The Last Emperor


Movie: The Last Emperor

Release Date: October 4, 1987

Director: Bernardo Bertolucci

Starring: John Lone, Joan Chen, Peter O’Toole, Ying Ruocheng, Victor Wong, Dennis Dun, Vivian Wu , Ryuichi Sakamoto

Personal History: Never Watched Before

Rating: 6 Oscars out of 10

‘The Last Emperor’ is the last movie in this Academy Award Best Picture Movie Challenge that can be classified as “never watched before.” As previously written (see ‘Out of Africa‘), I became a huge Oscar fan after 1985, meaning I always tried to see the Best Picture nominees before the Academy Awards telecast. I was not always successful especially in those early days. I have had much better luck with that in recent years. Let’s face it, it was more difficult to see movies thirty-six years ago than it is today. But I definitely tried and in 1987, I obviously failed.

Before April 11, 1988, the night of the 60th Academy Awards, I had seen three of the Best Picture nominees. ‘Fatal Attraction,’ ‘Broadcast News‘ and ‘Moonstruck’ were seen either at the theater or from the luxury of my home via HBO. The two other nominees, ‘Hope and Glory’ and ‘The Last Emperor’ did not make the cut. I can officially now check off the winner, ‘The Last Emperor.’ ‘Hope and Glory’ is still on my must-see list.

After watching ‘The Last Emperor,’ I can see why I waited so long. Historical dramas are not really my thing. With that said, after winning the coveted top prize in 1988, I am sure I wanted to see it, I just didn’t. The best word I can come up with to describe it now that it has been viewed from beginning to end is “meh.”

At almost three hours long, ‘The Last Emperor’ was surprisingly a commercial success worldwide. It was praised by critics and eventually received nine Academy Award nominations, winning in every category including Best Picture. It is the type of movie that the Academy loves, a sweeping epic historical drama. For me, that can be sometimes translated into boring. And that is exactly what I thought of the film.

The movie looks stunning and the accolades it received for art direction, cinematography and costumes were of course well deserved. The direction and the acting are all top notch as well its just that the story did not grab me. I found myself losing interest a few times while I was watching it.

That, however, is not something I necessarily blame on the movie. When it comes to history, unless it is about a topic I care passionately about, I tend to zone out. My “meh” review is more of a reflection on me than the film itself and I am not sure this is a movie I will revisit anytime soon. With that said, I am glad I finally did see ‘The Last Emperor’ and can check it off my “to watch” list.


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