Introduction

1983_iconic_picture_director_writing_bridges_actress_maclaine_supporting_nicholsonThis is a companion piece to three different series.  The first is The History of the Academy Awards, in which I covered each category in individual posts.  This was originally done in 2009 and additions were included in 2010.  You can find links to all of these pieces in each individual category.  I have grouped all of the categories together for the same reason that I did so originally – because most pieces on the Oscars don’t approach the awards through the categories, but through the years.  This specific piece is designed to take a closer look at the decade and how I think the Academy did in those years.

The second series is my Year in Film series.  That is mentioned here because in those pieces I included paragraphs about the Oscars as a whole for each year and included a considerable amount of trivia.  Since I had based my Year in Film series and eligibility as such on the Academy calendar, it all seemed very relevant.  Also, I include various prizes (Worst Oscar, Worst Nomination, Worst Omission, etc) and I didn’t want to repeat myself, so following the links will bring you there.  Those links are at the end of this piece, where I do a brief summation of each year and how the Academy did.  One note on the Year in Film posts – I did those before Oscars.org started putting up official information about release dates.  Several films have been moved from the years where they appeared in those posts – see the Nighthawk Awards posts for more accurate placement – I have included links in the years.

The third series is my History of the Academy Awards: Best Picture series, where I reviewed every film ever nominated for Best Picture (except The Patriot, which is lost).  Those links are also down below, grouped by year.

Keys to all the Numbers / Ranks / Scores, etc:  There are a lot of numbers and lists down below.  The lists are often easy to understand, the numbers not so much.

  • Average Winner Rank at Nighthawks:  That takes the winner (say, Actor in 1985) and says where I would rank it for the year (#1 in this case).  Then I average it out, either for category (the first part) or by year (the bottom part).  The closer to 1, the better.
  • Average Winner Rank (without Picture):  Because I rank all films for the year but don’t rank every film in every category, the Best Picture category can really throw things off, especially since every film is eligible in this category.  So, in a year like 1985, where Best Picture (Out of Africa) is my #93 film of the year but no other winner ranks below #29, the average winner rank goes from 7.67 to 12.16.  So, down below, in the years, I include a score both with and without Best Picture.  This one is not quite as relevant in this decade, where there were no egregiously bad choices for Best Picture.
  • Average Winner Rank among Nominees:  Quite simply what it says.  Out of Africa may have ranked 93rd on the year, but only 5th among the Best Picture nominees.  The key is this – the first Average Winner rank tells you what I think of the winner.  This one tells you what I think in relation to what they nominated.  Like, in Best Art Direction (color), where from 1946 to 1949 my Winner Ranks are 6, 1, 1 and 5.  But all four of them were the best choice among the nominees, so the score was 1, 1, 1, 1.  A high disproportion between the two scores means I think they botched the nominees, but that will show up in the Score.  Again, the closer to 1, the better.
  • Score:  This is a score of their nominees versus mine.  It’s complicated and bizarre and has to do with assigning a numeric value to a function of art.  But it measures a year against itself.  1978 is a good example – not a single one of my Best Picture nominees from 1978 would have made my list for 1977.  But if the Academy and I agreed 5 for 5, it would still score 100.  It’s a comparison between what the Oscars nominated and what I think they should have nominated, not a comparison to any other year.  Suffice it to say, the closer to 100 the better.  By the way, the Score determines the Best and Worst Year in everything except Picture, which is ranked based on my original ranked list.
  • Score  (P-D-S):  The score, averaged among Picture, Director and Screenplay.
  • Score  (Acting):  The score, averaged among the four acting categories.
  • Score  (Tech):  The score, averaged among Editing, Cinematography, Score, Sound, Art Direction, Visual Effects and Costume Design (and in later decades Sound Editing and Makeup).

Stats and Trivia for the Decade:

  • Most Nominations:
  1. Reds  (12)
  2. Gandhi  (11)
  3. Terms of Endearment
  4. Amadeus
  5. A Passage to India
  6. Out of Africa
  7. The Color Purple

note: All the films below Gandhi earned 11 noms as well.  Clearly that was the right number as all of those films either won Best Picture or lost to another film with 11 noms.

  • Most Oscars:
  1. The Last Emperor  (9)
  2. Gandhi  /  Amadeus  (8)
  3. Out of Africa  (7)
  4. Terms of Endearment  /  Raiders of the Lost Ark  (5)

note:  All Best Picture winners except for Raiders.

  • gandhi-original-uk-quad-poster-ben-kingsley-82-3505-pMost Points:
  1. Gandhi  (565)
  2. Terms of Endearment  (555)
  3. Amadeus (555)
  4. Out of Africa  (555)
  5. The Last Emperor  (530)
  6. Reds  (470)
  7. On Golden Pond  (440)
  8. Rain Man (435)
  9. Platoon  (405)
  10. Ordinary People  /  Driving Miss Daisy  (395)

note: It’s strange that Terms, Amadeus and Out of Africa all earned the same number of points with the same number of noms but with different numbers of wins.  Thanks to the tie at the end, all of the Best Picture winners are on the list except for Chariots of Fire, whereas two films that lost to Chariots are both on the list.

  • Number of Films Nominated for a Feature Film Oscar:  334
  • Number of Films Nominated for Multiple Oscars:  158
  • Number of Films to win a Feature Film Oscar:  95
  • Number of Films to win multiple Oscars:  39
  • Most Nominations without Best Picture:  Ragtime  (8)
  • Most Oscars without winning Best Picture:  Raiders of the Lost Ark  (5)
  • Most Oscars without a Best Picture nomination:  Fanny & Alexander  (4)
  • Most Points without a Best Picture nomination:  Fanny & Alexander  (245)
  • Most Nominations with No Wins:  The Color Purple  (11)  *
  • Films Nominated for All 4 Acting Categories:  Reds
  • Films Nominated for All 5 Major Tech Categories:  Raiders of the Lost Ark  /  Gandhi  /  A Passage to India  /  Out of Africa  /  The Last Emperor  /  Empire of the Sun
  • Films to Win All 5 Major Tech Categories:  The Last Emperor

*  –  still a record

  • Director with Most Films Nominated for Best Picture:
  1. Steven Spielberg  (3)
  • Director with Most Films Nominated for an Oscar:
  1. Steven Spielberg  /  Woody Allen  (6)
  2. Richard Donner  /  Barry Levinson  (5)
  • steven-spielberg-raiders-of-the-lost-arkDirector with Most Total Nominations for their Films:
  1. Steven Spielberg  (40)
  2. Sydney Pollack  (24)
  3. Milos Forman  (20)
  4. Oliver Stone  (19)
  5. Bruce Beresford  /  James L. Brooks  (18)

note:  Milos Forman does that with only three films.  Brooks does his with only two.

  • Director with Most Oscars for their Films:
  1. Steven Spielberg  (11)
  2. Bernardo Bertolucci  (9)
  3. Milos Forman  /  Sydney Pollack  /  Richard Attenborough  (8)

note:  Bertolucci, Forman and Attenborough do their wins with one film each.  Spielberg’s is especially impressive since he also directed the film with the most nominations that failed to earn an Oscar.

  • Director with Most Points for their Films:
  1. Steven Spielberg  (1280)
  2. Sydney Pollack  (1000)
  3. Oliver Stone  (885)
  4. James L. Brooks  (795)
  5. Bruce Beresford  (795)
  • Studio with Most Best Picture Nominees:
  1. Paramount  /  Columbia  (9)
  2. Universal  /  Warner Bros  (8)
  3. 20th Century-Fox  /  Orion  (4)
  • Studio with Most Best Picture Wins:
  1. Paramount  /  Columbia  /  Warner Bros  /  Orion  (2)

note on Studios:  There are 7 major studios during this decade (including Disney as a major at this point) and they continued to dominate Best Picture for the most part, but things are finally starting to change.  MGM and UA have merged but are both fading, earning only a combined three nominations.  Disney earns its first nomination since 1964 and its first for a non-kids film.  But Orion earns four nominations and two wins and in 1989, Miramax earns its first nomination, paving the way for the decade to come.

Best Picture

This decade would cement the idea of the late season Oscar release.  All ten winners would be released after Labor Day and six of them would be released in December.  A full 74% of the nominees would be released after Labor Day.  Streaks would end (Ordinary People would be the first winner since 1965 and the first non-Musical winner since 1956 to fail to earn a Best Actor nom) and would begin (after Ordinary People no film would win Best Picture without a Best Editing nom until 2014).  Driving Miss Daisy would become the only winner between 1932 and 2012 to win Best Picture without a Director nom.  On the other hand, this is the only decade where every Picture nominee is nominated for either Director, writing or acting (The Right Stuff is the only nominee not nominated for either Director or Screenplay).  This is the first decade since the thirties where as many Best Picture winners are nominated for Actor as for Actress (4 each).  But, in a bizarre bit of circumstance, no Oscar winner is nominated for Best Supporting Actress.  Three of the winners are nominated for the big 5 Tech as well as Costume Design with The Last Emperor winning them all.  More Picture winners win for writing (9) than directing (8).  1985-87 is the first time since 1931-33 that for three straight years the Best Picture winners fail to win any acting Oscars.  While nine of the winners are nominated for Editing, only three of them win.

