The Oscar Quest: Best Director – 1988
I love 1988. I was born in 1988. Therefore I feel extra invested in what won this year. Why? I don’t know. It wasn’t a particularly strong year for movies. And the movie that won isn’t necessarily a “great” picture, but it is, at the same time, a great picture. In a different year it would almost certainly never hold up. But you know, whatever.
Rain Man won Best Picture this year. Everybody loves Rain Man, right? It’s a good picture. Maybe a bit too, sentimental, but, hey, whatever. Best Actor went to Dustin Hoffman, since — well, I guess he didn’t go full retard. Best Actress was Jodie Foster for The Accused. Best Supporting Actress went to Geena Davis (why?) for The Accidental Tourist, and Best Supporting Actor went to Kevin Kline for A Fish Called Wanda. I’m very ambivalent about this year. I think I agree with most of the choices, but then, maybe I don’t. Maybe it’s just a factor of, I like them because the year isn’t stronger. I don’t know. This year was always tough for me to call. I was too busy — marinating. And then, you know, sleeping and crying and throwing up all over the place (I was a puker). But, you know, it’s the 80s, so we don’t really expect too much. The Oscars are much like me in the 80s — we barely got out alive.
BEST DIRECTOR – 1988
And the nominees were…
Charles Crichton, A Fish Called Wanda
Barry Levinson, Rain Man
Mike Nichols, Working Girl
Alan Parker, Mississippi Burning
Martin Scorsese, The Last Temptation of Christ
Crichton — I love A Fish Called Wanda. It’s so — British. John Cleese is a funny dude. It’s gonna be interesting to try to explain this movie to someone who hasn’t seen it, but — I’ll do my best.
The movie is about people planning a heist. A gangster and his accomplice — who stutters like a motherfucker — along with Jamie Lee Curtis, and Kevin Kline, who plays a dude who is perhaps the dumbest person on the face of the earth, yet thinks he’s an intellectual. And they pull off a heist, and Jamie Lee Curtis and Kevin Kline fuck over the other dudes. However, when they go back for the money, they find out the other dudes had moved it. So now they need to figure out where it is. Which involves JAmie Lee Curtis seducing John Cleese, who is the dude’s lawyer. And then Kevin Kline — idiot that he is — tries sabotaging it, because he’s sleeping with her and is jealous, even though he knows about it. And then the rest of the movie is a series of screwball moments. Jamie Lee Curtis tries to seduce Cleese, and that goes horribly wrong, mostly due to Kevin Kline showing up like Wile E. Coyote all the time. And then the other dudes are now trying to kill off the witness who saw them during the heist, which also goes hilariously wrong (since the stuttering dude loves animals and, no matter what he does, ends up accidentally killing them). Then while all this is going on, Jamie Lee Curtis is planning on running away with Cleese, who would now rather steal the money and run off rather than go on with his dull existence. And then the whole thing comes to a climax at the airport — fish are eaten, steamrollers run over people — it’s insane. It’s a funny ass movie.
Now, as for Best Director — no chance in hell. Love that it’s nominated — seriously, I can’t believe they even nominated it. But, there’s no way I could ever vote for this. For one, if it were to win, then it has that whole “Oscar winner” thing hanging over it, people tend to not want to go with it just out of natural spite. So, I’d rather it be where it is, and then have the distinction of “Oh, it was nominated? That’s awesome.”
Levinson — What can I say about Rain Man that hasn’t already been said about — uhh, actually scratch that, I don’t know where I was going with that. It probably would have ended up being offensive to retarded people. But, we all know this movie, right? I mean, how could one get so far in life without having seen Rain Man? And by so far, I mean, x number of years multiplied by the fact that they’re somehow reading this blog about Oscar movies. The odds are kind of improbable. But, we’ll go through the motions.
Dustin Hoffman is the mentally handicapped brother of Tom Cruise. A set up that we’re all familiar with. It’s been the set up to at least twelve Sean Connery movies. Okay, maybe eleven. And Cruise’s father dies, and he’s all like, “Awesome, I’m getting willed all his money.” Then he finds out it all went to Hoffman. Which, Cruise is like, “Who the fuck is this asshole?” Then he meets him. And Cruise is kind of a dick. So his goal is — let’s take this brother of mine with me, and then bring him to my lawyer, and then we’ll find a way to get me the money. And the movie then becomes a road trip. And they bond. Most of the early part of the movie is Cruise humoring Hoffman, then he is amazed by his mathematical skills — 496 toothpicks. Then he’s like, “Fuck this, let’s bring him to Vegas.” And they go to Vegas, make a shit ton of money by counting cards, and then get to California. And by then he loves his brother, and they’re all happy. Then, of course, Hoffman is taken away to go back to the hospital, and Cruise is sad, but, it all ends happily because, even though it seems that Hoffman is incapable of any form of human contact, there’s that one beautiful moment at the end of the film where they touch heads. Which was another Dustin Hoffman ad-lib that really fucking worked out. But we all know this, right?
