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Should Have Won An Oscar: Ran (1985)

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Akira Kurosawa Ran

When it comes to the Academy, xenophobia is as American as apple pie. Which helps explain why Akira Kurosawa’s stunning and profound Ran, a striking adaptation of King Lear, wasn’t nominated–not even among a relatively weak field.

The Japanese master, well known for the eastern westerns like The Seven Samurai and Yojimbo, does battle like no one else. The most expensive Japanese film ever, Ran’s military set pieces exploit the director’s lifetime of cinema experience with incomparable brilliance. Thundering steeds, blaring horns, steel against steel: Ran is full of sound and fury that signifies something.

It probably signified too much for the Academy, despite the usual mitigating factors of lavish period costumes and historical sweep. The psychological despair of the feudal lord as his divided kingdom (and family) falls to ruins doesn’t exactly make for a feel-good Hollywood kinda flick.

But the ultimate coffin nail may have been that Tinseltown bugaboo: subtitles. Everyone knows folks in Hollywood never learned to read.

Nominees: The Color Purple, Kiss of the Spider Woman, Prizzi’s Honor, Witness
Winner: Out of Africa

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