Empire of the Sun was the pivot on which Steven Spielberg's career turned. Before, it was all pure fun and escapism; after, his films are characterized by deep shadows.
Ostensibly, Empire of the Sun is the story of one boy's experiences during World War II as he survives internment in a Japanese prison camp in China, but more broadly speaking, it's about the end of childhood.
Childhood is characterized above all by a sense of invulnerability, the fantasy that you're the center of the universe, that everyone is watching you, everyone cares what happens to you. Growing up is largely a process of being disabused of this notion, from the first time you fall and skin your knee, to the dream that didn't come true, to the death of someone important to you. It's a nearly universal experience, that moment of passing through something and coming out the other end changed forever, so much so that when once in a blue moon, you meet someone who's never had life kick them in the ass, they're like freaks with two heads.
But their moment is coming. It comes for everybody eventually.
PICTURE (Drama) winner:Empire Of The Sun (prod. Steven Spielberg, Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall)
PICTURE (Comedy/Musical) winner:The Princess Bride (prod. Rob Reiner and Andrew Scheinman)
PICTURE (Foreign Language) winner:Der Himmel über Berlin (Wings of Desire) (prod. Anatole Dauman and Wim Wenders)
ACTOR (Drama) winner: Joe Mantegna (House of Games)
ACTOR (Comedy/Musical) winner: Nicolas Cage (Raising Arizona and Moonstruck)
ACTRESS (Drama) winner: Glenn Close (Fatal Attraction)
ACTRESS (Comedy/Musical) winner: Cher (Moonstruck)
DIRECTOR (Drama) winner: Wim Wenders (Der Himmel über Berlin a.k.a. Wings of Desire)
DIRECTOR (Comedy/Musical) winner: Rob Reiner (The Princess Bride)
SUPPORTING ACTOR winner: Peter Falk (Der Himmel über Berlin a.k.a. Wings of Desire and The Princess Bride)
SUPPORTING ACTRESS winner: Anjelica Huston (The Dead)
SCREENPLAY winner: William Goldman, from his novel (The Princess Bride)
Named for Katie-Bar-The-Door, the Katies are "alternate Oscars"—who should have been nominated, who should have won—but really they're just an excuse to write a history of the movies from the Silent Era to the present day.
To see a list of nominees and winners as well as links to my essays about them, click here.
Remember: There are no wrong answers, only movies you haven't seen yet.
The Silent Oscars
And don't forget to check out the Silent Oscars—my year-by-year choices for best picture, director and all four acting categories for the pre-Oscar years, 1902-1927.
Look at me—Joe College, with a touch of arthritis. Are my eyes really brown? Uh, no, they're green. Would we have the nerve to dive into the icy water and save a person from drowning? That's a key question. I, of course, can't swim, so I never have to face it. Say, haven't you anything better to do than to keep popping in here early every morning and asking a lot of fool questions?