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This review is from: Ordinary People [DVD]  (DVD)
Ordinary People is perhaps best-known not for winning the Best Picture Oscar in 1980, but for one particular runner-up. In one of its most notorious decisions, the Academy passed over Raging Bull, arguably the better film on almost every level. I won't go into the evidence here - this is a review of OP after all - other than to point out that RB is now regarded as a modern classic, whereas OP has mostly sunk without trace.
Don't get me wrong - OP is a decent enough film, with solid performances and assured direction from first-time helmer Robert Redford. Mary Tyler Moore is the standout, creating in matriach Beth one of the most dislikeable female characters on the big screen this side of Nurse Ratched. The story of a family torn apart by grief obviously struck a chord with the Academy voters back in 1980, but for me it comes across at times as a bloated TV movie. The film is nothing special to look at, with pedestrian camerawork and choppy editing - it doesn't even come close to the cinematic artistry on display in RB. The special effects in the boating accident flashbacks look as if the studio ran out of money or that the director just couldn't be bothered, with an obviously stationary boat being rocked backwards and forwards.
The final word on which is the better film goes to the DVD presentation. Whereas Raging Bull has been treated to several special editions over the years and is now available in a pristine blu-ray transfer with comprehensive extras, Ordinary People gets a DVD-only release, a transfer complete with scratches and dirt, mono sound, and a trailer. As George Clooney would say, you do the math.