Sunday, April 1, 2012

Battle Of The Oscar Stars: Best Picture 1984

Two questions can perplex even the best of us: how will we be remembered when we die? Or, will we be remembered at all?

One composers quest for immortality disastrously fails in the Best Picture Winner of 1984; Amadeus.

Just in case you happen to become a legend, lock it in early that a friend, and not a jealous crazed man, is the one to tell your story; you might come off looking a whole lot better.

Such is the fate for Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (or Wolfie for short) whose memory is rekindled through the eyes of Antonio Salieri, his contemporary turned enemy.

In his old age, Salieri recalls the past from a mental institution. That's right folks, jealously sent him straight to the loony bin.

Based in history, but in no way a direct play by play of Mozart's life, the movie unfolds as young Salieri (Best Actor winner F. Murry Abraham) a popular composer, begins to be passed over once Mozart (Best Actor nominee Tom Hulce) comes on the scene.

Salieri, was actually cherished in his time, but he proclaimed he would never be remembered, and he guessed right. Mozart overpowered him in every sense of the word.

Mozart was a child prodigy and had incredible ease at visualizing music and putting it on paper.  Never before have I seen a film that magnifies the artistic process in this way. It feels like we are right along with Mozart as every note pops into his head and flows down to his fingers. 

While at first an admirer of his talent, this ease of composing began to pick at Salieri's brain and drive him into attempts of sabotaging Mozart's success.

Not a typical bio-pic, but in a good way, as the best part of the movie is the exaggerated characterization of Mozart. Through the blind jealousy of Salieri's storytelling, we get a comical version of Mozart; one who would have donned his best pink wig to glam rock out with Bowie and Elton John.

We also get a man who is portrayed as an immature baby, who cries and throws tantrums, and is overtly silly, with a laugh that is so crazy you have to hear it to understand. (YES! There is a compilation clip, my favorite.)

While some of these traits are claimed to be somewhat true to the actual Mozart, it is more fun to take it as the fantastical way that Salieri chose to see Mozart. We all learn about Mozart as being one of the most legendary composers, but Salieri only saw him as an annoying immature wreck. No one see's themselves exactly as others do.

Besides the commanding story about jealously and immortality, any music fan will be enthralled by the immense amount of musical performances, highlighted by the greatest hits of Mozart.

Even though I played in an orchestra for most of my life, and love classical music, I didn't have high expectations for enjoying Amadeus. Sure, like some of these old best picture winners, parts are slow, but mostly it surprised me.

Next up: Streep and Redford look good while falling in love, in Out Of Africa.

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