Oscar Movies: Great Santini, The (1980)

Orion Pictures (Bing Crosby Production)
 
Set in 1962, "The Great Santini," written and directed by Lewis John Carlino, is an old-fashioned family melodrama, extremely well acted by Robert Duvall as the military patriarch, Blythe Danner as his sensitive and understanding wife, Michael O'Keefe as their teenage son, and Lisa Jane Persky as the younger daughter.
 
A domestic drama about generational strife, the narrative is shapeless and episodic, consisting of some powerful sequences, which don't add much and seldom convey the essence of Pat Conroy's autobiographical novel that serves as a source. 
 
Even so, Duvall, right after the making Coppola's "The Godfather" and "Apocalypse Now," gives a ruthless, powerful performance as a bored and idle marine pilot, who endlessly bullies his son, in and out the basketball court at the back yard of their house, in what amounts to a series of macho rituals.
 
Though well-received by the critics, the movie received only limited theatrical release before being sold to the then rising cabler, HBO, which played the picture with great success for many months.
 
Oscar Alert
 
Oscar Nominations: 2
 
Actor: Robert Duvall
Supporting Actor: Michael O'Keefe
 
Oscar Awards: None
 
Oscar Context:
 
In 1980, the winner of the Best Actor Oscar was Robert De Niro in Scorsese's masterpiece, "Raging Bull," in a race that also included John Hurt in "The Elephant Man," Jack Lemmon in "Tribute," and Peter O'Toole in "The Stunt Man."
 
Michael O'Keefe, then only 25, lost the Supporting Asctor Oscar to another young actor who played a troubled youth in a father-son melodrama, Redford's "Ordinary People," which also won Best Picture and Best Director.