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Worst Picture/Best Picture Series: Indecent Proposal and Schindler’s List (1993)

It’s baaaaack! After a long hiatus, Jeff Beachnau returns to his Worst Picture/Best Picture series comparing the Razzie’s worst film and the Oscars Best Picture side by side. For 1993 he brings us Indecent Proposal and Schindler’s List.

Indecent Proposal – “Indecent Proposal could have been a very thought provoking look at the struggle of love, fidelity and morality when money is offered, but in the far from expert hands of Adrian Lyne it’s become a biased look at prostitution that’s shot like an ice cream commercial.” (grtaylornottsuk, IMDb.com)

Schindler’s List – “Documented exhaustively or dramatized in terms by now dangerously familiar, the Holocaust threatens to become unimaginable precisely because it has been imagined so fully. But the film “Schindler’s List,” directed with fury and immediacy by a profoundly surprising Steven Spielberg, presents the subject as if discovering it anew.” (Janet Maslin, The New York Times)

Money (That’s What I Want)

1993 brought us two films that at first glance appear to have nothing in common, but with closer inspection you will see that they aren’t that different at all. But when I began this series, I was sort of dreading this year because of the difficult matter I would have to undertake. How does one make an entire comical essay on such a serious subject? Will I be thought of as a cruel person for joking about such an important film? But if you can handle such subjects as attempted suicide, Gandhi, the civil rights movement, and the Vietnam War, I guess you can forgive me for making fun of Robert Redford having to pay for sex.

I had never seen Indecent Proposal before, and while searching for a copy in order to write the review, I leafed through 1 million DVDs in the bargain bin at Walmart. Now having seen the film, I got screwed for paying $8.

Though she starred in the Best Picture nominees Ghost and A Few Good Men, Mrs. Bruce Willis was always jealous that her beau had starred in a Worst Picture winning film of the year, so she decided to do something about that. Demi Moore and Woody Harrelson play the couple Diana and David, aka D&D. It was the typical romantic relationship, they met when they were younger, instantly fell in love, and soon got married. Perhaps it was her beautiful smile that captured his heart. David is an architect and always had dreams of building his dream home on the California coast for the two to live in, but unfortunately with bad financial luck and a recession in Diana’s real estate business, they have been unable to buy their plot of land to construct the palace. They decide that their best bet is to travel to Vegas with their income and hope that playing the tables will win them their land.

Robert Redford plays John Gage, an extremely charming businessman who woos women. He has loads of money and certainly knows how to show it off. When we first see him on screen he sees Diana in a Vegas shop and offers to buy her a dress. She declines the offer, claiming she’s not for sale, and he gives her a smile as the two part ways.

Unlike Indecent Proposal, I had seen Schindler’s List many times, including in school. Why Indecent Proposal was never shown in high schools to be studied, I’ll never know. Having eaten so much of Melanie Griffith’s irresistible strudel, Liam Neeson decided that being a World War II German was where it was at. Neeson plays Oskar Schindler, an extremely charming businessman who woos women. He has loads of money and certainly knows how to show it off. When we first see him on screen he admires a man’s shirt and offers to buy it. With frequent parties entertaining his comrades and always dancing with the ladies, he’s really enjoying the lifestyle.

While Schindler appears to seem a lot like Gage, he’s actually very much like David. Besides, while Schindler does throw some pretty great parties, he’d never be able to top a John Gage party, not when Herbie Hancock and Sheena Easton are involved. But really, Schindler and David both have dreams of getting their own land. David wants the California land so he can build his own house and Schindler wants the Krakow land so he can build his own business. The only difference is that Schindler has the money and David needs the money.

Back in Vegas, D&D have been having a string of good luck. After a night of having sex on the bed of money, they decide they only need a little bit more to reach their goal. Unlike Steven Spielberg, who didn’t provide a commentary for Schindler’s List, I listened to Adrian Lyne’s commentary for Indecent Proposal. And, according to Herr Direktor, they used real money during that scene, with $10 and $20s, and somehow after that scene was over, about $500 went missing. Perhaps one of the crew members had their own dreams in mind and need to head to the roulette tables themselves.