The movie is amazing. I’m all for sentimental movies, and this one is just awesome. Compounded with the year it was in (I need to recheck the Best Picture nominees, but still), I think I’m cool with it winning Best Picture. However, Best Director is another story. Barry Levinson is cool and all, but this direction is not really groundbreaking. I know Picture and Director sync up most of the time, but, this isn’t the Academy voting, it’s me. So, unless there is no other nominee at all, I can’t vote for this. This is a movie made solely by its story and not by the direction. For all you know, anyone could have directed this and you wouldn’t have known.
Nichols — My god, why was this movie nominated for so many fucking Oscars? Seriously? Has anyone seen this movie? It’s a Rom Com. And not really a great one at that. It is, however, a great time capsule for the 80s. Just look at this movie. You just get so embarrassed that people looked and dressed like that for an entire decade.
The movie is about a — guess who — who works as a secretary. And she works for this woman, Sigourney Weaver, who is a major executive. And the secretary is ambitious and all, and is looking for a way to step up. And during a business deal, she tells Weaver about this idea she had that could revolutionize business. A lot of the business is about the corporation worried that the Japanese are gonna outsell them or something. That I found very funny. Because in all the business meetings they treated the Japanese like they were the Soviet Union and it was 1965. Anyway, then Sigourney goes down with a broken leg while skiing, and Melanie Griffith — she’s the secretary — basically takes over for her. And in the meantime, se meets Harrison Ford at a party, and sleeps with him, and he ends up being the executive she has a meeting with the next day. Awk-ward! It’s one of those movies. If this were made today, it would be a Katherine Heigl movie. Oh, yeah, also, Alec Baldwin shows up as Griffith’s cheating boyfriend. He almost goes full frontal here too. It’s weird. And it’s young Baldwin too. He looks kinda like Nicolas Cage looked in Moonstruck. Crazy 5 o’clock shadow hung over until 10 o’clock, wife beater, greasy Italian look. Anyway, that happens. And then Griffith finds out that Weaver stole her idea and passed it off as her own. Drama! And the rest of the movie is her and Ford shopping the idea around, making the company money and then when Weaver comes back, proving the idea was hers. It’s really a Rom Com, and I don’t get the appeal whatsoever.
Not voting for this in a million fucking years. No, is the answer you’re looking for.
Parker — I love Mississippi Burning. It’s one of those films I think I’ve seen, maybe three times in my life. And in between viewings I always forget how good it is. I saw it for the first time in high school and loved it. Then, I think, sophomore or freshman year of college I caught it on TV on break, and was like, “Oh, yeah, this movie is great!” Then, after that I totally forgot about it once again until it came time to write this article. Then I popped it on and once again was like, “Fuck, this is like an unsung movie. Why don’t people talk about this more?”
And honestly, people probably do talk about this movie. I think it’s just one of those Letter from an Unknown Woman deals. To spell out that reference, because I think maybe like 5% of the population would ever understand that — that movie is about a dude who meets a woman like, seven times over the course of his life, to varying time lengths, and each time is enchanted by her. Yet, for some reason, after each time — even though during one of them I swear they fuck for like, two months — he completely forgets he’s ever met her. And he keeps re-meeting her like he’s got short-term memory loss or something. And each time, she goes along with it. And finally, she writes him a letter, like, “Hey, buddy, remember that woman you loved at this time? And then that other woman that other time?” And he’s like, “Ooh, yeah, they were great,” and then she’s like, “Yeah, they were all me.” That’s what this movie is like. Each time I watch it it’s going, “Yeah, was always this good. You just drink too much and don’t remember.”
Anyway, the movie is about the killing of some civil rights workers in — guess where — and then the FBI goes down to investigate. In the form of Gene Hackman and Willem Dafoe. And Dafoe is the by the book northern man and Hackman is from Mississippi. So they clearly have differing views on how this shit works. And basically, they all know that the people in this town are in the Klan and were very much involved in the killings, including the sheriff. But they need to find a way to find definitive proof of that. And there’s a series of incidents, like, Dafoe goes and sits with the blacks, while Hackman knows from experience how to handle it, so he puts on a show for the whites to gain their trust, while also having his own beliefs. And the whole movie is about race relations and stuff, and it’s a great fucking movie. There’s a great scene where Hackman goes into a barbershop while the sheriff is in there. And he takes the straight razor and threatens to cut his throat. It’s a great fucking scene. It’s a great fucking movie. Watch this movie.
