359. Gandhi

Movie: Gandhi

Release Date: December 10, 1982 (USA)

Director: Richard Attenborough

Starring: Ben Kingsley, Candice Bergen, Edward Fox, John Gielgud, Trevor Howard, John Mills, Martin Sheen

Tag Lines: “His Triumph Changed The World Forever.”

“The Man of the Century. The Motion Picture of a Lifetime.”

“A WORLD EVENT! It took one remarkable man to defeat the British Empire and free a nation of 350 million people. His goal was freedom for India. His strategy was peace. His weapon was his humanity.”

Relevance: Growing up, our household got Home Box Office (HBO) sometime in the early 1980’s. Which means that not only did we get our weekly TV guide, so that my mom could do her crossword puzzle, we also got our monthly HBO guide. It was a small little pamphlet-like guide that listed, as one would imagine, what programs were playing on HBO and at what times. The cover was always of a big new release for that particular month. The back of the guide was always a sneak preview of what was coming the following month. It may sound silly now in the era of having all types of information at our fingertips, but at this particular time that little preview on the back of the HBO guide was very exciting. I don’t recall the exact year (I’m guessing somewhere in 1983 or early 1984), but I do remember the jubilation about seeing ‘Gandhi’ on the back of the guide. (I’m an odd 48 year old man, I was an even odder 12 year old boy.) It had already won the Academy Award for Best Picture in April of 1983. And although I was disappointed that my favorite movie at that time ‘E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial,’ of which I actually saw in the theater, did not win Best Picture, I was very curious about seeing the movie that the Oscars thought was ‘better’ than ‘E.T.’

When ‘Gandhi’ finally premiered on HBO, a certain 12 year old boy (probably closer to 13) was so confused about how this movie beat ‘E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial’ for Best Picture. It was a very long movie (about 3 hours and 11 minutes). So long in fact that there is an actual “INTERMISSION.” I did not even watch the movie in its entirety that first time. I’m sure I fell asleep. In fact, it took me many tries to watch the film throughout that month to finally see the entire thing from beginning to end. But I did it. I was determined to watch the winner of eight Academy Awards including Best Picture for that year. It’s not that I disliked the film. I was just young and a very dialogue driven drama about a historical figure just was not what I wanted. What I wanted was a story about a cute, lovable alien or a poltergeist scaring the hell out of a suburban family. But I am glad that I did watch ‘Gandhi’ and I am very grateful to my parents for letting me indulge my fondness of film by having HBO and exposing me to the Academy Awards. The month that ‘Gandhi’ was on HBO was in fact the only time I ever watched the movie.

Today’s Thoughts: As a movie and Academy Award fan, I started collecting all of the Best Picture winners on DVD or Blu Ray. I received ‘Gandhi’ as a gift a few years ago. It was still wrapped in cellophane when I went to watch it today. I knew going into the film that I was going to enjoy it a whole lot better than I did at the age of 12. Not only did I like it, I loved it. Ben Kingsley’s performance alone is worth the watch. He absolutely disappears into the role of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi and deserves all of the awards that were given to him. At 48, the movie didn’t even seem that long, although I did run to pee during the “INTERMISSION.” It’s a beautiful film that tells a story of a great man.

Biographical films get a lot of scrutiny from people (sometimes even me) for not telling the exact story or changing elements to enhance the theatrical presentation. My usual response is that a film, unless a documentary, has every right to take dramatic license and tell the story they want to tell. As long as the film captures the essence of the person, place or thing they are representing, I am ok with it. I was taken by the quote at the beginning of ‘Gandhi’ that sums this idea up nicely: “No one man’s life can be encompassed in one telling. There is no way to give each year its allotted weight, to include each event, each person who helped to shape a lifetime. What can be done is to be faithful in spirit to the record and try to find one’s way to the heart of the man….”

I am glad that when compiling the list for this challenge that I included ‘Gandhi.’ (It wasn’t always on the list.) But due to the memories I have of watching it, I decided to rank it. And because of that I now have a new respect for it. Film, and art in general, is so subjective to the timing that a person views it. If ‘Gandhi’ taught me one thing it is to be more open to things I may have dismissed in the past as it could turn out to be something that is cherished (or at least more understood) in the future.

Awards: Academy Award for Best Picture (winner), Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role, Ben Kingsley (winner), Academy Award for Best Director, Richard Attenborough (winner), Academy Award for Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the screen, John Briley (winner), Academy Award for Best Cinematography, Billy Williams, Ronnie Taylor (winner), Academy Award for Best Art Direction-Set Direction, Stuart Craig, Robert W. Laing, Michael Seirton, Academy Award for Best Costume Design, John Mollo, Bhanu Athaiya (winner), Academy Award for Best Editing, John Bloom (winner), Academy Award for Best Sound, Greg Humphreys, Robin O’Donoghue, Jonathan Bates, Simon Kaye (nomination), Academy Award for Best Music, Original Score, Ravi Shankar, George Fenton, (nomination), Best Makeup, Tom Smith (nomination), Golden Globe for Best Foreign Film (winner), Golden Globe for Best Director, Richard Attenborough (winner), Golden Globe for Best Actor, Ben Kingsley (winner), Golden Globe for New Star of the Year – Male, Ben Kingsley (winner), Golden Globe for Best Screenplay, John Briley (winner), Bafta Award for Best Actor, Ben Kingsley (winner), BAFTA for Best Direction, Richard Attenborough (winner), BAFTA for Best Film (winner), BAFTA for Most Outstanding Newcomer to Leading Film Roles, Ben Kingsley (winner), BAFTA for Best Supporting Actress, Rohini Hattangadi (winner), BAFTA for Best Cinematography, Billy Williams, Ronnie Taylor (nomination), BAFTA for Best Costume Design, John Mollo, Bhanu Athaiya (nomination), BAFTA for Best Film Editing, John Bloom (nomination), BAFTA for Nest Make Up Artist, Tom Smith (nomination), BAFTA for Best Production Design/Art Direction, Stuart Craig (nomination), BAFTA for best Score, RaviShankar, George Fenton (nomination), BAFTA for Best Screenplay, John Briley (nomination), BAFTA for Best Sound, Jonathan Bates, Simon Kaye, Gerry Humphreys, Robin O’Donoghue (nomination), BAFTA for Best Supporting Actor, Edward Fox (nomination), BAFTA for Best Supporting Actor, Roshan Seth (nomination), BAFTA for Best Supporting Actress, Candice Bergen (nomination), Directors Guild of America for Outstanding Directorial Achievement, Richard Attenborough (winner), Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Actor, Ben Kingsley (winner), Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Picture (nomination), Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Director, Richard Attenborough (nomination), National Board of Review for Best Picture (winner), National Board of Review for Top Ten Films (winner), National Board of Review for Best Actor, Ben Kingsley (winner), National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Actor, Ben Kingsley (winner), New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Film (winner), New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actor, Ben Kingsley (winner), New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Director, Richard Attenborough (nomination).

Ways to Watch: Crackle, Amazon Prime, Vudu, YouTube, Google Play, DVD Availability.

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