Movie: Kramer vs Kramer
Nominations: Best Picture, Best Director - Robert Benton, Best Actor - Dustin Hoffman, Best Supporting Actress - Meryl Streep, Best Supporting Actress - Jane Alexander, Best Supporting Actor - Justin Henry, Best Adapted Screenplay - Robert Benton, Editing, and Cinematography
Wins/Snubs: K v K won Picture, Director, Actor, Supporting Actress for Streep, and Adapted Screenplay. Melvyn Douglas won Supporting Actor for Being There, but I've never heard of him or the film. I'm surprised from what I've heard that Robert Duvall didn't win for Apocalypse Now, or Mickey Rooney for The Black Stallion.
I watched this for Reel Insight's Meryl Streep Episode just before Christmas (check it out on itunes), but I knew it would make it into my 30 Days of Oscar coverage because I remember thinking - "this is such a great film, I wonder if it won any Oscars" which is usually my standard for being included in this series. And it did!
Hoffman plays Ted Kramer, who comes home from work one day to find his wife Joanna (Streep) at the end of her rope - she's packed and ready to leave him. She gets out the door and it takes Ted a few days before he realizes she's not coming back. However, Ted has to take care of their young son Billy by himself with almost no knowledge of what that requires. There's a scene between them on the first day after Joanna leaves where Ted keeps screwing up making french toast. Then, almost a year later, the perfect timing they have making it together shows how well Billy and Ted have figured out how to take care of each other (the image above). The reason for the legal title of the film is that Joanna returns and wants to regain custody of Billy, and a court battle ensues.
Hoffman's performance deserved the Oscar. The transformation he goes through trying to figure out how to keep his son happy is wonderful. There have been lots of movies that have tried to do this concept - Liar, Liar, One Fine Day, and Mrs. Doubtfire specifically looking at single dads trying to learn how to be better dads. Well, Kramer vs Kramer did it first and did it best. It was really unusual in 1979 for a woman to walk out on her family - and then to come back. This was particularly groundbreaking story telling, and as a drama that really looks at what happens after a divorce, it is a wonderful movie. The little boy, Justin Henry, is still the youngest person nominated for Best Supporting Actor, and he really did carry his part. He asks questions and forces his dad to consider things he'd never been aware that his wife used to do. I LOVED this movie, if only for it's originality and the execution is done so well it felt flawless.
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