Starring: Massimo Troisi (in his posthumous final role), Philippe Noiret, Maria Grazia Cucinotta, Renato Scarpa
Director: Michael Radford
Summary: A simple Italian postman learns to love poetry while delivering mail to a famous poet, and uses this to woo a local beauty
Other Nominations: Director, Actor (Troisi), Adapted Screenplay, Original Dramatic Score*
*Il Postino was released in Italy in 1994, but not in America until 1995, hence why it was nominated this year*
Of the 537 so honored with a Best Picture nomination, only eight others besides Il Postino (The Grand Illusion, Z, The Emmigrants, Cries and Whispers, Life is Beautiful, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Letters from Iwo Jima, and Amour) were not English-language films, and one of those was an American production. So why did this movie get singled out where so many others have failed? One, it got distributed by Miramax and no one ran Oscar campaigns like the Harvey Weinstein back then; and two, it’s star and co-writer Massimo Troisi put off heart surgery to finish the film, pushed through his fatigue during the production, and died the day after it wrapped of a heart attack. This “passion for the art” narrative made marketing it to Academy members and the general public easy.
As for the film itself? It’s fine, but nothing particularly memorable. Troisi has charm and also good chemistry with Noiret but I wouldn’t have nominated him. Winning for score surprises me, as it felt like pretty standard romantic Italian music to me. Really, not a lot stood out to me from any other romance film; it looked like it was heading in a really interesting direction for the last 25 minutes, showing the kind of postscript after most romance films end and re-contextualizing what came before it, but instead it went super sentimental and squandered what could have been unique and different. If you want to see a romance movie with pretty scenery from an island in Italy, it fits the bill, but as a Best Picture nominee, it wasn’t up to snuff.