Oscar Catch-Up #5: Evan’s Picks

A lot of entries this week–as I finally get caught up on all the Netflix envelopes sitting around the house.  This weekend I started my first friend picks–where I will let other people choose the two Oscar nominees that I absolutely should have seen by now.  If you want to help me pick out a couple, just shout.  But this week we focus on the picks of Evan Stewart–friend, Kentucky native, med student, and cinephile.  He chose…

Moonstruck (1987) Directed by Norman Jewison, Written by John Patrick Shanley
Starring Cher, Nicholas Cage, Olympia Dukakis, Vincent Gardenia, Danny Aiello
Won 3 Oscars for Actress (Cher), Supporting Actress (Dukakis), Original Screenplay; nominated for 3 others including Picture, Director, Supporting Actor (Gardenia)

On Golden Pond (1981) Directed by Mark Rydell, Written by Ernest Thompson
Starring Katherine Hepburn, Henry Fonda, Jane Fonda, Doug McKeon, Dabney Coleman
Won 3 Oscars for Actress (Hepburn), Actor (H. Fonda), Adapted Screenplay; nominated for 7 others including Picture, Director, Supporting Actress (J. Fonda), Cinematography, Editing, Original Score, Sound

I was instantly curious when Evan gave me his choices as to why he picked these too–I didn’t see a thematic connection.  However, after seeing them they clearly have something strong in common–they are victims of their time.  Oh, the curse of the 1980s.

Moonstruck has a very strong central performance from Cher–and a wonderful supporting turn from a great character actress for the ages, Olympa Dukakis.  Yet everything around them is utterly apathetic.  The late 80s (in addition to producing me) was cranking out ‘dramedys’ by the handful.  A genre that works far better for television, as a feature it isn’t particularly funny, and isn’t particularly engaging as a drama.  It’s just kinda there.  In fact, I struggled to find anything to say about it at all.  It was 90 minutes of my life that happened, but aside from that iconic slap (“SNAP OUT OF IT!”), the other 89.5 minutes were a bit of a bore.  Sorry, Evan!

On Golden Pond is a particularly sad case of 80s ruin, as it has two film legends giving INCREDIBLE performances, while Jane Fonda is equally wonderfully and looking hotter than ever in a skimpy bathing suit on the dock of Golden Pond.  The three of them, in an elegantly simple script by Ernest Thopmson, should have been cinema catnip for me.  And then the time period kicks in.  Can we talk about that ovebearing synthesizer/piano score people?  When did composers think that was an appropriate choice for mood setting?  And on top of that, there is the all-too-frequent cutting from character to character that undermines so much potent emotion, and the slow fades from house to duck to lake to Henry Fonda.  I guess it’s a chicken-and-egg thing, I don’t know if On Golden Pond was made to look like a life insurance commercial, or if all life insurance commercials since 1981 have strived to look like Golden Pond.  In any case it takes what should be iconic and timeless to a level of schmaltz that comes close to ruining it.  Nevertheless, seeing those Fondas and Hepburn makes the film well worth a visit.  Thanks, Evan!

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