Oscar History

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Happy Birthday Amadeus!

Today is the 258th birthday of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Of course he didn't live to see 258 (unless there's a vampire Mozart creeping around), dying an ignoble pauper's burial death at 35 despite a lifetime's worth of legendary brilliant compositions already behind him. Remember how great Amadeus (1984) was back when the biopic genre still produced huge quality epics? Remember when The Academy understood that movies could have two leads of the same gender? [More...]

Tom Hulce as Amadeus in "Amadeus" (1984)

In today's Oscar climate Amadeus, which was grandly entertaining (at least as I recall it) as well as gloriously crafted both visually and aurally (it won 8 Oscars), I suspect it would still be a very big deal but surely Salieri (F Murray Abraham), whose story it so subversively is despite the title, would be reduced to "Best Supporting Actor"... yet another indignity for the jealous forgotten composer!

F Murray Abraham as Salieri

How long has it been since you've seen Amadeus (1984). It's been AGES for me. I wonder it it's still all that?

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Reader Comments (26)

Our middle school music teacher played it everytime he had a hangover so I saw it dozens of times then but it's been at least three or four years since I last saw it...I remember it very fondly.

January 27, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMYS

I remember seeing Christine Ebersole and Cynthia Nixon for the first time in Amadeus. I should probably say something slightly more intelligent about the movie too.

January 27, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMustafa

What a shame about Berridge's non nomination in a weak field and subsequent career.

January 27, 2014 | Unregistered Commentermark

Loved this film. Watched it again last year before a trip to Vienna. It holds up well and Hulce is a hoot.

January 27, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterHenry

I watched Amadeus a few years ago, and it remains on the list of my top ten favorites of all time.

January 27, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSan FranCinema

I was going to say something about how sad it was that Tom Hulce never had a great follow-up as an actor, especially because he is one of the few out Oscar-nominated actors, but my (brief) Google search was ambiguous about his public sexual identity, so maybe I'm just adding to unwelcome gossip and rumor. Oh well.

January 27, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterOwen Walter

It's funny, I actually just saw this for the first time a few days ago -- what are the odds! The version I saw was the three-hour long directors cut that supposedly has more scenes with F Murray Abraham; if released now he would definitely be considered lead with Tom Hulce as supporting. The music is of course brilliant, with the costumes and set design being very well done as well. The weakest part of the movie for me was the performance of the female lead, Elizabeth Berridge; she was absolutely TERRIBLE, really brought down any scene she was in.

I should also mention the ridiculousness of Tom Hulce's laugh and how much I enjoyed it. Luckily there's a supercut up on youtube:


January 27, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMDA

It is still all that, and I'd say that the Director's Cut wasn't even necessary and is slightly inferior to the theatrical release which was a totally deserving awards juggernaut in its own right. And having just finished watching all the Best Picture Oscar winners - a feat that took me not more than the brief moment of 22 years to accomplish - I sincerely wish that all the other Oscar movies would be only one-tenth as good as Amadeus is.

January 27, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterWilly

I probably rewatch this every two or three years; it is a favorite.

January 27, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBrianZ

@Willy: I think the director's cut is superior, because the explanation for why Constanze becomes so hostile to Salieri is really important. Without that scene, the climactic "Requiem" scene makes less sense.

January 27, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSean C.

Amadeus holds a special place in my heart since its Oscar's Best Picture for the year I was born. Thus, I held a high opinion of it before I had ever even seen it. I love it so much - a model of stage-to-screen adaptation with delicious performances and stellar design. I haven't seen it a good number of years, but I have such fond memories of it. And yeah, I'm in the camp that were it released today, Salieri would be campaigned as Lead and Mozart as Supporting, however unfair and untrue that classification would be.

January 27, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterdenny

@Willy -- I, too, am watching all the best picture winners. I've already decided to watch "Amadeus" last because I want to end on a high note. And it would be a shame to end with something like "The Life of Emile Zola" or "Cimarron" don't you think? I'm about 15 movies away from "Amadeus." Realistically, I'll probably make it there sometime next year.

January 27, 2014 | Unregistered Commentercash

I watched it a few years ago in an undergrad. music history class. Ironic since it is loosely, if at all, historical. Though from a purely film-based standpoint, one of my friends had a film prof. who raved about the lighting in it. Pretty funny.

January 27, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKevin P.

I just remember his ridiculous laugh and those awesome cotton candy wigs.

I want a whole closet of those awesome cotton candy wigs.

F. Murray Abraham was indeed fantastic tho.

January 27, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMark The First

It's been maybe since 2006 or '07 I think and that was the second time I'd seen it all the way through. I remember it as being good with great performances and the sets were fantastic. However, it is overlong. I can't believe it's been 30 years since two men were up for Best Actor for the same film. Why, just last year we could have had Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman competing against each other.

