Take a moment to contemplate just how improbable a movie like Terms of Endearment would be in 2008. After this slice-of-life drama — following a strong-willed mother (Shirley MacLaine) and her equally strong-willed daughter (Debra Winger) through many years of their lives — premiered on Nov. 23, 1983, it shot to the top of the box office, becoming the second-highest-grossing movie of the year, behind only Return of the Jedi. Then it snagged 11 Oscar nominations and won Best Picture (as well as Best Adapted Screenplay, Supporting Actor, Actress, andDirector). Mind you, this was an adult drama, about relationships, from the female leads’ point-of-view. They really just don’t make ’em like this anymore: A human-scaled, contemporary drama about real people living quietly dramatic lives. If it had been released this year, it might’ve been seen as a Sundance find that gets a minor platform release, or, even worse, it could’ve been dismissed out of hand as just a treacly chick flick. It certainly wouldn’t have been expected to become a commercial and awards-season juggernaut.
So should Terms of Endearment win 1983’s Best Picture today? Or is one of the other nominees — The Big Chill, The Dresser, The Right Stuff or Tender Mercies — more deserving of Oscar’s top prize? That’s what we’ve been asking the entertainment industry in our Recall the Gold survey of all the major Oscars from 5, 10, 15, 20, and 25 years ago, and now, PopWatchers, we’re asking you to share your voice.
Back in 1983, The Right Stuff was probably the film with the best chance of stealing Terms of Endearment‘s crown. Focusing on the birth of America’s space program, it was the kind of sweeping epic the Academy typically loves loading up with Oscars. And, indeed, it did have eight nominations to its name — just not one for director Philip Kaufman, and a movie almost never wins Best Picture if its director isn’t also a nominee. Tender Mercies might have also had a good shot, but most of the heat for that film was focused on star Robert Duvall for his finely honed, and ultimately Oscar-winning, performance as a down-and-out country singer. (We’ll get to that category, actually, later this week.) It’s telling that barely anyone remembers The Dresser, a backstage portrait of an overbearing Shakespearean actor (Albert Finney) and his “dresser,” aka personal assistant, played by Tom Courtenay — in fact, we couldn’t find any clips from the film online. And while The Big Chill certainly has stood the test of time as a touchstone film about a group of Baby Boomers coming together after a friend commits suicide, it only had two other nominations that year (neither for director Lawrence Kasdan), indicating shallow support from Academy voters.
So, PopWatchers, are you still endeared to Terms of Endearment? Or is another film a better Best Picture? Vote in our poll below; if you need a reminder of each film, check out clips after the jump. While you’re at it, if you haven’t already, vote in all the other polls from our ongoing walk down Oscar’s memory lane. Tomorrow, we’ll take a look at the 1998 Best Director race, and then wrap up the Recall the Gold initiative with additional polls on Dec. 24, 25, 29, 30, and 31, and Jan. 1; also, check out coverage of this year’s awards contenders in Dave Karger’s Oscar Watch blog.
The Big Chill
The Right Stuff
Terms of Endearment