It might be 30 years late, but I’ll be catching up on all the Oscar nominees and winners I have missed from the year 1992 through the month of September
A French legend and a class comedian get the star vehicles meant to showcase their talents. Instead, the films around them falter, despite having some worthy aspects to each.
Mr. Saturday Night
Directed by Billy Crystal
Stand-up comedian Buddy Young Jr (Crystal) became a television star with the help of his brother and manager Stan (Oscar-nominated David Paymer). Now in his twilight years, Buddy wants to return to prominence but has to realize how much he has alienated everyone in his life due to his self-destructive nature.
While Crystal has a great morsel of an idea with the film, the execution just isn’t there. Buddy is far too hateful and grating to be a character anyone would want to root for. His joke delivery is constant and repetitive, without room to breathe. Some jokes land, but there is very little time to laugh before your senses are being pelted with the next. The idea of a terrible human and a good entertainer is an idea rich with narrative potential, but Crystal as the director is not capable of connecting the dots.
Crystal the actor does a fine job of eschewing his own persona without coming across as potentially true in the characterization. Paymer is much more empathetic as Stan. Is Stan the man behind the curtain or was he the one holding Buddy back? Neither know, but Stan is too good a human to care.
Regardless of the acting quality, the film wears too hard on the unpleasantness to be enjoyable. For a film about comedy, there is little to laugh about.
Directed by Régis Wargnier
Eliane Devires (Oscar-nominated Catherine Deneuve) runs a wealthy rubber plantation alongside her adopted daughter Camille (Linh Dan Pham) in 1930s Indochina (modern-day Vietnam). The single Eliane begins a torrid affair with a conflicted French Navy lieutenant Jean-Baptiste (Vincent Perez). When Jean-Baptiste saves Camille from a terrorist attack, the circumstances of the country and love collide.
The film is so wrapped up in ten different competing storylines, it can’t decide what film it wants to be. The plots turns from a love triangle, to unrequited love, to political revolution, to a chase, and ends up with further political intrigue and what it means to be a mother. All of that mess fighting for attention leaves the audience with an empty feeling of what is supposed to be important.
Deneuve is radiant. She does her most impressive work with her eyes, longing for more or for different. She is never regretful, but stands by her actions. Despite this being her lone Oscar nomination, it feels more like a culmination of a career of solid work outside of the English language. Pham is more of a plot device than a character. Her positive qualities and attributes are told by her mother more than shown. Perez is volitile in the role, but it has so many different shades, it never settles on coherence.
At over two-and-a-half hours, the film is a slog to watch, but often beautiful to look at. Deneuve deserves a better film for her lone nomination.
That concludes my Oscar blindspots from 1992!