There are more Oscar winners in this decade that finish outside the Top 75 in their respective years (2) than finished out the Top 10 in their respective years in the seventies (1).  In the 1970’s, six years had scores over 70 while this decade has only one year (1982 – 84.4, the highest score to date).  Only twice in the decade do they give the Oscar to the best choice (back-to-back years of 1983 and 1984) and only once more to the second best choice (1986).  The only other winner to make the Top 5 for its year is Ordinary People.  No other winner finishes higher than 9th in its respective year.  What’s more, while only one Nighthawk winner in the seventies failed to earn an Oscar nom, this time there are six (Sophie’s Choice, Fanny & Alexander, Ran, The Princess Bride, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Glory).  Those last three mark the first since 1958-60 where the Nighthawk winner fails to earn an Oscar nom in three straight years and the only time history where in three straight years my winner is an English language film and fails to earn an Oscar nom.

Jack Nicholson, John Geilgud and William Hurt would be the kings of the Best Picture nominees.  Nicholson would be in one winner and three other nominees (earning acting noms in three of them).  John Geilgud would be in a nominee in 1980 and then in back-to-back winners in 1981 and 1982.  William Hurt would be in five nominees in the decade, earning acting noms in three of them.  Henry Fonda would be in his eighth and final nominee in 1981 without ever having been in a winner.  Harrison Ford would be in three more nominees after having been in four the previous decade (none would win).  Dustin Hoffman would be in his third winner in three different decades.

I have already said so much on this category in my other posts (see at the bottom, listed under each year).

  • Best Year:  1980
  • Worst Year:  1987
  • Best Winner:  Amadeus
  • Worst Winner:  Out of Africa
  • Best Nominee That Didn’t Win:  Raiders of the Lost Ark
  • Worst Nominee:  Fatal Attracion
  • Most Egregious Snub:  The Princess Bride
  • Average Winner Rank at Nighthawks:  23.9
  • Average Winner Rank among Nominees:  3.2
  • Score for the Decade:  64.6

Amadeus_GBQWinners (ranked):

  1. Amadeus
  2. Platoon
  3. Terms of Endearment
  4. Ordinary People
  5. The Last Emperor
  6. Rain Man
  7. Gandhi
  8. Chariots of Fire
  9. Driving Miss Daisy
  10. Out of Africa

raiders-of-the-lost-ark-quad-poster-m10 Best Nominees That Didn’t Win:

  1. Raiders of the Lost Ark
  2. Hannah and Her Sisters
  3. Raging Bull
  4. A Passage to India
  5. Field of Dreams
  6. A Room with a View
  7. The Killing Fields
  8. Born on the Fourth of July
  9. The Elephant Man
  10. The Big Chill

fatal10 Worst Nominees (#1 being the Worst)

  1. Fatal Attraction
  2. Out of Africa
  3. On Golden Pond
  4. Driving Miss Daisy
  5. The Mission
  6. Places in the Heart
  7. Working Girl
  8. Coal Miner’s Daughter
  9. Tender Mercies
  10. The Dresser

note:  There is an enormous gap between Fatal Attraction and the rest of the list; it’s in the bottom 5 all-time and no other is in the bottom 70.  34 of the 50 nominees in the decade are ****.

ThePrincessBride_quad_UK-1Ten Biggest Snubs:

  1. The Princess Bride
  2. Ran
  3. Glory
  4. Fanny & Alexander
  5. Henry V
  6. Who Framed Roger Rabbit
  7. Breaker Morant
  8. Gallipoli
  9. Sophie’s Choice
  10. When Harry Met Sally

Note:  For once I don’t feel the need to put a separate English Language list, as only two Foreign films make the list.

Ten Studios with the Most Points (through 1989):

  1. MGM  –  3250
  2. United Artists  –  3200
  3. 20th Century-Fox  –  3150
  4. Warner Bros  –  3050
  5. Columbia  –  2800
  6. Paramount  –  2700
  7. Universal  –  1300
  8. RKO  –  1000
  9. Orion  –  300
  10. First National  –  150

note:  Orion becoming prominent in the decade knocks out the minor studios with 100 points.  Other than that and Universal passing RKO, the rest is the same.  By the end of the next decade, there will be significant changes.

Best Director

platoonThis decade has a slightly better average winner rank among nominees than the decade before but a significantly worse average winner rank.  What does that mean?  It means that they weren’t doing a great job with the nominating.  That’s also reflected in the score, with it dropping by almost five points.  The seventies had no years below 65 and two years above 90.  But this decade has no years above 90 and four years below 65 (1981, 1983, 1987, 1988).

It does, however, continue to be stronger than Best Picture.  Seven times in the decade, Director has a better score than Picture and in 1985, 1986 and 1989 the difference is over 20 points.  Ironically, though, in the only year where the five nominees are the same (1981), it’s Picture with the slightly better score.

The directors branch acts a bit odd at times.  In 1983, they would give the Oscar to James L. Brooks for his debut, but four years later wouldn’t even nominate him with his film.  They would twice pass over Rob Reiner when he earned DGA noms (Stand by Me, When Harry Met Sally).  After nominating Spielberg in back-to-back years (1981, 1982), the only back-to-back nominations of the decade, they would pass him over in 1987 (Empire of the Sun) but also in 1985 (The Color Purple) when he would earn a Best Picture nom and would win the DGA, the first ever DGA winner to fail to earn an Oscar nom.  David Lynch would become the first Director to earn his film’s sole Oscar nom in 16 years then two years later Martin Scorsese would do it.  In the first three years of the decade, Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg and Sidney Lumet would all lose to actors turned directors (Robert Redford, Warren Beatty, Richard Attenborough).

Three directors who would earn nomination this decade would eventually, finally win Oscars (Spielberg, Scorsese, Polanski).  But this decade would see the final noms (without a win) for Bergman and Sidney Lumet.  It would also see the final nomination for David Lean after a gap of 19 years and a year later, the final nom for John Huston after a gap of 33 years.  It would even see the only nomination for Akira Kurosawa.

In an oddity, this is the second decade in a row where the Best Winner didn’t win the Nighthawk.  It’s just that in 1974 and 1986 an excellent choice for the Oscar was slightly surpassed by an excellent choice for the Nighthawk and there was no better choice by the Oscars in the decade.

  • Best Year:  1982
  • Worst Year:  1987
  • Best Winner:  Oliver Stone  (Platoon)
  • Worst Winner:  Sydney Pollack  (Out of Africa)
  • Best Nominee That Didn’t Win:  Steven Spielberg  (Raiders of the Lost Ark)
  • Worst Nominee:  Adrian Lyne  (Fatal Attraction)
  • Most Egregious Snub:  Ed Zwick  (Glory)
  • Average Winner Rank at Nighthawks:  6.6
  • Average Winner Rank among Nominees:  2.7
  • Score for the Decade:  73.9

Five Biggest Snubs:

  1. Ed Zwick  (Glory)
  2. Steven Spielberg  (Empire of the Sun)
  3. Robert Zemeckis  (Who Framed Roger Rabbit)
  4. Joel Coen  (Blood Simple)
  5. Peter Weir  (Gallipoli)

Top 4 in Points for the Decade:

  1. Oliver Stone  –  180
  2. Woody Allen  –  135
  3. Sydney Pollack  –  135
  4. 13 directors  –  90

Top 10 in Points (through 1989):

  1. William Wyler  –  675
  2. Billy Wilder  –  450
  3. Frank Capra  –  405
  4. John Ford  –  405
  5. David Lean  –  405
  6. Fred Zinnemann  –  405
  7. George Stevens  –  315
  8. Elia Kazan  –  315
  9. Clarence Brown  –  270
  10. George Cukor  /  Joseph L. Mankiewicz  /  John Huston  /  Woody Allen  –  270

note:  The only change to this list is the addition of Huston and Allen.  It would take until 1998 for Allen and Spielberg to move up and knock the other 270 points directors off the list.

Best Writing:

Best Screenplay Based on Material From Another Medium

After the fantastic decade for winners the decade before, this one is a bit of a dud.  There are three complete dud winners that don’t even make my lists (On Golden Pond, Out of Africa, Driving Miss Daisy) and a fourth that makes my list, but fairly low down and can’t make the Top 12 for its year (The Last Emperor).  But the rest of the winners are solid, with four of them winning the Nighthawk (Terms of Endearment, Amadeus, A Room with a View, Dangerous Liaisons).

More importantly, the nominees are a big step up, going up 8 points, for their best score yet (78.3).  Only two years score below a 69 (1981, 1987) while three years in a row earn scores over 90 (1982, 1983, 1984) with 1982 earning a 96.8 and 1983 a 96.2, the second and third highest scores to date.

