Best Picture Winners Part 53 (of 90): Ordinary People

Title: Ordinary People
Year: 1981
Starring: Timothy Hutton, Donald SutherlandMary Tyler Moore,
Director: Robert Redford
Runtime: 2 hrs 4 mins

Is It Any Good?: Well now that’s the things…it’s great. After a young man named Conrad (Hutton) tries to take his own life the divide between him and his parents grow into an irreparable chasm. He’s seeing a therapist but emotional, particularly towards his mother are never really dug into. He’s a boiling pot about to explode. Hutton’s performance is great and he brings so much of what makes Conrad a sympathetic character to light. Moore and Sutherland work as the prototypical yuppy parents. Moore especially has an utter disdain for anything that interferes with her plans of dinner out and squash with her friends. Redford’s time behind the camera gives us such a fly on the wall aspect to the whole thing that all the while you feel as though you’re probably going to need therapy.

Memorable Quote: Calvin “Cal” Jarrett: “Well, don’t admire people too much. They’ll disappoint you sometimes.”

How’s the Competition: Ridiculously strong. To start the always enigmatic David Lynch directs perhaps his most digestible film in The Elephant Man. He received his first of three Best Director nominations for this biopic of Joseph Merrick. John Hurt would’ve gone untouched into the Oscar win…if, not for one of DeNiro’s career-defining performances, we’ll get to that soon. That years also saw Sissy Spacek walk out with a gold statue for her turn her in The Coalminer’s Daughter as country star Loretta Lynn. She gives a strong performance in Michael Apted’s biopic. A great example of a properly done, but not necessarily interesting biopic. Roman Polanski directs an extremely young Nastassja Kinski in this film that explores the life of young Tess Durbeyfield. It is the background to the film, which is decent, that supersedes anything in it. Polanski’s pregnant wife, actress Sharon Tate was brutally murdered by the Manson family in 1969, and during the press, for this film, Polanski was in exile stemming from a 1978 charge of drugging and having sex with a minor. He had pleaded out and before sentencing fled. Lastly, not just the best film of 1980 but one of the best film ever produced, Raging Bull. For me, Robert DeNiro’s performance in this is one of cinema’s best…ever. He’s the only man who could’ve beaten John Hurt and he did. Another biopic. This one is just stellar. Its direction is pitch perfect and Scorsese is at his best behind the lens here. This is where Scorsese should’ve won his first Best Director Oscar. But we’ll get to that when we get to that.

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