Prizzi’s Honor), Maggie Smith (A Private Function), Meryl Streep (but for Plenty, not Out of Africa) and Cher (Mask).  For Supporting Actor, I have Brandeur, Raul Julia (Kiss of the Spider Woman), Peter (the brilliant Fool in Ran), Denholm Elliot (A Private Function) and Michael Palin (Brazil).  Even if you consider Julia a lead in Kiss, next up from me would be Ian Holm (Brazil).  And they went with the weak editing in Out of Africa and A Chorus Line rather than the brilliant editing of Blood Simple, Ran, Back to the Future or The Purple Rose of Cairo.  Or look at how they gave an Oscar to Out of Africa for its Score, but not a nomination to Back to the Future, with that masterful score that I can still hear pounding in my brain, thinking of Marty racing down the street to catch that bolt of lightning.  And that’s not even scratching the surface of the problems with how the Academy chooses its Foreign Film nominees, leaving Ran out of the process altogether (which probably is part of the reason the directors nominated Kurosawa).  And, oh yeah, they gave the Oscar to “Say You Say Me” but didn’t even nominate one of the single best songs of the 80’s – “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” from The Breakfast Club.

  • Worst Oscar:  Best Picture for Out of Africa
  • Worst Oscar Nomination:  Best Editing for Out of Africa
  • Worst Oscar Omission:  Best Picture for  Ran
  • Worst Oscar-Nominated Film:  Rambo: First Blood Part II
  • Best Eligible Film with No Oscar Nominations:  Blood Simple
  • Best Foreign Film Submitted but Not Nominated:  Come and See  (Soviet Union)
  • Worst Oscar Category:  Best Actress
  • Best Oscar Category:  Best Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen
  • Oscar / Nighthawk Award Agreements:  Best Actor, Costume Design

Golden Globes:  Prizzi’s Honor is the first film in three years to get nominated for Picture, Director, Screenplay and both lead acting and the first in six years to do so in the Comedy categories.  It wins four of those – everything but Screenplay.  Its 400 points would be a new record for a film in the Comedy / Musical category and would stand until 2002 (when broken by Chicago).  Out of Africa is next up, winning 3 of its 6 nominations (winning Picture (Drama), Supporting Actor and Score, while losing Director, Screenplay and Actress (Drama)).  Witness, on the other hand, becomes the seventh film to go 0 for 6 (only Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf did worse, going 0 for 7) – losing at Picture (Drama), Director, Screenplay, Actor (Drama), Supporting Actress and Score.  The final two Picture / Director nominees are The Color Purple (which goes 1 for 5 – winning Actress (Drama)) and A Chorus Line (which only gets the two noms).  The Purple Rose of Cairo wins Woody Allen the only Golden Globe of his career in 11 nominations (4 for Director, 5 for Screenplay, 2 for Actor), its only win in 4 nominations, including Picture.  The last two Picture (Drama) nominees are Kiss of the Spider Woman (which goes 0 for 4) and Runaway Train (which wins Best Actor (Drama) over both of Kiss of the Spider Woman‘s nominations).  For the only time in history, none of the Globe acting winners go on to win the Oscar.

Awards:  Prizzi’s Honor is the big overall critics winner, though it only takes home one Best Picture award (New York Film Critics).  But it takes home 3 Best Actor awards (New York, National Society of Film Critics, Boston Society of Film Critics), three Best Director awards (the same), as well as Best Supporting Actress from all five groups.  Ran is the only film to actually win multiple Best Picture awards (NSFC and BSFC), takes home all four Foreign Film awards (the NSFC doesn’t have one), as well as Director from the NBR, Cinematography from the NSFC and BSFC and Score from LA.  The big awards (Picture, Director, Screenplay) in LA all went, rather famously, to Brazil (and it was one of the four films cited for Ian Holm’s Best Supporting Actor win in Boston).  The remaining Best Picture award, from the National Board of Review, went to The Color PurpleOut of Africa, the first film since The Godfather II to fail to win a Best Picture award from the major critics yet go on to win the Oscar did manage to win Actress and Cinematography from LA, Supporting Actor and Cinematography in New York and Supporting Actor from the NBR.

