1980 Academy Awards®
Winners and History
Introduction, 1927/8-39, 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, 2000s, 2010s
Academy Awards Summaries
"Best Picture" Oscar®, "Best Director" Oscar®, "Best Actor" Oscar®, "Best Supporting Actor" Oscar®,
"Best Actress" Oscar®, "Best Supporting Actress" Oscar®, "Best Screenplay/Writer" Oscar®
This was the year in which former actor and Screen Actors Guild president Ronald Reagan was elected President of the US. Coincidentally, the attempted assassination of President Reagan by John Hinckley, Jr. (obsessed by Martin Scorsese's film Taxi Driver (1976) and its young actress Jodie Foster) on March 30, 1981 led to the postponement of the awards show by one day. This was the third instance in Academy history that the ceremony was postponed (it was also delayed in 1938 and 1968).
Most of the Best Picture nominees in this year were not spectaculars or blockbusters, but unique films about struggling, ordinary, real-life people. The winner was the well-acted, low-budget human drama Ordinary People (with six nominations and four wins, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Supporting Actor), an emotional film - about fictional people - in a year filled with seven nominations for real individuals.
It showed the devastating results of the accidental drowning of the older son on the upper-middle class suburban Jarrett family (led by parents Mary Tyler Moore and Donald Sutherland), and in particular, the tragedy's effects on the remaining suicidal and tormented grief-stricken son (Timothy Hutton), even with the aid of a psychiatrist (Judd Hirsch). The film's unsentimental story was adapted from Judith Guest's highly-regarded 1976 novel by Alvin Sargent. It was the last Best Picture winner without a Film Editing nomination.
Popular acting star and sex symbol Robert Redford won two Oscar awards (his first wins) for Best Director and Best Picture for his directorial debut. Redford became the first major acting star to take a turn at directing in order to win the Oscar - for his first film. [Delbert Mann was the last director to win the Best Director award in his first attempt, for Marty (1955).] In the middle of his acting career, Redford had been nominated only once before, for The Sting (1973), but had appeared in the enormously-popular Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) and All The President's Men (1976). Redford also founded the independent-film organization, The Sundance Institute, in 1980.
[Note: This year marked the first (of many instances) in which nominated director Martin Scorsese lost his Best Director bid. This time, he lost for Raging Bull (1980)) to an actor making his directorial debut; the second occurrence of losing to another actor was ten years later (Dances With Wolves (1990), Kevin Costner).]
Three of the other Best Picture nominees were specifically based on authentic figures:
[The biggest box-office film of 1980 was producer George Lucas' The Empire Strikes Back (with only three nominations and one win - Best Sound, and an additional Special Award for Visual Effects), the second in the Star Wars (1977) trilogy.]
Michael Apted, the director of Best Picture-nominated Coal Miner's Daughter, was not nominated for Best Director. The fifth nominated director joining the other four Best Picture-nominated directors was Richard Rush for the well-crafted, puzzling and startling film The Stunt Man (with three nominations and no wins), about a power-crazed film director who convinces a fugitive to become a stunt man in his cinematic creations.
Seven of the 20 acting nominations were for portrayals of real-life personages:
Not surprisingly, three of the four acting awards (with asterisks) went to performers who had portrayed real people.
Robert De Niro (with his fourth nomination and second Oscar win) finally won his first Best Actor Oscar in his fourth film with director Martin Scorsese. The Oscar was for his brilliant, realistic performance as the raw and brutal, but washed-up boxer Jake La Motta who becomes overweight and forgotten in Raging Bull. The actor had gained 56 pounds in preparation for his role. [DeNiro won another Oscar as Best Supporting Actor for The Godfather, Part II (1974), six years earlier.]
The other four Best Actor nominees were nominated for equally dramatic, quality performances:
In the same manner that De Niro was trained for his role by Jake La Motta, Sissy Spacek, the winner of the Best Actress award (with her second career nomination and first Oscar), was chosen by Loretta Lynn to play herself in the part of a poor Appalachian girl who becomes country-western superstar Loretta in the expert rags-to-riches bio film by British director Michael Apted's Coal Miner's Daughter - Spacek did her own singing in the film, as did Beverly D'Angelo in the part of Patsy Cline.
