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Movies of 1988 Bracket Game: Working Girl Vs. The Accused

By and large, the movies of 1988 were pretty heavy on the testosterone.  The bracket game reflects the male-centric cinema of thirty years ago.  (Let’s not kid ourselves, things haven’t changed all that much.)  A few of the movies in our bracket game feature strong female characters, but there weren’t a lot of female protagonists to choose from.  Some movies I considered for inclusion were Mystic Pizza, Hairspray, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Gorillas in the Mist and Married to the Mob.  I ended up choosing Working Girl and The Accused because I felt they better represented what was going on in movies in 1988.

But first, let’s take a look at the results of yesterday’s action-movie showdown.

It will come as no surprise that the original Die Hard triumphed over Midnight Run.  Facing stiff odds, De Niro and Grodin walked away with just over 25% of the votes which I think is a respectable showing.  While I don’t think the outcome was ever in question, plenty of people expressed that this was a difficult choice for them which is of course exactly what I am shooting for.  John McClane will advance to round two where he will face off against the winner of today’s match-up.

Working Girl was essentially a Cinderella story for the 80’s.  In this fairy tale, Cinderella aspires to be a corporate executive with sensible business attire and her own office.  The idea that a lowly secretary could climb the corporate ladder was seen as a message of empowerment at the time despite the fact that her primary adversary was a female rival.  Director Mike Nichols gave the movie an air or respectability it probably didn’t deserve.  The resulted in several Oscar nominations including Best Actress for Melanie Griffith who was suffering with major substance abuse issues the entire time she was making the movie.

Prior to Working Girl, Griffith’s career was in trouble.  She had been typecast for playing strippers and hookers and had a bad reputation for her drug and alcohol problems.  Post WG, Griffith went into rehab and cleaned herself up.  Although she never really capitalized on the movie’s success, Working Girl (with the help of an Oscar nomination and a Golden Globe win) set Griffith up as an A-list actress going into the next decade.

The movie was also nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, twice for Best Supporting Actress (Joan Cusack and Sigourney Weaver) and Best Original Song.  Ultimately, Carly Simon took home a statue for “Let the River Run.”  Working Girl fared better at the Golden Globes where it could compete in the comedy categories.  But its biggest success was at the box office where it grossed over $60 million dollars making it the 11th highest grossing movie of the year.

The Accused was also a comeback story.  Jodie Foster had spent much of the decade attempting to transition from a child actor into adult roles.  She landed the lead role in The Accused because pretty much everyone else in Hollywood including costar Kelly McGillis had passed on it.  McGillis took the part of the Assistant District Attorney instead because she was worried that playing a victim of rape would bring back painful memories of her own personal experiences.  Ultimately Foster took the part no one else wanted and ended up winning her first Best Actress Oscar for it.

Reviews were mostly positive with many critics touting The Accused as “important”.  Despite the difficult subject matter, the movie was a box office hit.  It grossed $32 million dollars on a $6 million dollar budget making The Accused the 36th highest grossing movie of the year.

Which of these Oscar-winning movies holds up better for you thirty years later?

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Posted on January 4, 2018, in Bracket Game, Movies and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. Looking at it, I see they’re about neck and neck in the voting.

    The Accused is an “important” movie. But it’s also well-made. It’s common for so-called “important” movie (especially nowadays) to be praised for taking on important issues without taking into account if it’s well-made. The Accused is well-made and wall-acted.

    however, it’s also one of those movies (like 12 Years A Slave, The Grey Zone) that’s well-done and tackles significant issues that I can’t bring myself to watch more than once.

    Working Girl is one that can be watched simply for pure entertainment.

    The Accused is probably the better movie of the two.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well said Jeff. The Accused is a strong film. But as moviegoers, how often do we return to movies about strong subject matter like rape? Working Girl is a fun watch, and one I’d return to far more often than The Accused, even if it’s the more well-crafted film of the two.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t feel like either of these movies has aged especially well. Of the two, WG is arguably the more problematic. The movie wants to be seen as a feminist anthem when secretly it suggests the real reason women can’t get ahead is that they are too busy fighting with one another over who gets to date Harrison Ford. Also, if you want to get ahead in business, apparently you just need an 80’s power-suit.

      The Accused, on the other hand, can feel like an R-rated TV movie of the week. And the rape scene strikes many as exploitative. With that said, the power of Foster’s performance is undeniable. I don’t want to revisit The Accused with any regularity, but it’s probably going to get my vote on the basis of quality.

      Whichever movie wins, I expect it will get dusted by Die Hard in round 2.

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  2. By the way, fun fact related to Working Girl: of course Melanie Griffith plays the lead in the film, but the film was sold with Harrison Ford having top billing, and it’s here where I dive into fun trivia: this is one of eight films that Ford has appeared in that was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture. Chronologically, the list goes:

    1) American Graffiti, 1973 – lost to The Sting.
    2) The Conversation, 1974 – lost to The Godfather Part II
    3) Star Wars – lost to Annie Hall
    4) Apocalypse Now – lost to Kramer Vs. Kramer
    5) Raiders of the Lost Ark – lost to Chariots of Fire
    6) Witness – lost to Out Of Africa
    7) Working Girl – lost to Rain Man
    8) The Fugitive – lost to Schindler’s List

    It’s kind of fun to look at that list, because you get to see the progression of Ford’s career through the years from bit player (American Graffiti, The Conversation) to supporting actor (Star Wars) to lead actor (Raiders, Witness, Working Girl, Fugitive).

    Also, last bit of fun trivia: Ford almost added two more films to this list. Ford filmed a scene where he played Elliot’s principal in a deleted scene from E.T. – The Extraterrestrial which also was nominated for Best Picture, and despite being heavily involved in the pre-production of Traffic, even to the point of suggesting changes to the script, he bowed out at the last minute for Micheal Douglas to enter, and the film gained a Best Picture nomination. That could have raised his number to 10 Best Picture nominees.

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    • Nice list. Looks like Ford is a Best Picture cures. You may get nominated, but you’ll never win. 😉

      If you look at the poster at the top of the article, Ford’s name clearly comes first. But the billing is masked with names appearing in a strange configuration. Griffith’s name appears in the center but lower than the two A-list stars. Weaver is on the same level as Ford but to the far right-hand side. Then you have that goofy-looking box where Griffith is barely visible behind Ford and Weaver both looking very smug.

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      • Yeah, it took me some years to recognize that configuration, but once I noticed it I cannot unsee it. I have seen that a thousand times, both in movies and television.

        I’m guessing this bizarre configuration of names on screen is born from massive egos arguing who deserves top billing on screen. “I’m the bigger star!’. “No, I’m the bigger draw!”. Somewhere, there’s an unknown marketing genius out there who came up with the idea….. what if we have multiple names on screen, but we list one name first, but lower, and the second name higher than the other? That way, both egos will be appeased!

        I hope that guy got a raise, because it’s subtly brilliant. lol

        Liked by 1 person

        • I suspect a lot of it has to do with agents flexing their muscles as well. Ultimately, yeah, it’s a pissing contest.

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        • Exactly! “Your client has first billing, and my client has second billing – but their name is higher on the screen! Ha, ha!”

          Yeah, this has always come off to me as a Wizard of Oz-type peeking behind the curtain, and seeing how Hollywood functions, so to speak. And I love it.

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