Steven Spielberg wins the DGA for The Color Purple – the first director to win at the DGA but fail to earn an Oscar nomination (Ron Howard would also do it in 1995).  Out of Africa joins Chariots of Fire as the only Oscar winning films since 1968 to fail to win any guild awards (every Oscar BP since has won at least 2 guild awards), though it does get nominations from the DGA, WGA and ACE (Editors).  Witness is the biggest guild film, earning a DGA nomination and winning the WGA and the ACE.  Prizzi’s Honor wins the other WGA award and earns John Huston yet another DGA nomination.  The final DGA nominee is Ron Howard for Cocoon, which also earns a WGA nomination – the first film to get both DGA and WGA nominations yet fail to earn Picture, Director or Screenplay nominations at the Oscars since Slaughterhouse-Five in 1972.  With his nomination for Purple Rose of Cairo, Woody Allen becomes the first writer to have two different streaks of three consecutive nominations.  Kiss of the Spider Woman fails to earn any guild nominations – the last film to date to do so and get a Best Picture nomination at the Oscars.

For the third time a Woody Allen film wins Best Picture at the BAFTA’s.  The Purple Rose of Cairo also wins Allen his fourth Screenplay award but the Best Director award isn’t given this year so he doesn’t earn a nomination there (its only other nominations are for Actress and Visual Effects, both of which it loses).  Overall, the biggest films are the two holdovers from 1984 – Amadeus and A Passage to India, both of which earn 9 nominations each including Picture, Actor and Screenplay (I haven’t seen it written up anywhere, but as the Director award is called the David Lean Award and since this was the only year he had an eligible film after 1970 I suppose it’s possible they dropped it for the year to keep him from competing for an award with his name on it, but I don’t know when they named it, so this is all speculation).  Passage would win Actress but nothing else while Amadeus would win 4 awards, but all in the technical categories.  Also in the Best Picture race were Witness (7 nominations but would only win Score) and Back to the Future (5 noms, no wins), both of which would also be in the Screenplay race.  But Amadeus and Passage would both lose Adapted Screenplay to Prizzi’s Honor, one of only 2 nominations for the film (it would get nominated for Supporting Actress as well).  Kiss of the Spider Woman would win Best Actor, but Out of Africa and The Color Purple would both have to wait until 1986 (where neither would earn a BP nomination).

Best Actress:  Wow, talk about a lack of consensus.  While Anjelica Huston was running away with Best Supporting Actress (all five critics awards and the Oscar, with nominations from the BAFTAs and Globes), the Actress race was wide open.  The five critics awards went to five different actresses:  Norma Aleandro for The Official Story (NYFC), Meryl Streep for Out of Africa (LAFC), Vanessa Redgrave for Wetherby (NSFC), Geraldine Page for The Trip to Bountiful (BSFC) and Whoopi Goldberg for The Color Purple (NBR).  The Globe (Comedy) category wasn’t much help as usual, with Kathleen Turner winning for Prizzi’s Honor, though Mia Farrow (The Purple Rose of Cairo) would later earn a BAFTA nom and Rosanna Arquette (Desperately Seeking Susan) would actually win the BAFTA Best Supporting Actress Award.  Goldberg takes the lead by winning the Globe (Drama) over Streep, Page, Anne Bancroft (Agnes of God) and Cher’s tour-de-force performance in Mask.  The BAFTA’s aren’t much help.  Their 1985 winner, Peggy Ashcroft in A Passage to India, had won the Oscar the year before for that performance in the Supporting Actress category.  But, their 1984 winner, Maggie Smith in A Private Function, was eligible.  Farrow would get nominated, as would Streep, but Streep’s nomination wouldn’t come until the next year.  The Oscars themselves chose Page (finally, in her eighth and final nomination) over Streep, Goldberg, Bancroft and Jessica Lange, for Sweet Dreams (the only nomination for the film from any awards group).  So, my breakdown ends up with Streep barely winning (thank to the way I weight the points) over Page and Goldberg, followed by Arquette in fourth place and a tie between Aleandro and Maggie Smith in fifth.  Yet, my own winner, Frances McDormand for Blood Simple, isn’t mentioned by any group at all.