We also get some high profile nominees: Harold Pinter (two noms), David Mamet and a surprising number of directors who aren’t usually thought of as writers like David Lynch, Sidney Lumet, Wolfgang Petersen, Blake Edwards, David Lean and Philip Kaufman with Bernardo Bertolucci winning an Oscar.  We also have the final nomination for Stanley Kubrick in any category, with his writing nom for Full Metal Jacket.

  • Best Year:  1982
  • Worst Year:  1987
  • Best Winner:  A Room with a View
  • Worst Winner:  Out of Africa
  • Best Nominee That Didn’t Win:  Field of Dreams
  • Worst Nominee:  Fatal Attraction
  • Most Egregious Snub:  The Princess Bride
  • Average Winner Rank at Nighthawks:  7.8
  • Average Winner Rank among Nominees:  2.8
  • Score for the Decade:  78.3

Five Biggest Snubs:

  1. The Princess Bride
  2. Glory
  3. Ran
  4. Who Framed Roger Rabbit
  5. Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

Best Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen

Oh, thank god, the category keeps the same name for a whole decade.  That’s one good thing in a decade gone mostly wrong.  The score drops a few points from the decade before, with 1988 earning a 55.6, which would be the lowest score since 1966 if not for the dreadful score of 29.6 for 1980, the worst score in this category since 1958.

It’s the winners, though, that are the real problem in this decade.  One of them is the best choice for the year (Hannah and Her Sisters) while another is the best of the nominees (Melvin and Howard).  Unfortunately, the Academy didn’t do so well beyond them.  Four of them are the 4th best choice among the nominees (Chariots of Fire, Places in the Heart, Witness, Dead Poets Society).  The latter two would be good choices in other years (they finish 5th and 6th in my awards) but are in packed years.  But the other four choices are the weakest of the nominees in their respective years (Gandhi, Tender Mercies, Moonstruck, Rain Man).  That means, for the decade, the Academy picked, on average the 3.8 best screenplay among the nominees, the worst of any category in any decade.

This decade is all about Woody Allen.  At the beginning of the decade he had 160 points and was in 30th place all-time tied with about 30 other screenwriters.  By 1985, he would move into the Top 10 and by decade’s end he would be in tie for 2nd place all-time.  In 1977-79 Allen had already become only the second screenwriter to earn three straight Oscar noms.  But he would top that with an incredible four straight nominations from 1984-87 and then adding a fifth in six years in 1989 (and a sixth in seven years in 1990).  In fact, after the gap from 1980-83 without a nomination, Allen would not go consecutive years without an Oscar nomination again until 1998-99.

While a number of prominent directors would earn writing noms in the decade, the most noteworthy would be Oliver Stone competing against himself in 1986 with Platoon and Salvador (and losing both to Woody Allen) and the Academy embarrassing itself by not giving Ingmar Bergman the Oscar in his fifth and final nomination for Fanny and Alexander.

 

  • Best Year:  1985
  • Worst Year:  1980
  • Best Winner:  Hannah and Her Sisters
  • Worst Winner:  Gandhi
  • Best Nominee That Didn’t Win:  A Fish Called Wanda
  • Worst Nominee:  Brubaker
  • Most Egregious Snub:  Raiders of the Lost Ark
  • Average Winner Rank at Nighthawks:  8.6
  • Average Winner Rank among Nominees:  3.8
  • Score for the Decade:  76.0

Five Biggest Snubs:

  1. Raiders of the Lost Ark
  2. Blood Simple
  3. Say Anything
  4. This is Spinal Tap
  5. Stardust Memories

Top 5 for Points on the Decade:

  1. Woody Allen  –  240
  2. Horton Foote  –  120
  3. Oliver Stone  –  120
  4. James L. Brooks  –  120
  5. Kurt Luedtke  –  120

Top 10 for Points through 1989:

  1. Billy Wilder  –  600
  2. Charles Brackett  –  400
  3. Woody Allen  –  400
  4. John Huston  –  360
  5. Ben Hecht  –  320
  6. Federico Fellini  –  320
  7. Francis Ford Coppola  –  320
  8. Joseph L. Mankiewicz  –  280
  9. Carl Foreman  –  280
  10. Paddy Chayefsky  –  280

Best Actor

Daniel-Day-Lewis-as-Christy-Brown-in-My-Left-Foot-1989The decade that had come of age in the 1970’s was still in charge.  Robert De Niro and Dustin Hoffman would win their second Oscars while Robert Duvall would finally win one (as would Henry Fonda and Paul Newman, who were of even earlier generations).  But that didn’t mean that there weren’t youngsters coming up.  William Hurt would earn three straight nominations, winning the first one and Daniel Day-Lewis would win his first Oscar.

Four years in the decade would reach 90 or higher (1982, 1983, 1984, 1986) and every year except one would break 83.5.  The one outlier is 1985, with a score of 73.7, the lowest since 1969.  The winners are also good choices, averaging a 2.6, the best to this point (2.2 among the nominees).  No winner ranks below 6th and only Henry Fonda and Robert Duvall rank below 3rd.  I agree completely with four winners, which is much better than the previous decade (De Niro, Hurt, Hoffman, Day-Lewis).

  • Best Year:  1986
  • Worst Year:  1985
  • Best Winner:  Daniel Day-Lewis  (My Left Foot)
  • Worst Winner:  Henry Fonda  (On Golden Pond)
  • Best Nominee That Didn’t Win:  Tom Hulce  (Amadeus)
  • Worst Nominee:  Jon Voight  (Runaway Train)
  • Most Egregious Snub:  Tatsuya Nakadai  (Ran)
  • Average Winner Rank at Nighthawks:  2.6
  • Average Winner Rank among Nominees:  2.2
  • Score for the Decade:  88.6

ran-1985-1Five Biggest Snubs:

  1. Tatsuya Nakadai  (Ran)
  2. Harrison Ford  (Raiders of the Lost Ark)
  3. Bob Hoskins  (The Long Good Friday)
  4. Kevin Costner  (Field of Dreams)
  5. Bob Hoskins  (Who Framed Roger Rabbit)

Top 5 Points of the Decade (Actor only):

  1. Paul Newman  –  140
  2. William Hurt  –  140
  3. Dustin Hoffman  –  105
  4. Robert Duvall  –  105
  5. 11 tied with 70

note:  All of the top four win an Oscar.

Top 10 Points through 1989  (Actor only):

  1. Spencer Tracy  –  385
  2. Laurence Olivier  –  350
  3. Marlon Brando  –  315
  4. Jack Lemmon  –  280
  5. Paul Newman  –  280
  6. Dustin Hoffman  –  280
  7. Fredric March  –  245
  8. Gary Cooper  –  245
  9. Jack Nicholson  –  245
  10. Peter O’Toole  –  245

Best Actress

sophieThis is the decade of Meryl Streep.  She begins the decade without an Oscar nomination in lead and ends the decade in the Top 10 all-time in points.  She would earn six nominations, including three in a row (1981-83).  She ties Norma Shearer in the 30’s for most points in a single decade (Shearer had the advantage of being nominated multiple times in one of those years).

Overall, the nominees are strong in this decade.  Every nominated performance makes my list.  Only in one year does the score fall below 85 and that’s in 1985 when it’s still 77.4.  In the stretch from 1982 to 1984 the score never dropped below 94.7.  The overall score for the decade is 89.2, the second highest score for any acting category in any decade to-date.

The winners, on the other hand, are a different story.  Only three Oscar winners win the Nighthawk (Meryl Streep, Shirley MacLaine, Marlee Matlin) and four of them don’t even earn Nighthawk nominations (Katharine Hepburn, Geraldine Page, Jodie Foster, Jessica Tandy, with Page ranking 13th, the lowest of the century).  The Oscar win rank, both among all films and among nominees, is the worse than any previous decade (even though they never actually pick the worst nominee).

  • Best Year:  1982
  • Worst Year:  1985
  • Best Winner:  Meryl Streep  (Sophie’s Choice)
  • Worst Winner:  Katharine Hepburn  (On Golden Pond)
  • Best Nominee That Didn’t Win:  Holly Hunter  (Broadcast News)
  • Worst Nominee:  Marsha Mason  (Only When I Laugh)
  • Most Egregious Snub:  Christine Lahti  (Running on Empty)
  • Average Winner Rank at Nighthawks:  4.7
  • Average Winner Rank among Nominees:  2.4
  • Score for the Decade:  89.2

Running-on-Empty-1988-3Five Biggest Snubs:

  1. Christine Lahti  (Running on Empty)
  2. Frances McDormand  (Blood Simple)
  3. Judy Davis  (My Brilliant Career)
  4. Meg Ryan  (When Harry Met Sally)
  5. Jamie Lee Curtis  (A Fish Called Wanda)

Top 3 Points for the Decade  (Actress only):

  1. Meryl Streep  –  245
  2. Sissy Spacek  –  175
  3. Jessica Lange  –  140

note:  No other actress earned more than 70 points.  Streep and Spacek both won Oscars while Lange earned four nominations while winning her only Oscar in the decade in Supporting.  Of the other eight Oscar winners for Best Actress, six earned no other noms while two (Cher, Geraldine Page) earned nominations in supporting.  The only actresses to earn multiple actress nominations and not win an Oscar at all were Sigourney Weaver (two lead, one supporting) and Debra Winger (two lead).  Jane Fonda and Michelle Pfeiffer each earned one lead nom and one supporting nom.