Though, I will say, as for the direction, it would normally be a shoo-in for a win. Or, at least, it would be head-to-head with Rain Man, and then either one winning would probably be okay. However, there’s this big elephant in the room that we need to deal with, and that’s —
Scorsese — Martin Scorsese. At this point, the films he’s directed were — Mean Streets, Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (Best Actress for Ellen Burstyn), Taxi Driver (wasn’t nominated for Best Director, lost Best Actor and Best Picture), Raging Bull (lost Best Picture and Best Director to Ordinary People, despite winning Best Actor. Also lost Best Supporting Actor and Actress), The King of Comedy (not nominated for anything. And we’ll let New York, New York and After Hours go, because, well, it’s understandable why they wouldn’t be nominated for anything. Also, The Color of Money won Paul Newman an Oscar just two years prior to this. And let us also point out that he was considered one of the premier directors in the business at this point. Kind of the way Paul Thomas Anderson is perceived now.
So, Scorsese has zero Oscars, despite one film that should have won it all. And everyone freely admits to that fact all the time. Now — here he is, directing an, admittedly, controversial film about Jesus. It’s about Jesus going up on the cross, much like The Passion of the Christ, except, before he goes up, it’s about him struggling with fulfilling his destiny or, giving it all up for a normal life with Mary Magdalene. The movie is about Jesus being tempted into fucking Mary Magdalene. As well as his life and the crucifixion and all. And on top of that, it’s so fucking well-directed, like all of Scorsese’s films. After Hours and The Color of Money are kind of — well, weak entries, but, still. Overall his worst films are better than most people’s best films.
I’m really not sure why they didn’t just give this to him, unless it’s because they didn’t want to award the film and run into controversy. Still, I call bullshit. Because, all you need to do is just give it to him here, and then you can pass him over for Goodfellas and it wouldn’t seem so bad. You can pass him over for Gangs and it’s totally okay. you can pass him over for The Aviator and it’s, okay, it won Best Picture, it’s just a stupid convention thing. You seriously make him wait another 18 years, 26 after the film he should have won for, to give him the Oscar he so richly deserves? Christ, the man should have two at this point. What is wrong with the Academy?
The man wins this by default. I don’t care if it’s controversial. The best is the best. Didn’t you learn anything from 1941, people?
My Thoughts: The only person worth voting for here is Scorsese. Wow, I wonder how many years that’s been said? Really though. Parker did a great job, but, not at the level Scorsese did. And Levinson was a good choice if Scorsese weren’t here, but, he is, and he was already passed over for both Taxi Driver and Raging Bull. How can they continue to fuck up this badly?
My Vote: Scorsese
Should Have Won: Scorsese
Is the result acceptable?: Based solely on the winner and not who he was up against, sure. It’s Rain Man. You see Rain Man and go, “Yeah, I see it.” But in reality, no, it’s not acceptable. All it takes is this Oscar and Martin Scorsese might not have had to wait another 18 years to get one. Not giving him one for this long is unacceptable.
Ones I suggest you see: Rain Man is kind of a gold standard at this point, isn’t it? As a human, you probably should see it or have seen it. A Fish Called Wanda is almost definitely going to be the one the least amount of people have seen that the most amount of people would enjoy. Keep in mind though, it’s very British. So if you like Faulty Towers and Monty Python and shit, you’ll really like this. People who don’t get it, then, you’ll still probably enjoy the film, just, not as much as if you “got” British humor. Mississippi Burning is a great film, and thoroughly worth watching. But I feel like that’s the kind of movie they show in history in high school when they don’t want to teach you for a day or two. But, I highly, highly recommend it. Also, Last Temptation is a great movie, but, I’m not sure how wide the appeal for it is. It’s kind of like The Passion of the Christ. That was also an amazingly directed film, but didn’t necessarily have the widest appeal (though I guess, financially, I would be wrong on that statement). But if you can stomach a Jesus picture, this is definitely worth watching. Christ (Note: ha ha), it’s about Jesus wanting to fuck Mary Magdalene and not become Jesus, AND Harvey Ketiel is Judas with a Brooklyn accent. AND David Bowie is Pontius Pilate. Do you really need anymore information to see this movie?