Sixth Decade 1977-1986

UPDATED 04/11/1988 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 04/11/1988 at 01:00 AM EDT

Oscar had a goal now. Ignoring the films of George Lucas and Steven Spielberg became a full-time job. The Hardy Boys of the zap-happy set combined their youthful fantasies with dazzling special effects to create eight of the Top 10 box office hits of all time (E.T., Star Wars, Return of the Jedi, The Empire Strikes Back, Jaws, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones and Back to the Future). Not a Best Picture winner in the bunch. The Academy, doing penance for scorning Vietnam in the previous decade, anointed politically themed films from The Deer Hunter to Platoon. A vote for Gandhi the movie was a vote for Gandhi the man. Oscar, typically late, began sporting a social conscience.

A Family Affair: Jane Fonda rushed from the 1982 Academy Award show to present her ailing father and On Golden Pond co-star, Henry, with the long-overdue first Oscar of his 47-year career. "Hell, if I hadn't won, I wouldn't be able to walk with my head up anymore," Fonda said to his wife, Shirlee. He died five months later.

La-di-da: "It's simply terrific. This is something," sputtered Diane Keaton after accepting the 1977 Best Actress prize for Annie Hall from first winner Janet Gaynor. Her co-star and former boyfriend Woody Allen stayed home and shrugged off the Academy as meaningless: "I just don't think they know what they're doing."

Cry for Joy: In 1987 Marlee Matlin of Children of a Lesser God became the first hearing-impaired Best Actress winner. "After I'm alone I'm going to scream," she said. She won't scream this year when she presents the Best Actor Oscar, but she says she is practicing to say, "The envelope, please."

Platoon: Writer-director Oliver Stone took the 1986 Best Picture Oscar for the film based on his wartime experiences in Vietnam—a film almost no studio wanted to make. "Right now I'm on top of the world," Stone said after the ceremony. A year later, he's more cynical. "It's great," he says, "but it's over in the morning."

Finally: Perennial also-ran Paul Newman won for reprising his 1961 Hustler role in 1986's The Color of Money. "After losing six times, I felt it cruel and unusual punishment to attend," said the no-show.

Controversy: Accepting her supporting Oscar for 1976's Julia, Vanessa Redgrave dismissed as "Zionist hoodlums" those who showed up to protest her politics. The audience booed, Vanessa had to dine later with her two bodyguards, and a confused Jack Nicholson commented, "What are these Zionists? I've been skiing."

Huh? Robert Redford and Warren Beatty have never won Oscars for their acting. That might make sense. Instead, each (Redford for 1980's Ordinary People and Beatty for 1981's Reds) took the prize as Best Director—a pinnacle Hitchcock, Spielberg, Bergman, Fellini and Orson Welles never reached. Go figure.

Choices: Meryl (Sophie's Choice) Streep beat Jessica (Frances) Lange as 1982's Best Actress, but Lange consoled herself with a supporting Oscar for Tootsie.

Gidget Gets Respect: For 1984's Places in the Heart, Sally Field won a second Oscar and spoke the words that will haunt her forever: "You like me! You like me!"

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