Annal: 1984 Academy Award® for Best Motion Picture

Results of the Academy Award® in the year 1984.

Film:Terms of Endearment

Terms of Endearment

James L. Brooks

Larry McMurtry’s novel becomes a somewhat lumpy film as directed by James L. Brooks (As Good As It Gets). Nevertheless, it is entirely winning, with Shirley MacLaine and Debra Winger playing a combative mother and daughter who see each other through various ups and downs in love and loss, and most especially through a terminal illness endured by Winger’s character. Jack Nicholson deservedly won an Oscar for his supporting role as a free-spirited astronaut who backs away from a romance with MacLaine and then returns in the clutch. As he always does, Brooks…

Film:The Big Chill

The Big Chill

Lawrence Kasdan

Lawrence Kasdan’s 1983 big-budget variation on John Sayles’s The Return of the Secaucus Seven finds a cluster of old college radicals—who have since gone on to sundry professions and various degrees of materialism—reuniting over the death of a friend. Both playful and thoughtful, the film represents Kasdan (Body Heat) at his most astute. The attractive cast meshes perfectly into a group of characters for which a former closeness is out of synch with their current lives, yet their warmth is enviable and inviting. The script may be a bit too glib,…

Film:The Dresser

The Dresser

Peter Yates

It’s life in the Theater with a capital T in this film adaptation of the London and Broadway hit by Ronald Harwood. Though we see other people, the film is really a duet between Sir (Albert Finney), an aging actor-manager who runs his own theater company, and Norman (Tom Courtenay), his dresser, who gets him into costume and, ultimately, into shape to go onstage each night. Sir is on his last legs; Norman is alternately his cheerleader, his parent, and his whipping boy—whatever it takes to get Sir up to performance level each night. Finney perfectly…

Film:The Right Stuff

The Right Stuff

Philip Kaufman

Philip Kaufman’s intimate epic about the Mercury astronauts (based on Tom Wolfe’s book) was one of the most ambitious and spectacularly exciting movies of the 1980s. It surprised almost everybody by not becoming a smash hit. By all rights, the film should have been every bit the success that Apollo 13 would later become; The Right Stuff is not only just as thrilling, but it is also a bigger and better movie. Combining history (both established and revisionist), grand mythmaking (and myth puncturing), adventure, melodrama, behind-the-scenes…

Film:Tender Mercies

Tender Mercies

Bruce Beresford

Sometimes everything comes together in a movie and it becomes something so much greater than the sum of its parts that it can only be described as a miracle. That’s the case with Tender Mercies, a quietly luminous character piece about an alcoholic, washed-up country singer named Mac Sledge (Robert Duvall in an Oscar-winning performance) who hits bottom in a motel room one night and then slowly finds his way back into the land of the living with the help of the widow (Tess Harper) and her young son. It’s a low-key, contemplative film that feels like a…

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