Oscar – The Weekend Movie


Oscar, 1991

Director: John Landis

Adapted from the Claude Magnier play by Michael Barrie & Jim Mulholland

Costumes: Deborah Nadoolman

Set Design: Bill Kenney

Music: Elmer Bernstein

Soundtrack available here

Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Peter Riegert, Marisa Tomei (in her first film), Chazz Palminteri and Ornella Muti

Once upon a time, Sylvester Stallone wanted to expand his horizons after 20 years of boxing and action pictures. Oscar was his first foray into comedy, and this 1930’s-style farce is perfection. It’s a send-up of his tough-guy persona with an excellent cast supporting him.

Rocky and Rambo fans were not amused, but more surprisingly, neither were film critics. The movie was panned by all, and Stallone’s dreams of expanding his repertoire ended for good. A tragedy. Well, he did make one more – Stop or My Mom Will Shoot, which put the nail in the coffin of Stallone’s comedic aspirations. 

Oscar is largely forgotten, but it’s one of the best comedies ever made. Seriously. Not only is Stallone really good in it, but the movie is also packed with tons of vintage star-power. Don Ameche plays the family priest/cardinal, Kirk Douglas (Michael’s father) plays Papa Provolone, Aunt Rose is played by 1940s screen siren Yvonne de Carlo and the Five-Spot the snitch is played by Eddie Bracken, a staple of comedies in the 30’s 40s. Not bad.

Oscar is set in 1931 Chicago (or is it New York?) where Angelo “Snaps” Provolone, is having a busy day. He’s a mobster trying to go straight to keep a promise to his dying father.

On the day that “Snaps” – make that Mr. Provolone – is to meet with a group of bankers to cement (ha) his future as a financier, the doorbell rings early in the morning. At 8:30 a.m., to be exact. An extremely inconvenient time, as the “butler” Aldo tells the caller.

The boss don’t get up before 9 a.m., even the Feds know dat.”

The visitor says it’s “a matter of life and death” and insists speaking with Mr. Provolone. The meeting takes place and, to launch a cliché, chaos ensues. A day-long series of events during which “Snaps” tries to marry off his daughter, retrieve a bag of stolen money, marry off his other daughter, retrieve a bag of jewels, and get fitted for a suit before meeting with the board of the bank at noon. Pregnancies, misunderstandings, mistaken identities, embezzlement, and police surveillance all serve to sweeten the comedic plot.

#WeekendMovie Oscar

The film is absolutely gorgeous to look at – set in chez Provolone, a mansion of spectacular proportions, complete with marble columns, gold filigree banisters, a two-story library, and an atrium. The house doesn’t actually exist (put that checkbook away), it’s a set built on a lot on Disney Studios where the film was shot. The same meticulous attention to period detail is evident in the costumes, add hilarity to the characterization. Nora the maid’s filly uniform contrasts perfectly with her angry vindictive attitude, and Lisa’s frills and ruffles are at odds with her tough as nails negotiating tactics. And holy smoke, the cars. Vintage cars roll in and out of this film flashing like models down a runway.

There must be films in which the supporting cast is as uniformly outstanding as this one, but I don’t recall one off hand. Each and every member of the cast (with the exception of Orna Mutti ) is a perfect specimen of 1930s sass and comedic timing. Peter Riegert as Aldo the Butler/Social Secretary/Bodyguard is phenomenal. From his delivery to the scowls he throws around to the cigar stuck in his mouth he is perfection, and in a sane world would have garnered an Oscar nomination.

Marisa Tomei (in her first major film role) is hilarious as the wild young Lisa Provolone. She looks and sounds like they dropped her out of a 1930s Joan Blondell flick. She plays the spoiled young heiress and the fast-talking dame all in one, with tons of curls, organza, and moxie. Her devious plan to break free from her father’s house sets in motion part of the action, and most of her father’s aggravation.

#WeekendMovie Oscar

Tim Curry as Dr. Pool the elocution professor also deserves a special mention as well, for completely obliterating his Rocky Horror persona with the nerdy and clueless professor who finds himself in a completely unexpected situation. The whole elocution thing is a send-up of all the grief Stallone suffered for his impenetrable pronunciation early in his career.

The Finucci’s – the tailors-cum-assassins are also just perfection. Their scene with the visitor at the piano is side-splitting.

Will Provolone go straight? Will Lisa/Theresa marry? Will Dr. Poole regret the day he ever met these people? Who’ll get the jewels? Who’ll get the underwear? Who’ll get the cash? Will Connie catch up? And where’s Oscar?

Do yourself a favor and find out.

Stream it here

buy DVD here

Check out the trailer
[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wdqHmipO4ac&w=560&h=315]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.