Top 10 Points through 1989  (Actress only):

  1. Katharine Hepburn  –  560
  2. Bette Davis  –  420
  3. Ingrid Bergman  –  340
  4. Greer Garson  –  280
  5. Jane Fonda  –  280
  6. Norma Shearer  –  245
  7. Elizabeth Taylor  –  245
  8. Meryl Streep  –  245
  9. 8 tied  –  210

Best Supporting Actor

denzel-washington-gloryOnly two actors who would win the Oscar would earn another nomination, both times two years before their win (Jack Nicholson, nominated in 1981 and won in 1983 and Denzel Washington, nominated in 1987, wins in 1989).  Also, while three actors would earn multiple noms without a win, all of them would do it in back-to-back years (John Lithgow and Charles Durning in 1982 and 1983, Martin Landau in 1988 and 1989).

Supporting Actor is a little stronger than in the previous decade, but still lags behind Actor and Actress.  Only two years score below 80 (1983 – 74.3, 1985 – 69.0), but only two years score above 90 (1980 – 91.4, and the perfect 100 in 1988).  The winners aren’t as strong as in the previous decade, with Don Ameche being the first winner in the category not to earn a Nighthawk nomination since 1968.  But, in 1983 and 1984, for the first time I agree with the Academy in back-to-back years in this category, and in 1988, a three year streak begins.

  • Best Year:  1988
  • Worst Year:  1985
  • Best Winner:  Denzel Washington  (Glory)
  • Worst Winner:  Don Ameche  (Cocoon)
  • Best Nominee That Didn’t Win:  Howard Rollins, Jr.  (Ragtime)
  • Worst Nominee:  Eric Roberts  (Runaway Train)
  • Most Egregious Snub:  John Huston  (The Princess Bride)
  • Average Winner Rank at Nighthawks:  2.4
  • Average Winner Rank among Nominees:  1.6
  • Score for the Decade:  84.4

princess-brideFive Biggest Snubs:

  1. Mandy Patinkin  (The Princess Bride)
  2. Dennis Hopper  (Blue Velvet)
  3. Kevin Kline  (Sophie’s Choice)
  4. Daniel Day-Lewis  (My Beautiful Laundrette)
  5. Daniel Day-Lewis  (A Room with a View)
  6. Morgan Freeman  (Glory)

note:  I am listing six because two of them are Daniel Day-Lewis in 1986 and he wouldn’t have been able to be nominated for both.  I really should list a seventh since Hopper was nominated that year, but for Hoosiers instead.

Top Points of the Decade  (Supporting only):

  1. Jack Nicholson  –  90
  2. Denzel Washington  –  90
  3. eight tied with 60  –  one win
  4. three tied with 60  –  two noms

Top 10 Points through 1989 (Supporting only):

  1. Walter Brennan  –  210
  2. Peter Ustinov  –  150
  3. Charles Coburn  –  120
  4. Claude Rains  –  120
  5. Anthony Quinn  –  120
  6. Arthur Kennedy  –  120
  7. Gig Young  –  120
  8. Jason Robards  –  120
  9. Melvyn Douglas  –  120
  10. Jack Nicholson  –  120

Top 5 Points of the Decade (combined):

  1. Jack Nicholson  –  160
  2. Paul Newman  –  140
  3. William Hurt  –  140
  4. Dustin Hoffman  –  105
  5. Robert Duvall  –  105

Top 10 Points through 1989  (combined):

  1. Spencer Tracy  –  385
  2. Laurence Olivier  –  380
  3. Jack Nicholson  –  365
  4. Marlon Brando  –  345
  5. Jack Lemmon  –  340
  6. Paul Newman  –  280
  7. Dustin Hoffman  –  280
  8. Fredric March  –  245
  9. Gary Cooper  –  245
  10. Peter O’Toole  –  245

Best Supporting Actress

wiestThe academy does really well with their Oscars in this decade.  The only winner not in my Top 15 for the decade is Olympia Dukakis and she’s not out by much.  Dukakis and Geena Davis are the only winner who finish lower than 2nd at the Nighthawk Awards and they both finish 3rd.

The scores are generally strong across the decade, with four years breaking 90 (1982, 1983, 1988, 1989).  There are two lower blips though, with both 1985 and 1987 dipping into the low 60’s.  The overall score, 83.7, while solid, is the lowest among the four acting categories in the decade.

There are no big performers in the decade.  Only three actresses earn multiple nominations over the decade and only Glenn Close earns more than two, earning three in a row from 1982-1984 to begin her film career in earnest.

  • Best Year:  1989
  • Worst Year:  1985
  • Best Winner:  Diane Wiest  (Hannah and Her Sisters)  *
  • Worst Winner:  Olympia Dukakis  (Moonstruck)
  • Best Nominee That Didn’t Win:  Maggie Smith  (A Room with a View)
  • Worst Nominee:  Oprah Winfrey  (The Color Purple)
  • Most Egregious Snub:  Mieko Harada  (Ran)
  • Average Winner Rank at Nighthawks:  1.8
  • Average Winner Rank among Nominees:  1.5
  • Score for the Decade:  83.7

Note:  Wiest is an oddity for this spot in an acting category because she doesn’t actually win the Nighthawk.  It’s just that the two best performances of the decade are Wiest and Maggie Smith and they’re both in the same year.

haradaSix Biggest Snubs:

  1. Mieko Harada  (Ran)
  2. Cathy Tyson  (Mona Lisa)
  3. Anjelica Huston  (The Dead)
  4. Kathy Baker  (Street Smart)
  5. Lena Olin  (The Unbearable Lightness of Being)

Top Points in the Decade  (Supporting only):

  1. Anjelica Huston  –  90
  2. Dianne Wiest  –  90
  3. Glenn Close  –  90

note:  These are the only three actresses with more than 60 points.  Huston and Wiest won the Oscars in 1985 and 1986 and then both earned nominations in 1989.  Close earned three straight noms but didn’t win an Oscar.  The eight actress with 60 points were the other eight winners; Close was the only actress to earn multiple noms in the decade and not win.

Top 10 Points through 1989  (Supporting only):

  1. Thelma Ritter  –  180
  2. Ethel Barrymore  –  150
  3. Shelley Winters  –  150
  4. Lee Grant  –  150
  5. Maureen Stapleton  –  150
  6. Anne Revere  –  120
  7. Celeste Holm  –  120
  8. Claire Trevor  –  120
  9. Agnes Moorehead  –  120
  10. Geraldine Page  –  120
  11. Maggie Smith  –  120

note:  Ritter and Moorehead are the only actresses in the Top 11 without an Oscar, although Page’s Oscar is in lead.

Top 5 Points in the Decade  (combined):

  1. Jane Fonda  –  210
  2. Glenda Jackson  –  210
  3. Ellen Burstyn  –  170
  4. Lee Grant  –  120
  5. Faye Dunaway / Marsha Mason  –  105

Top 10 Points through 1989  (combined):

  1. Katharine Hepburn  –  560
  2. Bette Davis  –  420
  3. Ingrid Bergman  –  340
  4. Meryl Streep  –  335
  5. Jane Fonda  –  310
  6. Geraldine Page  –  295
  7. Greer Garson  –  280
  8. Norma Shearer  –  245
  9. Elizabeth Taylor  –  245
  10. Olivia de Havilland  –  240

note:  Page, Garson and Shearer are the only actresses in the Top 10 without multiple Oscars.

Best Editing

The decade starts out with an interesting twist.  First of all, the winners in the first two years are Thelma Schoonmaker (Raging Bull) and Michael Kahn (Raiders of the Lost Ark), who are today the top two editors in Oscar history.  Second, 1980 is the last year until 2014 where the Best Picture winner is not nominated for Best Editing.  The connection between Picture and Editing continues from the last decade.  Three films win both awards.  Only one winner of Best Editing isn’t nominated for Best Picture (Who Framed Roger Rabbit).  There is 58% overlap (29 films with nominations in both categories).  And of the 22 Best Picture nominees that aren’t nominated for Editing, 14 of them aren’t nominated for any Tech awards.  The single nominee for a film being Editing also starts to disappear with only three films earning Best Editing as its sole Oscar nomination (Blue Thunder, Romancing the Stone, The Bear).  It’s also almost necessary for a big film; the only film with more than 8 nominations in the decade not to be nominated for Best Editing is The Color Purple.  The only category with a better matchup is Best Picture.

The grade goes down several points from the decade before.  Still, it’s vastly better than it was in the decades prior to 1970.  Prior to 1970 most years were abysmal (below 40), while in this decade, there are three years like that (1980, 1985, 1987).  There are also two years above 70 (1981, 1984), twice as many as in all the years prior to 1980.  The winners are better as well; only two winners in this decade don’t at least earn a Nighthawk nomination (Gandhi, The Last Emperor).

