Starring: F. Murray Abraham, Tom Hulce, Elizabeth Berridge, Jeffrey Jones, Roy Dotrice, Charles Kay, Cynthia Nixon
Director: Milos Forman
Summary: The 18th century composer Salieri confesses to a deadly rivalry with Mozart
Other Nominations: Director*, Actor (Abraham)*, Actor (Hulce), Adapted Screenplay*, Sound Mixing*, Art Direction*, Cinematography, Makeup*, Costume Design*, Film Editing
Note: I watched the Director’s Cut which is about 20 minutes longer and has nudity-it was the version I had available to me on Netflix Instant. I believe it’s the slightly Inferior version, as most of what’s added isn’t worth it.
Easily one of the best nominees of the 80s so far and by far the best of the BP winners. Abraham is given an amazing part in Salieri and absolutely crushes it and is a deserving Best Actor winner. The rest of the cast is great as well, especially Hulce (who was seemingly cast solely due to his voice and having the most irritating laugh in the world which perfectly fits the character), Berridge (who feels really natural and authentic in her role as Mozart’s wife and I feel should have picked up a Supporting Actress nomination here) and a pre-Ferris Bueller Jeffrey Jones. The movie has strong themes of religion, faith and a terrific main storyline: Salieri was more successful than Mozart in many ways-the Emperor loved his work (considering him superior to Mozart) and he lived an extremely comfortable life, but he as a trained musician saw how inferior he was to Mozart and the only thing that would satisfy him is if he either did something he considered superior to Mozart, or he dragged Mozart down into to failure in order to spit in the face of a god who he thinks played the cruelest of jokes on him. Finally, the makeup by Dick Smith (The Exorcist) for the older version of Salieri is top-notch and the kind of work you rarely see anymore.
One common criticism (or something akin to criticism) is that the movie’s extremely loose with the facts; for me, historical accuracy is not especially important here, as it’s not a biopic but is instead using historical figures to tell a much broader story than just their life stories. The one negative I would say though is that the movie isn’t as strong whenever it shifts focus from Salieri to just being on Mozart, who is a far less interesting character when he’s not playing off of or being contrasted with Salieri.
Overall: One of, if not the best BP winner of the 1980s, it’s an outstanding story of faith and obsession with a compelling main character and many terrific performances.