Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Battle Of The Oscar Stars: Best Picture 1980

Almost a year ago to the day, I viewed and praised My Fair Lady, or otherwise known as the Best Picture Winner of 1964.

It was the day before the Academy Awards, and upon looking back through that post, I was upset that with one year into the challenge I had only gotten to that point in the list.

What a difference a year makes, or not.

Now nearly 365 days later and I'm at the year...1980.

Please get up all in my face for getting through a measly 17 Best Picture winners in a year! What was I doing these last 12 months? Probably watching too much TV instead...whoops!

For some people it's running an actual marathon, or Everest,  but for me it's a couch marathon and a cycle of movies that seems to never be getting to the finish line.

Cutting further into closing the gap was tirelessly attempting to track down a copy of the Best Picture Winner from 1980; Ordinary People.

If Netflix doesn't have it, my head gets thrown into a whirl-wind; it seems like a no-brainer that every video store would have a copy of a classic, but au-contraire. Let the adventure begin!

Between traipsing all over town, scavenging my cities few existing video stores, pondering purchasing it on Amazon, and finally finding a copy at a local independent video store, I had an Epiphany about the best option - a free option.

Thanks to a lovely donation to the Bellingham Public Library,  Ordinary People came into these paws at no charge. Only now after a screening of this excellent piece of cinema, I actually wish I had bitten the bullet and purchased a copy so I could have it always.

Even though the Jarrett clan is riddled with tragedy, their friends and closest family treat them, as the title eludes, just like ordinary people. Which, ultimately, is how Mrs. Jarrett would prefer it.

As the film opens, Beth (Mary Tyler Moore) and Calvin (Donald Sutherland) have recently lost their elder son in a boating accident. Their younger son, Conrad (Timothy Hutton), who survived the accident, has just returned from a stay at a mental hospital after a suicide attempt. Conrad's grief following the loss of his brother was too much to handle, and still haunts him as he attempts to pick up the pieces of his teenage life.

Pretending as though all of these troubles are in the past, without truly dealing with anything, Beth and Calvin continue with the day to day of golf, cocktail parties, and vacations. No one at these parties even remotely seems concerned about this couple's immense loss and pain. Talking about your emotions would be unheard of, so instead all of the couples keep to chit-chat about the stock market.

Mary Tyler Moore, in a role strikingly different than her chipper television counter part, incredibly embodies a truly frustrating woman who is completely unable to even think about her pain. She spends most of the movie with a perfectly plastered on smile to face the world, and makes sure dinner is on the table every night with a crisp folded napkin.

One of her sons survived, but she is incapable of showing any love or support to Conrad, even as tries to help himself by talking out his issues with a counselor.

Oridinary People truly excels at dealing with taboo topics, like mental health and grief, which must have been controversial at the film's release and even still today. Each of the actors are fantastic in their own right, Moore, as mentioned before, as well as Sutherland and Hutton (he won the Best Supporting Actor for his role) who grandly exhibit the more emotionally open characters.

Reality sets in as the family starts expressing their true feelings and working out their issues; some people will change, and move in a positive direction, and others will stick to their old ways.  

It is an emotional piece, but don't be like me and avoid this film thinking it will completely drag you down into a depression, it does have its lighter moments. Ordinary People is a drama about family struggles, but also, more importantly, it is a story about survival.

Next up, a film that will not be hard to track down, but it is one hell of a race - Chariots Of Fire.

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