  • Best Year:  1984
  • Worst Year:  1985
  • Best Winner:  Raiders of the Lost Ark
  • Worst Winner:  Gandhi
  • Best Nominee That Didn’t Win:  Glory
  • Worst Nominee:  On Golden Pond
  • Most Egregious Snub:  The Princess Bride
  • Average Winner Rank at Nighthawks:  6.2
  • Average Winner Rank among Nominees:  2.0
  • Score for the Decade:  52.6

Five Biggest Snubs:

  1. The Princess Bride
  2. Blood Simple
  3. Ran
  4. Back to the Future
  5. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

Top 5 in Points for the Decade:

  1. Michael Kahn  –  100
  2. John Bloom  –  100
  3. Arthur Schmidt  –  75
  4. Jim Clark  –  75
  5. William Steinkamp  –  75

Top 9 in Points through 1989:

  1. William H. Reynolds  –  225
  2. Barbara McLean  –  200
  3. Daniel Mandell  –  200
  4. William Lyon  –  200
  5. Ralph E. Winters  –  200
  6. Harold F. Kress  –  200
  7. Ralph Dawson  –  175
  8. Frederic Knudtson  –  150
  9. 11 tied with  –  125

Best Cinematography

There would be no dominant cinematographer in this decade.  It is the only decade in Oscar history in which no one earns more than 100 points.  The only ones who even earn 100 are Vittorio Storaro and Chris Menges, both of whom do it with only two nominations, winning both times.  Storaro wins for Reds and The Last Emperor while Menges wins for The Killing Fields and The Mission.  Nobody who is in the Top 20 all-time in points by 1989 even managed to earn a nomination during the decade.

The one young cinematography who would start to rise in the decade is Robert Richardson.  He would earn his first two nominations, both working with Oliver Stone (Platoon and Born on the Fourth of July).

The winners this decade are an interesting mix.  The average winner on my list is at 3.3, a vast improvement over the previous few decades.  But the average winner is also at 2.3 among the nominees, which is a big drop from the previous few decades.  That means they did a better job of picking the nominees, which score at 75.5, an improvement of over 30 points above the previous decade.  Prior to this decade, it was rare for a year to have a score above 60.  In this decade, it’s rare (1980, 1989) for a score to be below 74.4.

  • Best Year:  1987
  • Worst Year:  1980
  • Best Winner:  Fanny & Alexander
  • Worst Winner:  Mississippi Burning
  • Best Nominee That Didn’t Win:  Raiders of the Lost Ark
  • Worst Nominee:  The Formula
  • Most Egregious Snub:  Kagemusha
  • Average Winner Rank at Nighthawks:  3.3
  • Average Winner Rank among Nominees:  2.3
  • Score for the Decade:  44.8

Five Biggest Snubs:

  1. Kagemusha
  2. Blood Simple
  3. The Elephant Man
  4. The Shining
  5. Henry V

Top 3 in Points for the Decade:

  1. Chris Menges  –  100
  2. Vitorario Storaro  –  100
  3. Sven Nykvist  –  75
  4. Allen Daviau  –  75
  5. Billy Williams  –  75

Top 10 in Points through 1989:

  1. Leon Shamroy  –  550
  2. Charles Lang  –  475
  3. Robert Surtees  –  475
  4. Harry Stradling  –  450
  5. Joseph Ruttenberg  –  350
  6. George Folsey  –  325
  7. James Wong Howe  –  300
  8. William V. Skall  –  275
  9. Ray Rennahan  –  250
  10. Arthur Miller   –  250
  11. Victor Milner  –  250
  12. Joseph LaShelle  –  250

Best Original Score / Original Song Score and its Adaptation or Adaptation Score / Original Song Score or Adaptation Score / Best Original Song Score

John Williams crushes everyone in this decade in spite of only winning one Oscar (E.T.).  He earns 300 points, the most of any composer in a decade since the 50’s and he earns 200 more points than any other composer, tied for the highest margin of victory in a decade.  He starts the decade with five straight years with a nomination, has two years off, then begins another five year streak.  Three times he earns multiple nominations, for 11 total nominations (and one win).  It’s probably a surprise that he actually does better at the Oscars than at the Nighthawks where he only earns 8 nominations, but he does win three awards at the Nighthawks.  He had started the 70’s in 93rd place and finished them in 10th.  He would continually move up through the decade, until he reached 3rd place in 1987 (where he would stay until 1993).  The only other composers in the Top 10 with any nominations in the decade are Jerry Goldsmith (three) and Alex North (an Oscar).  1985 marks the first year since 1965 that neither John Williams nor Jerry Goldsmith earns an Oscar nomination.

The Academy still couldn’t decide on names for the Song Score / Adaptation category.  I also never really seem to know what to do with it, so I mostly ignore it. They wouldn’t even give the award in 1980 or 1981 and would drop it entirely after 1984, though having it around in 1984 did mean that Prince won an Oscar.

It’s a strange decade.  The two best winners in the decade are Chariots of Fire and The Right Stuff, neither of which wins the Nighthawk.  In fact, though they would give the Oscar to my #2 score in four straight years (1981-1984), no Nighthawk winner would win the Oscar in the entire decade.  It makes the first time since the 60’s that any category has gone the entire decade without an Oscar winner winning the Nighthawk.  But overall, the score is much better.  No year scores below a 71 (higher than the average for any previous decade) and Agnes of God is the only nominee in the decade that doesn’t at least make my list.

 

 

Original Score

  • Best Year:  1984
  • Worst Year:  1985
  • Best Winner:  Chariots of Fire
  • Worst Winner:  Fame
  • Best Nominee That Didn’t Win:  Raiders of the Lost Ark
  • Worst Nominee:  Agnes of God
  • Most Egregious Snub:  Glory
  • Average Winner Rank at Nighthawks:  4.9
  • Average Winner Rank among Nominees:  2.6
  • Score for the Decade:  81.2

Five Biggest Snubs:

  1. Glory  (Horner)
  2. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan  (Horner)
  3. The Princess Bride  (Knopfler)
  4. Back to the Future  (Silvestri)
  5. Dead Poets Society  (Jarre)

 

 

Original Song Score / Adaptation

  • Best Year:  1984
  • Worst Year:  1982
  • Best Winner:  Purple Rain
  • Worst Winner:  Victor/Victoria
  • Best Nominee That Didn’t Win:  The Muppets Take Manhattan
  • Worst Nominee:  The Sting II
  • Average Winner Rank at Nighthawks:  1.3
  • Average Winner Rank among Nominees:  1.3
  • Score for the Decade:  100

note:  I’ll be honest here, this is a hard category to judge.  Let’s just say that any film I could think of that belonged here was nominated (yet again).

Top 5 in Points for the Decade:

  1. John Williams  –  300
  2. Maurice Jarre  –  100
  3. Dave Grusin  –  100
  4. Jerry Goldsmith  –  75
  5. George Fenton  –  75
  6. Michael Gore  –  75

Top 10 in Points through 1989:

  1. Alfred Newman  –  1270
  2. Max Steiner  –  700
  3. John Williams  –  575
  4. Morris Stoloff  –  525
  5. Victor Young  –  500
  6. Miklos Rozsa  –  475
  7. Dimitri Tiomkin  –  435
  8. Ray Heindorf  –  430
  9. Jerry Goldsmith  –  375
  10. Franz Waxman  –  350
  11. Alex North  –  350

Best Sound Recording

This category had been terrible prior to the 70’s, took a big leap forward in that decade, and takes another in this one.  The worst year of this decade (1987 – 58.1) has a score almost as good as the average for the 70’s and is a better year than any year prior to 1970.  There would still be the strange nominations for Best Picture nominees that didn’t really belong (On Golden Pond, Tootsie, Terms of Endearment) but less often.  It is perhaps reflected in that the average winner overall goes up, from 3.1 to 2.9, but the average winner among the nominees actually goes down, from 1.6 to 1.8.  It means they have better choices to choose from and if I don’t agree, then at least my winner is usually nominated.  This decade sees the first perfect score of 100 in this category, in 1986.  Only two winners (1985, 1987) are worse than my #2 for the year.

What is interesting is the range of genres that win this award.  Even with the rise of Sci-Fi films, only two of them win the Oscar (Empire Strikes Back, E.T.).  For the first time, no Musicals win, though there are two biopics of musicians that win (Amadeus, Bird).  We also get two War films that win (Platoon, Glory).

Donald O. Mitchell and Les Fresholtz would be the two big men in the decade.  Mitchell would win an Oscar for Glory and earn six other nominations, finishing the decade just outside the Top 10.  Fresholtz would also win an Oscar (Bird) and earn five other nominations, moving up to a tie for 6th place by the end of the decade.  Getting their start this decade would be the two men who would eventually take over the #1 spot years later: Kevin O’Connell (earning the first five of his now 20 nominations without a win) and Andy Nelson (earning his first nomination for Gorillas in the Mist).