Unfortunately, several bad hands later, D&D lose most of their winnings. With one last effort to make their fortune, they go to the roulette table and put all their money on red. Watching in horror as the event takes place, they lose all of their money. The color red is an important element in the film, perhaps representing the end of the innocence and the troubles of temptation.

Meanwhile, back in Krakow, Schindler isn’t doing too hot himself. In order to get things going with his business and make a profit, he has to first give away a bunch of his own money to the high ranking officers and give them gifts and bribes. Schindler needs to learn that when you’ve got a ton of money you don’t give it away, you have sex on top of it. After finally getting his enamelware factory set up, Schindler hires Itzhak Stern to help him run the business and do the finances. Together they decide to hire the locals to work in the factory and make the pots and pans because they’re cheaper. Unfortunately, they’re also not terribly qualified.

Though things are kind of picking up for Schindler, the same can’t be said for the other movie. Over at the other end of the casino, Gage isn’t doing so well himself. While D&D are back to zero, Gage is down a few hundred grand. As he charmingly loses all that money, he spots Diana and asks her to roll the dice for him as he bets $1 million. With all eyes on her, Diana rolls a seven and wins. Gage smiles as he charmingly pisses off the head of the casino by winning all that money. To celebrate his winnings, he invites Diana and David up to a party.

After the party, Gage charmingly takes the couple up to his room for a talk and a game of pool. During the game, the conversation of money is brought up, and Diana claims that there are some things money can’t buy, such as people. “That’s naïve Diana, I buy people every day” chimes in Gage. He then makes an offer for just one more. “Suppose I were to offer you $1 million for one night with your wife?”

As though Gage’s charm echoed to WWII, Schindler got an idea. Captain Amon Goeth (Ralph Fiennes) arrived to Krakow and started getting rid of the locals, making it very difficult for Schindler to find more workers. Upset by the loss of these people, he got an idea: perhaps he can buy them. Topping Gage’s mere single Diana, Schindler made up a list and offered to buy more than 1,000 people from Goeth.

While Amon is very easy to persuade in selling the people, D&D take a bit more convincing. David decides to call his lawyer and tell him about the offer. The lawyer Jeremy (Oliver Platt) is in the middle of making a deal with two screenwriters who are pitching their script that is gonna be a star making vehicle for Diana Ross in a story that is like A Star is Born. Yeah, like a remake of A Star is Born starring a diva is ever gonna work. Anyway, after a bit of convincing and writing up the agreement, a “list” if you will, D&D accept Gage’s offer: one night with Diana for $1 million. Gage charmingly signs it.

Talking with Jeremy in the casino below, as Gage and Diana are alone together in the penthouse room above, David can’t stand it anymore and he rushes up the building, searching to get his wife back. Unfortunately, as though they were fleeing from a treacherous island of dinosaurs, Gage and Diana fly away into the sunset on a helicopter before David can reach them. The dramatic John Barry score plays as the woman and Robert Redford take a flight out of Nevada.

See, one of these pictures is Indecent Proposal and one is Jurassic Park. Can you tell which one is which?

It seems like halfway through both films, after the payment for people takes place, the characters take a drastic change. At the start of the film, Schindler was so focused on making a successful business so he could make money for himself. After he bought all of these people to work in his factory, he starts growing fond of them and doesn’t really care about his fortune anymore.

Though initially it seemed like Diana and David’s love for each other had grown stronger after her night with the billionaire, the trust does not last long. He starts to get nosy and jealous about what happened that night, and soon he confronts her about her time with Gage. The two argue, and they spend time apart.

Trying to one-up Can’t Stop the Music in the glitter and confetti department, Rip Taylor appears as Diana’s boss and tells her that the real estate recession has ended because there’s a man who wants to see million dollar homes. Of course, the man turns out to be Gage and she instantly becomes hesitant. But, he charmingly manages to get her to show him the houses. And it doesn’t stop there, Diana takes a side job teaching a citizenship class, and Gage shows up there as well, still trying to charmingly woo her. Allowing foreigners into the US? That’s proof that this movie is out of date.