January 27, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSean Troutman

Best Actress sucked in 84, but Amadeus and A Passage to India were so good!

January 27, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

it's my #2 of all time. A stunning achievement and sheer perfection in every single level

January 27, 2014 | Unregistered Commentereduardo

I watch it at least once a year, otherwise my body would desintegrate into molecules (to borrow a line from Before Sunset)

January 27, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBensunce

Yes, it's still all that. I watch this film every year, and I like it even more every time I watch. I totally agree with you with the whole argument of there was a time when two actors of the same film could be nominated for lead actors awards. It's ridiculous today how sometimes there are two equally main characters but seems to much for the Academy to nominate both for lead. Preposterous. Mozart-Salieri is probably my favourite duo in film history. Love their history (although distorted from reality) and interaction. AMAZING actors.

January 27, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMonique

AMAZING movie. F. Murray Abraham is unbelievably great. The music, the sets, and the costumes are phenomenal. The only complaint I have, which was echoed by others, is Elizabeth Berridge's performance as Constanze. It is very mediocre and sticks out among the brilliance that surrounds her.

January 27, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJoe

Sean, but there's already enough explanation in the theatrical release's shorter version of her encouter with Saliere. Not to mention the mere sight of Tom Hulce in his final scene, one of the very few times where an actor in his prime actually looked as if he was dying on screen. I'd for sure be furious if I'd be in Frau Mozart's shoes. (And Dick Smith is a genius.) Either way, I definitely think that the Director's Cut is worth a look as well.
Cash, in my opinion, The Life Of Emile Zola is a half-decent film and nowhere near as bad as Cimarron.
Owen Walter, since Tom Hulce was discreet about his sexual orientation, one probably should not see him as an "out actor" at the time of his Oscar nomination, at least not in the Ian McKellen sense of "out". However, Hulce became more outspoken in recent years and has confirmed that he feels comfortable being referred to as a "gay actor".

January 28, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterWilly

Owen & Willy -- yeah, Hulce was not 'out' at the time but has since come out. He did have some other high profile movies after that (remember Parenthood?) but Amadeus was a hard act to follow.

Everyone -- even though Abraham & Hulce are both amazing in the movie I love thinking about it with other cast members from stage and tv version before the movie... I mean, Sir Ian McKellen could have been a movie star much soooner than he became one!

Salieris before Abraham: Ian McKellen, Paul Scofield John Wood, Frank Langella, David Dukes, David Birney, John Horton, and Daniel Davis.
Amadeus before Hulce: Tim Curry, Simon Callow, Peter Firth, Peter Crook, Dennis Boutsikaris, John Pankow, Mark Hamill, and John Thomas Waite.

I wonder if Mark Hamill's career would have been different had he moved right from his run in the play in 83 over to the movie?

January 28, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterNATHANIEL R

This was one of the first "grown-up" movies I saw in a theater; I loved it back in 1984, and I still love it. (I'm glad the R-rated Director's Cut wasn't originally released, because my parents never would have taken me to see it!) I think it's one of the best Best Picture winners. I last saw it about a year ago.

F. Murray Abraham was an example of an Oscar winner whose career went nowhere for so long; it's nice to see him working, albeit in small roles, on Homeland and in Inside Llewyn Davis. He seems to be settling into a career of playing intimidating men in control.

January 28, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

Willy -- OK, but do you still want to end on a best picture that is only "half-decent"? I'm certain I'd have been sad to end with it. Which film was your last? Were you disappointed/satisfied with it?
Also, isn't it kind of remarkable how much of a range there is in the quality of the best pictures? I have about 15 left to see, and I've already seen movies that are outright bad, some that are classics, and others that are everything in between. I thought they'd lean more heavily toward "classic" but that isn't necessarily true.

January 28, 2014 | Unregistered Commentercash

Just caught Inside Llewyn Davis, which I loved. Abraham really makes the most of his two minutes. I always was astonished that his career just sorta stumbled after his Oscar victory. Very curious.

January 28, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

Cash, I ended on The Broadway Melody which was in fact kinda, um, sorta, um, "half-decent" for me. But what does it matter? I tend to forget what I don't want to rewatch and instead prefer to return to timeless classics like Casablanca and Lawrence Of Arabia which have already given me so much pleasure.
What surprised me more than the Best Picture winners' range of quality was - and it pains me to admit it - that my personal taste seems to align comparatively closely with the Academy. About 50 of the Oscar movies fall into the category of "very good to downright great" for me, about 25 I can (more or less) tolerate, and only about 10 are a clear NO for me. Guess I've got bad taste and need to hole up now.

January 28, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterWilly

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