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Amadeus (Milos Forman, 1984)

This reimagining of Peter Shaffer's play is surprisingly cast, but every single role seems to pay off. Tom Hulce is a leftover from Animal House as Mozart, yet he seems right and fully inhabits the character. F. Murray Abraham, who never had a role anywhere close before or since, deservedly won his Best Actor Oscar because he was just so delightfully envious and evil. Jeffrey Jones is a laugh riot as Emperor Joseph II who cannot grasp "too many notes", and Elizabeth Berridge shakes off her teen movie image to care about her beloved husband Wolfie.

Milos Forman went back to his homeland of the Czech Republic to film this story set in Vienna. The art direction, sets, costumes, wigs and makeup are all top-of-the-line. The musical passages show the genius of Mozart, even if one of the points of the film is that Genius is not always bestowed upon the most worthy or the most holy. In fact, one of the film's greatest scenes is when the religious Salieri throws a crucifix into a fire and basically tells Christ that he will attempt to block him wherever he can because he chose to lavish his Godly attributes on a boorish child who enjoys fart jokes.

If Amadeus is considered a musical, I'd probably call it the best musical from now back until Cabaret. It depicts a historical period, it takes some historical license to try to ratchet up the drama and the satire, it presents pieces of music in huge chunks and as historically-accurate as possible, and it's chief concern is where does music come from and who can appreciate it? Mozart's great works were often appreciated by the unwashed masses before the upper class due to political reasons.

Forman has always found himself allied with the outsider against society. Just look at his American films: Taking Off, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Hair, Ragtime, Valmont, The People vs. Larry Flynt, Man in the Moon, and this one. He is attracted to characters, who, rightly or wrongly, are outside the mainstream, so I assume that's the way that Forman sees himself. He is a very impressive, personal filmmaker, and I have to applaud him for that, as well as his filmography's excellence.