  • Best Year:  1986
  • Worst Year:  1987
  • Best Winner:  Amadeus
  • Worst Winner:  Out of Africa
  • Best Nominee That Didn’t Win:  Raging Bull
  • Worst Nominee:  On Golden Pond
  • Most Egregious Snub:  Kagemusha
  • Average Winner Rank at Nighthawks:  2.9
  • Average Winner Rank among Nominees:  1.8
  • Score for the Decade:  72.2

Five Biggest Snubs:

  1. Kagemusha
  2. Excalibur
  3. Henry V
  4. Ran
  5. Full Metal Jacket

Top 5 in Points in the Decade:

  1. Donald O. Mitchell  –  160
  2. Les Fresholtz  –  140
  3. Dick Alexander  –  120
  4. Bill Varney  –  120
  5. four with 100

Top 10 in Points through 1989:

  1. Douglas Shearer  –  380
  2. John Livadary  –  360
  3. Nathan Levinson  –  340
  4. Gordon Sawyer  –  320
  5. Thomas T. Moulton  –  280
  6. Robert Knudson  –  260
  7. Les Fresholtz  –  260
  8. L. L. Ryder  –  240
  9. E. H. Hansen  –  220
  10. Fred Hynes  –  220
  11. Richard Portman  –  220

Best Art Direction

A new group of art designers is finally arriving, lead by Stuart Craig (Oscars for Gandhi and Dangerous Liaisons, nominations for The Elephant Man and The Mission).  But he is really the exception, as no one else who will be big after this decade has arrived yet.

This was the one tech category that had gone down in the 70’s.  In this decade it goes way up.  Seven of the Oscar winners earn my highest ranking and Out of Africa is the only winner not to earn a nomination from me (and it came in sixth).  Likewise, the best films were almost all nominated – only three films in my Top 25 in this category for the decade failed to at least earn a nomination (my top three snubs below).  The score is magnificent too – in the 70’s, the average score was 59.9, while in the 80’s the lowest score is a 77.1.

  • Best Year:  1986
  • Worst Year:  1988
  • Best Winner:  Amadeus
  • Worst Winner:  Out of Africa
  • Best Nominee That Didn’t Win:  Blade Runner
  • Worst Nominee:  Heaven’s Gate
  • Most Egregious Snub:  The Princess Bride
  • Average Winner Rank at Nighthawks:  2.0
  • Average Winner Rank among Nominees:  1.7
  • Score for the Decade:  85.7

Five Biggest Snubs:

  1. The Princess Bride
  2. Beetlejuice
  3. The Shining
  4. Excalibur
  5. Henry V

Top 5 in Points in the Decade:

  1. Stuart Craig  –  120
  2. Norman Reynolds  –  100
  3. Leslie Dilley  –  80
  4. Michael Ford  –  80
  5. Patrizia Von Brandenstein  –  80

Top 10 in Points through 1989:

  1. Cedric Gibbons  –  1020
  2. Edwin B. Willis  –  800
  3. Lyle Wheeler  –  660
  4. Sam Comer  –  600
  5. Thomas Little  –  540
  6. Walter M. Scott  –  540
  7. Hans Dreier  –  520
  8. Richard Day  –  520
  9. Hal Pereira  –  480
  10. George Davis  –  380

Best Visual Effects

Like with Sound Effects Editing, this category still has not emerged as a fully established category in this decade.  In most years it is a competitive category with three nominees, but twice it would only have two nominees (1981, 1987) and twice it would be a non-competitive special award (1980, 1983).

Dennis Muren would dominate the decade in a way few people have dominated any category.  He would earn nominations in every year except 1986 (he would win both special awards) and would earn so many points that he would start the decade with 0 points and end it tied for 1st all-time (a position he still holds).  He would win 6 Oscars in the decade and earn three other nominations.  He would even earn a special Oscar “for the development of a Motion Picture Figure Mover for animation photography”.

Following Muren would Richard Edlund.  Edlund had an Oscar before this decade (for Star Wars) and would share three of the Oscars with Muren as well as earning five other nominations.  He would win two special awards during the decade, the first for “the engineering of the Empire Motion Picture Camera System” and the second for “the design and development of a zoom aerial (ZAP) 65m optical printer”.  Unlike Muren, though, Edlund would only earn one more nomination after this decade.

  • Best Year:  1988
  • Worst Year:  1985
  • Best Winner:  Who Framed Roger Rabbit
  • Worst Winner:  Cocoon
  • Best Nominee That Didn’t Win:  Die Hard
  • Worst Nominee:  Little Shop of Horrors
  • Most Egregious Snub:  Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
  • Average Winner Rank at Nighthawks:  1.3
  • Average Winner Rank among Nominees:  1.1
  • Score for the Decade:  93.3

Five Biggest Snubs:

  1. Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan
  2. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
  3. Back to the Future
  4. Clash of the Titans
  5. Dune

Top 5 in Points in the Decade:

  1. Dennis Muren  –  300
  2. Richard Edlund  –  220
  3. Ken Ralston  –  160
  4. Bruce Nicholson  –  100
  5. Phil Tippett  /  John Bruno  /  George Gibbs  /  Kenneth F. Smith  –  80

Top 5 in Points through 1989:

  1. A. Arnold Gillespie  –  300
  2. Dennis Muren  –  300
  3. Richard Edlund  –  260
  4. Gordon Jennings  –  220
  5. Fred Sersen  –  200

Best Sound Editing

This award would continue to be a bit inconsistent in this decade.  It would not be given in 1980 (really?  no award for Empire?), would be a special award in 1981, then a competitive award in 1982 and 1983, back to the special in 1984, competitive again in 1985 and 1986 and then back to special in 1987 before being back to competitive from 1988 forward.  During the decade it was still considered a special award, so the nominees were limited to 2 (1982 and 1983) or 3 (the other competitive years).

No sound effects engineer had ever earned more than 40 points before the 80’s.  The only two people to earn more than one nomination (Robert L. Bratton and Walter A. Rossi) had both failed to win both times.  But, that all changed starting in 1981.  Benjamin Burtt, who had won an Oscar for Star Wars, would win the Oscar for Raiders, and then again the next year for E.T., and he was off to the races.  He would also earn a nomination in 1983 (Return of the Jedi), again in 1988 and an another Oscar in 1989.  Burt would share those last two nominations (still with Lucasfilm, as those were for Willow and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade) with Richard Hymns, who would take over working with Spielberg after that and would eventually tie Burtt for the overall points lead just a couple of years ago.  Charles L. Campbell would also win three Oscars in the decade, winning with Burtt in 1982 and then also for Back to the Future and Who Framed Roger Rabbit.

  • Best Year:  1988
  • Worst Year:  1987
  • Best Winner:  Raiders of the Lost Ark
  • Worst Winner:  The River
  • Best Nominee That Didn’t Win:  Das Boot
  • Worst Nominee:  The River
  • Most Egregious Snub:  Ran
  • Average Winner Rank at Nighthawks:  3.0
  • Average Winner Rank among Nominees:  1.3
  • Score for the Decade:  75.5

Five Biggest Snubs:

  1. Ran
  2. Excalibur
  3. Glory
  4. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
  5. Brazil

Top 5 in Points in the Decade:

  1. Benjamin Burtt  –  160
  2. Charles L. Campbell  –  120
  3. Stephen Hunter Flick  –  80
  4. Richard L. Anderson  –  60
  5. Richard Hymns  –  60

Top 5 in Points through 1989:

  1. Benjamin Burtt  –  160
  2. Charles L. Campbell  –  120
  3. Stephen Hunter Flick  –  80
  4. Richard L. Anderson  –  60
  5. Richard Hymns  –  60

Best Costume Design

From 1982 to 1989, the Academy would pick the best choice every year, one of the longest streaks in any category in Oscar history.  Not only that, but from 1983 to 1989, all of the winners earn my highest score – just a magnificent run of winners (Fanny & Alexander, Amadeus, Ran, A Room with a View, The Last Emperor, Dangerous Liaisons, Henry V).  The only reason for the 1.9 and 1.5 Average Winner Ranks is because of Chariots of Fire (8th overall, 5th among nominees).

While several mediocre nominees over the decade keep the scores from getting too high (only four years break 70 and none break 90), there are no terrible years either.  The lowest score of the decade is still a 60.6.

Several designers who will eventually end up high on the points list earn wins in this decade, including Anthony Powell (Tess), Milena Canonero (Chariots of Fire) and Jenny Beaven (A Room with a View).

  • Best Year:  1981
  • Worst Year:  1985 / 1988  *
  • Best Winner:  Amadeus
  • Worst Winner:  Chariots of Fire
  • Best Nominee That Didn’t Win:  Ragtime
  • Worst Nominee:  Harlem Nights
  • Most Egregious Snub:  Kagemusha
  • Average Winner Rank at Nighthawks:  1.9
  • Average Winner Rank among Nominees:  1.5
  • Score for the Decade:  73.2

note:  It’s a complete tie in 1985 and 1988 – the exact same score with the exact same score for the nominees and my Top 5 and even the same score for the winners.