The other Best Actress nominees were:
Two of the supporting actors in Ordinary People were co-nominees in the Best Supporting Actor category:
The other three Best Supporting Actor nominees were:
The Best Supporting Actress award was a surprise victory for Mary Steenburgen (with her sole career nomination) for her role as Lynda Dummar - the wife of real-life fortune hunter and Utah gas-station owner Melvin Dummar, and also a go-go-dancer, in Melvin and Howard.
The other nominees were:
Henry Fonda (1905-1982) received an Honorary Oscar (his first) -as "the consummate actor, in recognition of his brilliant accomplishments and enduring contribution to the art of motion pictures." He received only one Oscar nomination (Best Actor) in his illustrious career for The Grapes of Wrath (1940) - previous to this Honorary Oscar. He finally won a competitive Oscar -- the next year-- as Best Actor for his role in On Golden Pond (1981).
Oscar Snubs and Omissions:
The second film in the Star Wars sci-fi trilogy, The Empire Strikes Back by director Irvin Kershner, was overlooked as a Best Picture nominee. Out of its three minor nominations, the film only achieved one win - Best Sound!
Director/co-writer/producer Stanley Kubrick's horror film The Shining was entirely neglected without a single nomination, with its stark quintessential performances by Jack Nicholson as bedeviled hotel proprietor/caretaker Jack Torrance who saw ghostly reminders in the wintry Overlook Hotel, and Shelley Duvall as his terrorized wife Wendy who saw evidence of Jack's insanity in his writing ("All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"). And its innovative Steadi-cam cinematography by John Alcott was also ignored.
And director Walter Hill's violent adult Western The Long Riders about the James-Younger gang was completely empty-handed in the nominations department, as was the definitive comedy spoof film Airplane! by the Zucker team and Jim Abrahams.
Other films without Best Picture nominations (and no nominations at all for most of them) included Melvin and Howard, My Brilliant Career (with only one nomination for Best Costume Design), Return of the Secaucus Seven, Brian De Palma's thriller Dressed to Kill (with Michael Caine and Angie Dickinson), and American Gigolo. Woody Allen's Stardust Memories was completely overlooked for Best Picture, Best Director (Allen), Best Actor (Allen as Sandy Bates), Best Supporting Actress (Charlotte Rampling and Jessica Harper), Original Screenplay (Allen) and arguably Gordon Willis' best cinematography, shot in black-and-white; part of the reason the film was overlooked was for its caustic, biting satire at Woody Allen fans and studios. Also, the film's release coincided with the shooting death (two months later) of Beatles band member John Lennon [the film featured a scene in which a gunman shot Sandy Bates (Allen) while saying, "I'm your biggest fan" -- the same thing Mark David Chapman said as he shot Lennon].
In a major snub, Donald Sutherland, who played chilly Mary Tyler Moore's straight-laced, WASP businessman-husband Calvin Jarrett in the Best Picture, Ordinary People, was unnominated - playing opposite other nominated (and winning) co-stars (Mary Tyler Moore, Timothy Hutton, and Judd Hirsch). In fact, he has never received a nomination in his entire career.
Although Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears won the Best Foreign Language Film award, it should have been won instead by either Akira Kurosawa's Kagemusha or Francois Truffaut's The Last Metro.
Judy Davis was un-nominated for her performance as headstrong heroine Sybylla Melvyn in Gillian Anderson's Australian film My Brilliant Career. And Pamela Reed was deserving of a nomination as Howard Hughes-befriending Melvin Dummar's second wife Bonnie in director Jonathan Demme's Melvin and Howard. Jodie Foster was un-nominated as modern-day teenager Jeanie in director Adrian Lyne's feature film debut Foxes, and Helen Mirren was denied a nomination for her role as co-star Bob Hoskin's crime boss wife Victoria in John Mackenzie's British modern crime classic The Long Good Friday. Although Dolly Parton received a Best Song nomination for music and lyrics for the title song in 9 to 5 (the film's sole nomination), she was un-nominated for her film debut role as married secretary Doralee Rhodes. Scott Glenn as the ex-con and mechanical bull rider who becomes attractive to Debra Winger, was un-nominated in Urban Cowboy. And Beverly D'Angelo (who performed her own songs) was neglected for her role as country music queen Patsy Cline in Coal Miner's Daughter.
Max von Sydow's work as Emperor Ming the Merciless in the campy Flash Gordon (with no nominations) was likewise bypassed. And Xanadu's two hit songs, "Suddenly" and "Magic" by Olivia Newton-John were not among the Best Song nominees.