Did They Get it Right? – Best Supporting Actor – Oscars 1984

Here are the five nominees: (Winner in Bold)

Adolph Caesar (A Soldier’s Story)
John Malkovich (Places in the Heart)
Pat Morita (The Karate Kid)
Haing S. Ngor (The Killing Fields)
Ralph Richardson (Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes)

Biggest Snub:

James Woods – Once Upon a Time in America

My Overall Thoughts:

This is a year where there was a clear front runner among the nominees because the performance was so powerful especially given that the role was played by a non-professional actor.

My Rankings:

Supporting Actor

5. John Malkovich
4. Ralph Richardson
3. Pat Morita
2. Adolph Caesar
1. Haing S. Ngor


5. Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the ApesPretty strange adaptation of the Tarzan legend.  Although they attempt to get an epic feeling for it, it just doesn’t work at all. Lambert is weak in the lead role and doesn’t manage to carry the story well enough. The costumes of the apes are poorly created and they don’t seem realistic enough. The dubbing of the voice of Jane by Close is very annoying since McDowell is the one in the role.  Richardson was nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor and shows a nice character arc, but even that can’t help this film be more entertaining.
4. Places in the HeartField gives an amazingly strong performance here and keeps this film together. Her Oscar for Best Actress here was very well deserved. The rest of the cast helps, but would be lost without the role played by Field. Uplifting message about survival and perseverance in difficult times. The characters are all quite diverse but learn to work together when they find a common goal.
3. A Soldier’s StoryShows how even in the army during WWII, there was prevalent segregation and hatred among the troops. The story itself is simple, but there is so much more of a deep meaning in everything that goes on.
2. The Killing FieldsAmazing film that is very graphic and realistic in its depiction of the atrocities committed in Cambodia. Waterston is wonderful in the lead role yet this is Ngor’s film the entire time. He may have won an Oscar and a Globe as Best Supporting Actor but he is the main reason this film is so poignant and harrowing to watch even after 35 years. It would take a few more years before the members of the Academy would be able to give a film depicting the nature of Southeast Asia the award for Best Picture and Director eventhough this is clearly the best film of the 5 nominees.
1. The Karate KidGreat film that deserves much more praise than it usually gets. It’s an amazing coming of age film, buddy film, father-son film, teacher-student film and ultimately a great tournament film. The chemistry between all of the characters is great and it mostly comes off as being quite realistic. The characters of Daniel and Mr. Miyagi have become iconic and despite the sequels slightly marring the ideas of this first film, it still remains a classic tale of a teenager trying to stand up for himself in a new setting. Despite a few plot holes, the story works really well and we easily care for the lead character and want him to succeed in every way possible. Macchio and Morita are both superb here as the mismatched teacher-student duo yet is still remains quite believable. Great soundtrack helps keep this film stuck in the 80’s mode and rightfully so.

Do I agree with the Oscar winner? – Most Definitely!  HN was amazing in TKF and showed how great a non-actor can be in such a powerful and gripping role.

Let me know what you think about these films and my rankings!

One thought on “Did They Get it Right? – Best Supporting Actor – Oscars 1984

  1. No criticism against Haing Ngor who WAS excellent in the powerful Killing Fields, and there were some very good performances in this category – but I think you absolutely underestimated John Malkovich in Places in the Heart (which made a profound impression on me when I saw it) – and in so doing – also ignored the contribution of Danny Glover in the same film (HE’S the one I thought was snubbed, not James Woods). In your own words – “the rest of the cast helps” – but you give Fields all the credit – and she WAS terrific. But your words are the very definition of “supporting” – and Glover, Malkovich’s blind man, as well as Ed Harris and the rest were all superb “supporting” players. My vote would’ve gone to Malkovich here – with Ngor a very close second. Fact is – had Glover been nominated as well – he and Malkovich probably would’ve canceled one another out – leading to the same outcome.


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