Five Biggest Snubs:

  1. Kagemusha
  2. The Princess Bride
  3. Glory
  4. Excalibur
  5. Raiders of the Lost Ark

Top 5 Points in the Decade:

  1. Milena Canonero  –  60
  2. Patricia Norris  –  60
  3. Jenny Beavan  –  60
  4. John Bright  –  60
  5. James Acheson  –  60

note:  Acheson is the only person to win two Oscars in the decade, winning them back-to-back in 1987 and 1988.  Norris doesn’t win an Oscar at all and is the only designer to earn four nominations in the decade (and then wouldn’t earn another until 2013).

Top 10 Points through 1989:

  1. Edith Head  –  645
  2. Irene Sharaff  –  300
  3. Charles LeMaire  –  285
  4. Jean Louis  –  225
  5. Dorothy Jeakins  –  225
  6. Helen Rose  –  180
  7. Walter Plunkett  –  165
  8. Bill Thomas  –  165
  9. Gile Steele  –  120
  10. Mary Wills  –  120

note:  This list remains unchanged since 1979 (while Jeakins did earn one nomination, it didn’t move her place on the list).  It will finally add a designer in 1991, but no one will be knocked off until 2001.

Best Makeup

In 1980, The Elephant Man would come out but its amazing makeup job would earn nothing from the Academy.  “The makeup people let out such a protest that the board promised to look into setting up a regular Award for Best Makeup the following year, but it wouldn’t relent on its refusal to give a statuette to The Elephant Man.”  (Inside Oscar, p 591-592)

In the first decade of the award, the nominees weren’t always great choices (reflected in the Score), but the Academy usually made good choices among the nominees.  Only twice (1986, 1989) did they not give the Oscar to the best of the nominees.

Rick Baker would win the first award and quickly establish himself as the biggest name.  He would earn another nomination in 1984, though Michael Westmore, with a nomination in 1984, the win in 1985 and another nomination in 1986, would briefly pass him for overall points.  Then Baker would win again in 1987 and no one else would be close to him again.  His 60 points in this short decade (with no award in 1980 and no award again in 1983) is still more than all but three other makeup artists in history.

The Best Makeup Award would instantly join Best Song as the category most likely to not have any other nominations to go along with it.  Of the 21 films nominated for Best Makeup in the 80’s, only 8 would earn another nomination and three of those would only earn nominations in other Tech categories.  The only winners to earn other nominations would be Best Picture winners Amadeus and Driving Miss Daisy.

  • Best Year:  1982
  • Worst Year:  1987
  • Best Winner:  Beetlejuice
  • Worst Winner:  Harry and the Hendersons
  • Best Nominee That Didn’t Win:  The Adventures of Baron Munchausen
  • Worst Nominee:  Dad
  • Most Egregious Snub:  Raiders of the Lost Ark
  • Average Winner Rank at Nighthawks:  2.88
  • Average Winner Rank among Nominees:  1.25
  • Score for the Decade:  51.0

Five Biggest Snubs:

  1. Raiders of the Lost Ark
  2. Aliens
  3. The Princess Bride
  4. Dangerous Liaisons
  5. The Last Emperor

Five Best Films from Years without an Award:

  1. The Elephant Man
  2. Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
  3. Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi
  4. Kagemusha
  5. The Evil Dead

Top 4 Points in the Decade:

  1. Rick Baker  –  60
  2. Michael Westmore  –  40
  3. Michele Burke  –  30
  4. Dick Smith  –  30

Top 4 Points through 1989:

  1. Rick Baker  –  60
  2. Michael Westmore  –  40
  3. Michele Burke  –  30
  4. Dick Smith  –  30

Best Song

This category is still a problem in this decade.  There are 17 eligible songs in the decade that I give my highest rating to.  Of those 17, only five earned nominations and only two of them won the Oscar (and those two, “Take My Breath Away” and “Under the Sea”, ironically, didn’t win the Nighthawk).  We’ve got songs from Paul Simon, Pink Floyd, Jackson Browne, Simple Minds, Madonna, OMD, Genesis and the Talking Heads all failing to earn nominations.  They are still mostly veering away from rock and roll.  They do give nominations to songs from Berlin, Starship and Phil Collins and one James Bond song, but those are ballads.  They do veer a little into rock and roll, with nominations for “Eye of the Tiger”, “Footlose” and “The Power of Love”.

So, if rock and roll was still mostly being ignored, what was being nominated?  Well, the light touch of the songwriting team of Alan and Marilyn Bergman was, as they lead in points for the second decade in a row.  But late in the decade, comes the rise of the great team of Alan Menken and Howard Ashman, who would earn their first nomination in 1986 and their first win in 1989.  They will herald the prominence of Disney in this category to a degree that has never happened before.  It will end up with 5 Oscars and 11 nominations over the course of seven years.

 

  • Best Year:  1987
  • Worst Year:  1980
  • Best Winner:  “Under the Sea” from The Little Mermaid
  • Worst Winner:  “I Just Called to Say I Love You” from Woman in Red
  • Best Nominee That Didn’t Win:  “The Power of Love” from Back to the Future
  • Worst Nominee:  “Endless Love” from Endless Love
  • Most Egregious Snub:  “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” from The Breakfast Club
  • Average Winner Rank at Nighthawks:  6.0
  • Average Winner Rank among nominees:  1.8
  • Score for the Decade:  62.3

5 Most Egregious Snubs:

  1. “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” from The Breakfast Club
  2. “If You Leave” from Pretty in Pink
  3. “Every Sperm is Sacred” from Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life
  4. “Late in the Evening” from One-Trick Pony
  5. “Part of Your World” from The Little Mermaid

Top 5 in Points in the Decade:

  1. Marilyn Bergman  –  60
  2. Alan Bergman  –  60
  3. Dean Pitchford  –  50
  4. Alan Menken  –  40
  5. Howard Ashman  /  Giorgio Moroder  /  Lionel Richie  –  40

Top 10 in Points through 1989:

  1. Sammy Cahn  –  300
  2. Johnny Mercer  –  220
  3. Paul Francis Webster  –  190
  4. James Van Heusen  –  180
  5. Marilyn Bergman  –  160
  6. Alan Bergman  –  160
  7. Harry Warren  –  140
  8. Ned Washington  –  130
  9. Henry Mancini  –  130
  10. Sammy Fain  –  120

Best Foreign Film

There are 54 films in the decade that earn ***.5 and thus earn consideration for my Best Foreign Film award.  Of those, 7 won the Oscar and another 18 were nominated.  But, only six of the other 29 were submitted, so, again, it’s the Academy’s rules that are the problem more than its choices.  Only one film in my Top 15 for the decade would be submitted but not earn a nomination (Wings of Desire).

A whopping 14 countries submit a film every year in the decade.  Two of them, Taiwan and Iceland, become the first countries to submit every year in a decade without a single nomination to show for it.  Most of the rest have less than 50% success, with 1 nomination (Israel, Yugoslavia, West Germany, The Netherlands), 2 nominations (Switzerland, Canada, Japan) or 3 nominations (USSR, Italy).  The only countries in the decade with a 50% success rate for nominations among submissions are Nicaragua (1 for 2), Hungary (5 for 10), Spain (6 for 10) and France (7 for 10).  1984 is the first year since 1961 that neither France or Italy are nominated.  France has the most nominations, but is the only one of the six countries with at least 3 nominations (Denmark has 3) to fail to win the Oscar in the decade.  Denmark, on the other hand, wins two in a row (1987 and 1988), still the most recent country to do so.  Japan would earn back-to-back nominations in 1980 and 1981 and then begins a drought that will not break until 2003.

Europe would still again win 9 of the Oscars this decade (South America would win the other), but instead of 8 for Western Europe, this time they are more spread out (Western Europe has 4, 3 are from Scandinavia and the other two from Eastern Europe).  Europe dominates the nominations again, earning 39 of the 50.  But it also has the most submissions, submitting 185 of the 295 films, almost the exact same percentage of the total submissions as it had in the 70’s.  There are a lot more submissions from everywhere, with Asia submitting 8 films in 1984 and Scandinavia submitting 3 regularly and 4 three times.  In 1989, with change coming, Eastern Europe submits a high of six films.

Pedro Almodovar earns his first nomination, Francois Truffaut earns his last, Jose Luis Garci earns three (with a win), Istvan Szabo earns four (with a win) and Akira Kurosawa and Ingmar Bergman earn their final nominations (with Bergman winning his third award).  Szabo’s 100 points are still a record for a competitive decade.

  • Best Year:  1983
  • Worst Year:  1982
  • Best Winner:  Fanny & Alexander
  • Worst Winner:  Volver a Empezar
  • Best Nominee That Didn’t Win:  Au Revoir, Les Enfants
  • Worst Nominee:  Betty Blue
  • Most Egregious Snub:  Wings of Desire
  • Average Winner Rank at Nighthawks:  10.6
  • Average Winner Rank among nominees:  2.3
  • Score for the Decade:  79.5  *

*  –  The Score for the Decade is based only on submitted films.  Though I think the Academy’s rules are stupid, I can only grade them on what was allowed within the rules.  So, in 1986, the grade does not reflect the absence of Manon of the Spring which was not submitted but it does reflect the absence of The Sacrifice which was submitted but not nominated.  Full lists of what was submitted can be found here.

