movie

Five Decades of Nominees – 1994 – ‘The Remains of the Day’

Snooze

Alright. We’ve come to the end of the 1994 nominees for Best Picture. And what a snoozy doozy way to end them. I’ve been sitting on how to approach writing about this movie for a couple days, and I just…well, let’s give it a shot.

I’ll start with the acting. Anthony Hopkins, the most recent, and controversial winner of the Best Actor award, is so Anthony Hopkins in this. He’s a butler of a giant estate owned by a nazi sympathizer in pre-World War II England, and he rules every scene, as he always does. When I say Hopkins is so Hopkins, you know what I mean: he’s got those signature tics, the witty little reactions, the head-held-high snootiness that he’s best known for.

As always, he’s great, and I really think this movie would have been in a lot of trouble without him. Emma Thompson, like Hopkins, is who she always is – not bad, just incredibly British and sad, and honestly, it took me three sittings to finish this movie because Thompson films put me to sleep.

Something strange to see is Christopher Reeve, just a couple years before his debilitating accident that ultimately led to his death, as the American ambassador that attempts to convince the owner of the manor not to work with the Germans. The acting is here, the problem is, there’s not much else.

There are also a couple of Game of Thrones alums in this, not surprising since it’s probably the most British movie ever made. We’ve got a really young Lena Headey as a housekeeper, and that old blind dude from the wall as Hopkins’ dad.

This movie drags. Hard. I haven’t read the book, of course, but I came away from the film wondering what the hell just didn’t happen. I won’t ruin it for you, but when the credits rolled, I was really surprised. It’s one of the dullest endings to a movie I’ve ever seen, and I’m guessing it’s explained better in the novelization.

The strangest part of the film for me, is that there is this clique of butlers and housekeepers, and they’ve all crossed paths at some point. And there is also this hierarchy in which these people are fighting over, and the top spot is butler. Like, I’m sorry, but what the fuck? Is this a strictly British thing that I’ve never heard of or read about? Or was this made up for dramatic effect? What the hell is going on in this movie?

Sorry. I will say, the movie is pretty. It’s shot so well, and though it doesn’t really take many risks, each shot feels like a painting you’d find in a gallery. There’s a scene toward the end, where Hopkins and Thompson are sitting on a pier and the lights come on, and the contrast of the lights’ colors are absolutely mesmerizing. There is also a sunset scene with Hopkins driving that really is amazing. Trouble is, a lot of these shots make you feel like you’re watching something on PBS. I know there’s a market for that (probably bigger than I think), but woof, not my bag, man.

This is the sort of movie that’s playing at your grandma’s house on her tiny TV on a summer afternoon. It’s a costume designer’s blueprint, a Masterpiece Theater special stretched long, the film that appeases your groaning grandparents so they’ll watch the Oscars. It’s undeniably, the worst of the five ’94 nominees: not necessarily bad, but without the substance of the other four.

Where is ‘Philadelphia,’ by the way? How did that movie not get nominated? It’s cool that Hanks won Best Actor, but that movie carries so much more emotional depth and focuses on a much bigger worldwide issue than The Remains of the Day attempts to. Perhaps AIDS was still much too taboo for the Academy, but Philadelphia absolutely crushes me every time I see it.

Well, that’s the end of the 1994 nominees. Overall, the right movie won, and it really wasn’t close. I feel like four of these should have been nominated, but that seems to be the case every year. Next up for this month, we’ve got the 1985 nominees. I’ll try to squeeze them all in this month, but life has a way of making that tough, so we’ll see.

Have you seen The Remains of the Day and want to tell me I’m absolutely wrong? Think some other movies from 1993 should have been nominated for the ’94 Oscars that weren’t? Let me know in the comments or on Instagram, and it’ll probably help me write these in the future.