A Private Function (1984, U.S. release 1985): a deliciously funny satire

Under-appreciated Film of 1985:

A Private Function  (dir. Malcolm Mowbray)

What do the following films have in common: Ice-Cold in Alex, Tiger Bay, Don’t Look Now and A Private Function?  They’re all good reasons to follow the BAFTA’s.  They’re all first-rate films, yet I wouldn’t have seen any of them (well, maybe I would have seen Don’t Look Now), because none of them were made by directors on my lists and none of them received any other awards attention – no awards or nominations from the critics, Oscars, Globes or guilds.  Granted, they’re all British, but kudos to the BAFTA’s for rightfully noticing them and how good they are.  That’s how we end up with a film that won 3 awards and finished in the top 10 for the year in awards points ends up as my under-appreciated film of the year.  Because it is damn funny, it is wonderfully acted and you’ve probably never seen it.  In six months of art-house showings it made $2.5 million (or, less than what Thor made in its midnight showings), which was enough to land it at #135 for the year.  It has a whopping four reviews at Rotten Tomatoes and was never reviewed by Roger Ebert.

Yet this film not only won three BAFTA awards, it won three acting awards at the BAFTAs: Best Actress (Maggie Smith), Best Supporting Actor (Denholm Elliot) and Best Supporting Actress (Liz Smith).  And this wasn’t just the Brits rewarding themselves.  I would choose Maggie Smith and Denholm Elliot over the actual Oscar-winners and Liz Smith isn’t far behind.  Hell, I would take Michael Palin’s under-played chiropodist over Jon Voight in the Best Actor race.  And it’s not just about the major players either.  The entire film is filled with great British character actors and you keep thinking, wait, I know the ringleader, he’s Uncle Vernon in Harry Potter (Richard Griffiths), or wait, the butcher is Pete Postlethwaite, that great actor who just died, and hey, the cop looks familiar (yeah, you recognize him from Shakespeare in Love among other things).  They all underplay their parts perfectly in that British way that almost defines character acting.

Now as to the plot?  Well, here’s where the timing of this gets my goat a little bit.  It is 1947 and we are in the heart of British food rationing (“Sometimes I wonder what the last war was for” is heard a number of times) and a nice, quiet chiropodist (and old term for a podiatrist) discovers that the local big-wigs have been hiding and illegally fattening a pig.  They are doing so to celebrate the impending nuptials.  What nuptials you might ask?  Well, royal nuptials (that’s what irks the crap out of me – after trying, mostly unsuccessfully thanks to the way the news organizations blanket covered it, to completely ignore the recent royal nuptials, here I am writing about a great hidden gem of a film that deals with royal nuptials) for Princess Elizabeth and Prince Phillip (“In Westminster Abbey tomorrow morning, a young couple are getting married of a purity and a nobility scum like you just can’t comprehend.” Elliot says to Palin close to the end, a line he delivers perfectly and which perfectly underscores the differences between not only the classes in Britain but between British and American society).  Palin is pushed by his wife, played so wonderfully by Maggie Smith to steal the pig.  They both live with her mother, who is going a bit daft and continually stealing whatever food she can (which is revealed early on in a wonderful scene where Palin opens his lunch-tin to discover an apple and some knitting).  All of this is played out against the drama of the local meat inspector who is very keen on his job (he has a great early scene where he talks about how he wanted to be a painter and painting the unused illegal pig that is found early on is one of his great joys, clearly not realizing the pain he is putting his fellow inspectors through).

There is some wonderful humor during the various scenes when the inspector must be foiled and great reactions when the pig is discovered missing (“I can put my hands on two turkeys in Bradford.”  “Two?  Two?  We’ve got a hundred and fifty people coming.  And Jesus isn’t one of them.”), but the real treat is watching all of these great British actors playing off each other.  Especially priceless are two moments that come towards the end.  One is a moment when Palin looks towards the table and sees a nice dead pig with an apple in its mouth, and next to it the wonderful visage of Richard Griffiths.  Having just written a piece on Animal Farm that just felt so right to watch.  But even better is the wonderful moment as Maggie Smith follows Palin into the bedroom with these wonderful words: “I think sexual intercourse is in order, Gilbert.”