Robin Williams, Good Morning, Vietnam
Williams portrays Adrian Cronauer, an irreverent disc jockey tasked with taking over the Armed Forces' Saigon radio broadcasts during the Vietnam War. While Cronauer's humor and enthusiasm resonate with the troops, his hard-nosed superiors aren't entirely sold on his schtick. Cronauer encounters greater hostility when, after facing the horrors of war firsthand, he takes to the airwaves to express some hard truths about Vietnam. This performance, which won him a Golden Globe, marked Williams' first Oscar nomination.
Overlooked: Nicolas Cage, Moonstruck; Michael Douglas, Fatal Attraction; Steve Martin, Roxanne; Terry O'Quinn, The Stepfather; Gary Oldman, Prick Up Your Ears; Dennis Quaid, The Big Easy; Mickey Rourke, Barfly
Won: Michael Douglas, Wall Street
Should've won: Jack Nicholson, Ironweed
Ah, the year Michael Douglas portrayed the 45th president of the United States!
Even if I don't agree with all of the winners, I really love the 1987 Oscars. You have two of the finest comedies of the 1980s (Broadcast News and Moonstruck) contending for Best Picture, one of the all-time great line-ups in Best Lead Actress (Sally Kirkland!), Albert Brooks mustering a surprise Oscar nod, Morgan Freeman up for his most riveting and underrated performance (in Street Smart) and the likes of RoboCop and The Witches of Eastwick scoring multiple nominations.
Best Lead Actor ain't too shabby either, even though the best leading male performance by far (Rourke, superb opposite a comparably awesome Faye Dunaway in Barfly) wasn't even nominated.
The only nominee here I can't get terribly excited about is Hurt, nicely cast as the dashing dunce of an anchorman in Broadcast News but entirely overshadowed by his two superior co-stars.
As I noted in my review of the 1985 line-up, I so often find Hurt's turns (including his final three Oscar nominations) curiously sleepy, devoid of much in the way of vitality. In this film, where's he's portraying a dud, that kinda-sorta works and he has some nice banter with Hunter but that comic energy that drives the picture and is present among the rest of the performances is sorely lacking in Hurt's. Even Joan Cusack, with less than 10 minutes screen time, leaves more of an impression than Hurt does over the entirety of the proceedings.
Growing up, Williams was perhaps my favorite actor of all. I wore out my VHS copies of Mrs. Doubtfire and Jumanji in no time and loved the likes of Aladdin and Awakenings, among others, too. Looking back, though, much as I still adore Williams and terribly miss his comic genius, I'm not sure he was Oscar-nominated for the right performances.
I'm down with his nod for The Fisher King but the saccharin Dead Poets Society and Good Will Hunting have never much resonated with me. Williams' work in those two pictures is certainly credible but I don't think compelling enough to make the films quite worthwhile. Instead, I would've loved to see him recognized for Awakenings (surely over his hammy nominated co-star Robert De Niro), Mrs. Doubtfire (even though 1993 was such a busy and rich year for leading men) and also One Hour Photo.
While I don't think his turn in Good Morning, Vietnam is quite as inventive or poignant as his best work, it's still a very fine performance, one for sure strong enough to make the film worth a look. Like so many Barry Levinson films (including the other Levinson-Williams collaboration, Toys), it's an imperfect picture. Without Williams' exuberance, it probably wouldn't work at all but there he is, having a blast in a role perfectly suited to his talents. Moreover, he manages to sell the film's more dramatic (and less confident) material.
Likewise, Oliver Stone's Wall Street packs its punch on the shoulders of a performance, or, in this case, two turns. The film itself isn't as sharp as Stone's best (the likes of Nixon and Salvador) and in fact, some scenes, like those shared between Charlie Sheen and Daryl Hannah, are just plain awful. That said, the picture does get quite a bit of mileage out of Douglas and the other, better Sheen (Martin), both in prime form.
