the piano

Five Decades of Nominees – 1994 – ‘The Piano’

What the Fuck

It struck me a couple of months ago that I haven’t seen that many Best Picture nominees, and I should probably be better about it. I realize that being nominated doesn’t necessarily make a movie great – especially in the Academy – but, the films nominated are also often recognized because of their impact and reflection of society at the time.

I got it in my head that I could go back 50 years to 1971, put all the years individually into a hat, and randomly choose a year’s nominees for each month. Now, it’s going to take me about 5 years to do this, and I don’t really know what the end goal is – maybe I’ll write a book, or maybe it’s just nothing more than cinematic enlightenment – but anyway, 1994 is up first this month. I’ll do a small review of each movie I watch on here, along with some opinions and comparisons to their running mates.

I started this little journey by randomly picking 1994 first. I’ve never seen a few of these, so I decided to go with The Piano to start, a movie I actually knew nothing about and confused with ‘The Pianist’ a few too many times. I didn’t know who starred in it, and assumed it was some sort of Jane Austenesque comedy. Hot damn, was I wrong.

The movie stars Holly Hunter, Sam Neill, and Harvey Keitel in one of his weirdest performances since Bad Lieutenant. I’ll spare you the fat, and just tell you that this is one strangely fucked up story concerning mutes that love the piano, Sam Neill peeping on his wife cheating, white men taking advantage of Natives, and Harvey Keitel’s gratuitous donger.

Ok, I’ll tell you a bit more. Holly Hunter’s character is a widow with a young daughter (True Blood’s Anna Paquin) that is married unwittingly to a man on an island by her father. Hunter is mute, due to some sort of an accident, and is obsessed with this piano that she refuses to let out of her sight. As the movie progresses, there are even more obsessions that come to light, and the ending was a bit more astounding than I ever would have guessed going into this film.

A few things about this movie that I noticed, included its cinematography, the beautiful music, and some incredible shots from the beaches of New Zealand. A lot of the scenes were awash in a heavy blue filter, that really built a somber mood. The piano-soaked Michael Nyman score matched it beautifully, and those beach shots couldn’t be prettier.

What wasn’t pretty? Man, I totally get that there is more female nudity than male in film, especially the mainstream ones, but wow, Keitel is not historically shy about his package on screen. And you get quite an extended take in this flick. Hunter isn’t too shy either, in one of those scenes where you start to question whether or not they’re really getting down. Hey, if they decide to, more power to ya, I guess.

Anyway, I think this movie was set up pretty harshly with competition like Schindler’s List and the classically awesome, The Fugitive. It’s one of those films that you’d totally expect to show up in the running and not win. You know what I’m talking about – the period piece costumes, the story catered toward bored, post-menopausal housewives – but I did end up enjoying it a bit more than I thought. It wraps up nicely and pays off in the end.

I’ll be back in a few days with a review for The Fugitive. Until then, let me know if you’d like these to look a little different, or if there are other aspects I should focus on!