While things are falling apart for D&D, Schindler seems to be on the right path. In fact, he still had one more person he planned on buying. Amon Goeth’s housemaid Helen Hirsch (Embeth Davidtz) was being treated very poorly and Schindler wanted to save her. Goeth initially wouldn’t sell her, but Schindler offered a lot of money, and asked if the offer could be settled over a game of blackjack. I don’t know why he picked that game, it would have been a lot easier if he had settled it with a coin toss and used a double headed coin. Anyway, Schindler won the game and got Helen Hirsch, he saved her from working for a cruel monster. Now hopefully she can find a job working as an elementary teacher at a nice school.

As Diana enjoys living with the charming billionaire, David tries to adjust to his lonely lifestyle. Sure, he could be happy since Diana let him have the $1 million, but when you don’t have anyone to have sex on top of it, how can you enjoy all that money? Getting a job teaching about architecture, he reflects on his life and realizes it’s time to let Diana go. He finds Diana and Gage at an animal auction run by Billy Connolly. As Gage bids a few thousand for the hippo up for sale, David enters and bids $1 million. I know Billy’s a good comedian, but damn, he’s one good auctioneer. Gage leaves them alone, and David says his goodbyes to Diane and signs the divorce papers.

Meanwhile, back at the factory, the workers try to find a way to say thank you to Schindler. One of the employees offers up his gold tooth to be melted down into a ring as a gift. Who knows the kind of gifts Diana could have given David if she had melted down that cage in her mouth when they were together? Graciously accepting their gift, Schindler breaks down, saying he could have bought more people, even just one. Thankfully he didn’t spend a million dollars on a hippo, so at least he got a few people with that money.

Having watched Diana and David together one last time, Gage knew what he had to, he knew that D&D belonged together. So, driving along in their limo, Gage charmingly tells Diana that she was one of the best of his Million Dollar Club, a million dollar babe. Knowing that he’s just trying to make it easier for her to let him go, Diana thanks him and the two part ways. She decides to make a stop at a pier on the California coast where she and David used to frequent, and of course, he is already there. Unfortunately, he didn’t have his hippo with him, that’s already a sign that he’s not gonna be a good pet owner if he leaves it at home and goes to the beach by himself.

So, is it wrong to buy people? In Schindler’s List it had its ups, its downs, then back to its ups. In Indecent Proposal it had its ups, its downs, then back to its ups. I think it’s safe to say that if you’ve got the money, sure, feel free to buy people, just be prepared to go through a few hurdles. Maybe you’ll make some bad hinges, maybe you’ll fight with your wife, maybe your artillery shells won’t work, maybe you’ll buy a hippo. But in the end, according to the wise words of Jeremy the lawyer, “If you make a deal with the devil, eventually you pay the price.” But the devil’s not always portrayed as a bad guy in movies. Unfortunately, Little Nicky was only nominated for Worst Picture, so you’ll just have to take my word for it.

Jeff Beachnau

Jeff spends too much time watching movies, but when he’s not watching them, he helps make them by working in the grip and electric department. Some would say he chose this profession because of the thrill of being on set and helping create art, but the real reason is most G&E don’t need to wear pants. Along with being a film nerd, Jeff enjoys riding his bike everywhere around the Southern California and watching his friends perform improv.

About Erik Anderson

Erik blames his mother for his love of all things Oscar, having watched them together since he opened his eyes. They also watched Miss Universe religiously every year (the pageantry!) and Erik came to the conclusion that the combination of these two things ultimately led him down the path to obsessing about awards and ACTRESSING. He began at GoldDerby, led by Tom O’Neill and then migrated over to Oscarwatch (now AwardsDaily), headed up by Sasha Stone before breaking off to create AwardsWatch. He is a member of the International Cinephile Society, GALECA (Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association), the International Press Academy and is the founder/editor of AwardsWatch.

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