Douglas vividly captures the glossy barbarism of 1980s Wall Street. It's a performance equal parts alluring and intimidating and it sure doesn't hurt having a co-star who's so easy to steamroll over in acting prowess. I happen to much prefer his other performance from 1987 - Fatal Attraction - but this is still an iconic and absorbing turn from a performer who certainly deserved more than one acting Oscar nomination over his career.
Hats off to the Academy for recognizing the marvelous Mastroianni here as, while he did prove the toast of that year's Cannes Film Festival, he hadn't shown up anywhere else precursors-wise that awards season.
Dark Eyes is a terrific late-career showcase for Mastroianni who, while active well into the 1980s and 1990s, rarely came across projects as strong as this and his legendary earlier work (8 1/2, Divorce, Italian Style and La Dolce Vita, to name a few). The picture is lavishly designed, like a Merchant-Ivory production, with one hell of a Francis Lai original score, but, of course, its leading man is the heart and soul of the proceedings.
The film is a fabulous showcase of Mastroianni's range, as he paints a sad and weary Romano in his older age and a man far more ebullient and impassioned back in the day. It's a lovely turn from an actor with a career full of them.
Alas, much as I love Mastroianni (and would love to have seen him with an Oscar somewhere down the road) and am OK with the Douglas victory, I actually think Nicholson should have picked up trophy #3 this year.
Ironweed is perhaps the least Nicholson-like of Nicholson performances. It's a turn entirely devoid of his trademark charm and persona, instead a portrayal of a bleak and tortured man, as washed out as the Great Depression-era scenery around him. This is the most sorrowful Nicholson to ever grace the screen and it's an awfully jarring sight to contrast this performance with his other two 1987 turns, both of which find the actor largely coasting on charisma.
The best scenes in Ironweed, and some of the most haunting of any Nicholson film, are those shared between the actor and Carroll Baker, who evocatively portrays Phelan's abandoned wife. Both performances have a lived-in and tormented feel that is absolutely devastating. How was Baker not Oscar-nominated for this?
The performances ranked (thus far)...
- Jack Nicholson, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
- Al Pacino, The Godfather Part II
- George C. Scott, Patton
- Jack Nicholson, Five Easy Pieces
- James Earl Jones, The Great White Hope
- Al Pacino, Serpico
- Jack Nicholson, The Last Detail
- Al Pacino, Dog Day Afternoon
- Jack Nicholson, Chinatown
- Melvyn Douglas, I Never Sang for My Father
- Dustin Hoffman, Lenny
- Gig Young, They Shoot Horses, Don't They?
- James Whitmore, Give 'em Hell, Harry!
- James Coco, Only When I Laugh
- Jack Nicholson, Easy Rider
- Marlon Brando, Last Tango in Paris
- James Garner, Murphy's Romance
- Jack Nicholson, Ironweed
- Jack Nicholson, Terms of Endearment
- John Gielgud, Arthur
- Harrison Ford, Witness
- Marcello Mastroianni, Dark Eyes
- Rip Torn, Cross Creek
- Jack Nicholson, Prizzi's Honor
- Ryan O'Neal, Love Story
- Jack Nicholson, Reds
- Michael Douglas, Wall Street
- William Hurt, Kiss of the Spider Woman
- Walter Matthau, The Sunshine Boys
- Robin Williams, Good Morning, Vietnam
- Sam Shepard, The Right Stuff
- Ian Holm, Chariots of Fire
- Jack Lemmon, Save the Tiger
- Elliott Gould, Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice
- William Hurt, Broadcast News
- Howard E. Rollins, Jr., Ragtime
- Art Carney, Harry and Tonto
- Robert Redford, The Sting
- John Lithgow, Terms of Endearment
- Charles Durning, To Be or Not to Be
- Albert Finney, Murder on the Orient Express
- Jon Voight, Runaway Train
- Rupert Crosse, The Reivers
- Anthony Quayle, Anne of the Thousand Days
- Maximilian Schell, The Man in the Glass Booth