5 Most Egregious Snubs:

  1. Wings of Desire
  2. Fitzcarraldo
  3. The Sacrifice
  4. Red Sorghum
  5. Spider’s Web

note:  Only one film on this list is a **** film.

5 Best Films not submitted:

  1. Ran
  2. My Neighbor Totoro
  3. Das Boot
  4. Manon of the Spring
  5. Grave of the Fireflies

5 Worst Submissions (in relation between the film not submitted and the film submitted):

explanation:  On a 100 point scale, the biggest difference between the film that was submitted and what I thought was the best film from that country.  It only works if I have seen the submitted film (which is why Japan isn’t more heavily represented – I haven’t been able to see most of their mid-decade submissions – if I am ever able to see Gray Sunset, Japan’s submission for 1985, and it earns below a 79, it will make this list).  For the list above, blame goes on the Academy’s system.  For this list, the blame goes on the submitting country.  There are 25 times in this decade where a country submitted a film, I’ve seen that film, and I think a different film should have been submitted.  In 14 of those times, the point difference is less than 10 (eerily, the same as the previous decade). There are another 6 times where it is between 10 and 19 (again, the same as the previous decade).  These last five are the most egregious.  Most of them aren’t as bad as the previous decade but the top film sets a new low mark for the submitting country.

  1. 1986 France  –  Betty Blue submitted instead of Manon of the Spring  (49 pts)
  2. 1989 Hong Kong  –  Painted Faces submitted instead of The Killer  (25 pts)
  3. 1989 Japan  –  Rikyu submitted instead of Black Rain  (24 pts)
  4. 1981 West Germany  –  Lili Marleen submitted instead of Das Boot  (21 pts)
  5. 1986 Italy  –  Summer Night submitted instead of Ginger and Fred  (20 pts)

note:  Betty Blue was not only the worst film nominated in the decade, but the second worst submitted that I have seen (The 4th Man was worse), yet France submitted it instead of Manon of the Spring or Jean de Florette.  France is the worst in the decade, appearing seven times on the list, with four of those earning Oscar nominations (though two of those nominees – Coup de Torchon and Entre Nous, were good enough to deserve nominations, it’s just that they were submitted instead of The Return of Martin Guerre and Danton, which were better).

Top 5 Countries in Points during the Decade:

  1. France –  240
  2. Italy  –  220
  3. USSR  –  100
  4. Israel  –  80
  5. Spain  /  Poland  /  West Germany  –  80

Top 5 Countries in Points through 1989 (not including Special Awards):

  1. France  –  560
  2. Italy  –  520
  3. USSR  –  200
  4. Japan  –  180
  5. Sweden / Spain  –  180

Top 5 Countries in Points through 1989  (including Special Awards):

  1. France  –  680
  2. Italy  –  600
  3. Japan  –  300
  4. USSR  –  200
  5. Sweden / Spain  –  180

Submission Statistics:

  • Western Europe: 70 submissions, 26 nominees, 8 winners
  • Eastern Europe:  38 submissions, 11 nominees, 1 winner
  • Scandinavia:  16 submissions, 3 nominees
  • Balkans:  17 submissions, 1 nominee
  • Europe (total):  141 submissions, 41 nominees, 9 winners
  • Middle East:  11 submissions, 4 nominees  (all Israel)
  • Asia, incl. ME:  33 submissions, 6 nominees (all Israel or Japan)
  • South America:  16 submissions, 1 nominee (Argentina)
  • North America:  13 submissions, 1 nominee (Mexico)
  • Africa:  11 submissions, 1 nominee, 1 winner (Ivory Coast)

Other Categories

The following categories didn’t yet exist by 1989: Animated Film.

Best Animated Film would take until this century to become a category, but it would start to exist among other groups by the end of this decade.

By Year

1980

  • Nighthawk Awards for 1980
  • Best Picture:  Reviews of the films can be found here.
  • Best Picture Rank:  # 8
  • Winners Average (with Picture):  3.88
  • Winners Average (without Picture):  3.81
  • Winners Average Among Nominees:  2.25
  • Nominee Score (P-D-S):  69.2
  • Nominee Score  (Acting):  89.1
  • Nominee Score  (Tech Categories):  63.6
  • Total Nominee Score:  70.3

1981

  • Nighthawk Awards for 1981
  • Best Picture:  Reviews of the films can be found here.
  • Best Picture Rank:  #  34
  • Winners Average (with Picture):  4.37
  • Winners Average (without Picture):  3.56
  • Winners Average Among Nominees:  2.50
  • Nominee Score (P-D-S):  63.2
  • Nominee Score  (Acting):  85.9
  • Nominee Score  (Tech Categories):  75.5
  • Total Nominee Score:  75.5

1982

  • Nighthawk Awards for 1982
  • Best Picture:  Reviews of the films can be found here.
  • Best Picture Rank:  #  22
  • Winners Average (with Picture):  6.75
  • Winners Average (without Picture):  6.05
  • Winners Average Among Nominees:  2.45
  • Nominee Score (P-D-S):  86.3  (highest to-date)
  • Nominee Score  (Acting):  92.3
  • Nominee Score  (Tech Categories):  76.7
  • Total Nominee Score:  80.6

1983

  • Nighthawk Awards for 1983
  • Best Picture:  Reviews of the films can be found here.
  • Best Picture Rank:  #  29
  • Winners Average (with Picture):  2.68
  • Winners Average (without Picture):  2.72
  • Winners Average Among Nominees:  1.61
  • Nominee Score (P-D-S):  70.4
  • Nominee Score  (Acting):  87.8
  • Nominee Score  (Tech Categories):  76.3
  • Total Nominee Score:  75.8

1984

  • Nighthawk Awards for 1984
  • Best Picture:  Reviews of the films can be found here.
  • Best Picture Rank:  #  12
  • Winners Average (with Picture):  3.60
  • Winners Average (without Picture):  3.74
  • Winners Average Among Nominees:  1.79
  • Nominee Score (P-D-S):  75.4
  • Nominee Score  (Acting):  87.5
  • Nominee Score  (Tech Categories):  79.2
  • Total Nominee Score:  80.0

1985

  • Nighthawk Awards for 1985
  • Best Picture:  Reviews of the films can be found here.
  • Best Picture Rank:  #  47
  • Winners Average (with Picture):  12.16  (worst since 1958)
  • Winners Average (without Picture):  7.67  (worst since 1958)
  • Winners Average Among Nominees:  2.79  (worst since 1958)
  • Nominee Score (P-D-S):  74.8
  • Nominee Score  (Acting):  70.5  (worst since 1947)
  • Nominee Score  (Tech Categories):  61.9
  • Total Nominee Score:  67.6

1986

  • Nighthawk Awards for 1986
  • Best Picture:  Reviews of the films can be found here.
  • Best Picture Rank:  #  15
  • Winners Average (with Picture):  2.05  (second best to-date)
  • Winners Average (without Picture):  2.06  (second best to-date)
  • Winners Average Among Nominees:  1.58
  • Nominee Score (P-D-S):  78.8
  • Nominee Score  (Acting):  87.9
  • Nominee Score  (Tech Categories):  81.0  (highest to-date)
  • Total Nominee Score:  79.9

1987

  • Nighthawk Awards for 1987
  • Best Picture:  Reviews of the films can be found here.
  • Best Picture Rank:  #  58
  • Winners Average (with Picture):  5.58
  • Winners Average (without Picture):  5.39
  • Winners Average Among Nominees:  2.17
  • Nominee Score (P-D-S):  62.4
  • Nominee Score  (Acting):  82.4
  • Nominee Score  (Tech Categories):  70.6
  • Total Nominee Score:  71.6

1988

  • Nighthawk Awards for 1988
  • Best Picture:  Reviews of the films can be found here.
  • Best Picture Rank:  #  44
  • Winners Average (with Picture):  5.89
  • Winners Average (without Picture):  5.67
  • Winners Average Among Nominees:  2.16
  • Nominee Score (P-D-S):  73.6
  • Nominee Score  (Acting):  91.4
  • Nominee Score  (Tech Categories):  80.4
  • Total Nominee Score:  80.9  (highest to-date)

1989

  • Nighthawk Awards for 1989
  • Best Picture:  Reviews of the films can be found here.
  • Best Picture Rank:  #  25
  • Winners Average (with Picture):  7.21
  • Winners Average (without Picture):  3.28
  • Winners Average Among Nominees:  1.95
  • Nominee Score (P-D-S):  75.2
  • Nominee Score  (Acting):  88.9
  • Nominee Score  (Tech Categories):  71.1
  • Total Nominee Score:  75.7
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