Oscar Bait – Terms of Endearment

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Progress: 460/1007Title: Terms of Endearment
Director: James L. Brooks
Year: 1983
Country: USA

Before I go into Terms of Endearment there is one thing I want to say. I don’t get the appeal of Jack Nicholson. I might be re-treading on a post I have made earlier, but I swear he mainly plays shades of the same character. By the way the characters react to him his character, the ex-astronaut Garrett, you would think he was this alluring sexpot. I just see him as creepy. He doesn’t exactly treat Aurora (Shirley MacLaine) well and she is giddy about him in her own way.

Right, now that’s out of the way.

I have been leaving this film to nearly the end as I was under the impression that this was ‘the cancer movie’. A lot of the stereotypes of what makes for an Oscar film really seem to have peaked in the 1980s if you believe the hype.

Due to this reputation I have been really put off of seeing Terms of Endearment. Now that I have seen it, I don’t think it should have won that year. Going purely from the Best Picture nominees I would give it to The Right Stuff. Going by the 1983 films I have actually seen I would give it to Zelig.

I think this was a film that hub got into a lot more than I did. I was too distracted by Jack Nicholson’s creepiness whenever he appeared, as did the storyline of Aurora’s fascination with him.

Shirley MacLaine and Debra Winger, however were both fantastic as the mother and daughter. It’s a pity that they had to go up against each other for the Oscar, but in all fairness it was MacLaine who deserved the award more. There is a key scene in a hospital where MacLaine’s character freaks out at the nursing staff who are late with her daughter’s pain medication. It’s one of those moments where you can almost see the Academy ticking the box with glee.

The main thing that makes this movie good are their performances. They are both able to deliver the slightly offbeat humour and the feelings of tragedy that this film requires. You also have good supporting performances by John Lithgow and Jeff Daniels to back them up in this dramedy about the relationships we form as adults.

The labelling of this as the ‘cancer film’ whilst being somewhat correct is not completely accurate. In fact, you are pretty deep in the second half before it even comes up. It is even handled with a great deal of matter-of-factness. I was expecting this sweeping ‘woe is me’ melodrama when what I got was people just trying to deal with it the best they can. Not exactly warts and all, as the character doesn’t visibly suffer much before death, but it works with the emotional toll it can take.

Two Best Pictures to go!

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