The Oscar Quest: Best Director – 1990

Oh, you knew this day would come. The day where we talk about how Dances With Wolves beat Goodfellas. Yeah. Don’t worry, I’ll be brief about it. I think it’s all pretty understood by now. Plus, we’re gonna have to do it again once Best Picture rolls around. Let’s save it all until then.

So, to recap the rest of the year that isn’t the big two abominations, Best Actor went to Jeremy Irons for Reversal of Fortune. It’s widely regarded as a makeup Oscar for a film he wasn’t even nominated for. (I’ll tell you what that is when we get to Best Actor for this year. I’ll give you a hint. He mentions it in his acceptance speech.) Best Actress was Kathy Bates for Misery. She’s crazy as fuck in that movie. Best Supporting Actor was Joe Pesci for Goodfellas. That pretty much speaks for itself. And Best Supporting Actress was Whoopi Goldberg for Ghost, because, well, I guess they really like the magical negro. I don’t know. So that’s 1990. Let’s get into the film bashing…


And the nominees were…

Francis Ford Coppola, The Godfather Part III

Kevin Costner, Dances with Wolves

Stephen Frears, The Grifters

Barbet Schroeder, Reversal of Fortune

Martin Scorsese, Goodfellas

Coppola — I think we can all say from the start, Coppola was not winning this Oscar. Dude had five Oscars by this point (one for co-writing Patton, one for writing The Godfather, and three for The Godfather Part II, writing, directing and Best Picture). Plus, if he didn’t win Best Director for Part I, he shouldn’t win for Part III. Unless of course the category sucked. Which, it didn’t by virtue of the final nominee. So, let’s get that out of the way before we start.

Though I must say, for all the shit Part III catches, it’s not that bad of a movie. It’s just — not as good as the first two. But, it’s like following Citizen Kane — nothing you do will ever be as good as that. It’s just how it is. But, if you watch Part III, the film really does play as Coppola intended it to, which is — the death of Michael Corleone. That’s what he wanted to call it. the studio took one look at him and said, “What are you, fucking high?” But, that’s what this film is. The death of Michael Corleone. It’s not The Godfather Part III. The Godfather ended as soon as Fredo got killed on that boat. That motherfucker was dead from that moment. This film is literally about the franchise. Michael, like the story, is done, finished. And everyone around him, wants him back in it. That’s why you get that line — “Just when I get out, they pull me right back in!” That’s what this film is. Him wanting to get on with it and them pulling him back in. And, really, the film does work as a standalone film. The only real weak link in it, as has been said a thousand times, is Sofia Coppola’s performance. And you know what, I don’t care. She’s a director, not an actress. It would have been a bigger deal if Winona Ryder (who was cast in the part at one point) had fucked it up. Because she’s an actress. I don’t really mind it so much. But, anyway, this is a really good film, and deserved to be on this list of nominees. Didn’t deserve to win, but hey, nobody’s perfect.

Costner — Yeah, I, really don’t know what they were thinking with this one. Not even a little bit. I mean, I get that it’s a pretty good movie and would be nominated for a bunch of Oscars, but, winning? Did they really not like/get Goodfellas that much? Because this is not an interesting movie at all. The first hour, nothing happens. And there’s fucking voiceover the entire time. Dude goes to the frontier, meets Indians, becomes one of them, and that’s it. It’s not even like Avatar, where at least they have a big fight at the end. It’s like, they go, he sides with them, small battles, he’s captured, then goes back to white society. What the fuck? What a terrible, terrible choice all around.

Also, let me point out, the direction, which is good, I’ll give it that. It’s kind of hard to screw up an epic western like this. The scenery makes everything look good. But, come on, this wasn’t that great a directing effort. I remember reading that Costner shot some ridiculous amount of footage for this. It’s almost as if he didn’t know what he wanted to make and the editor is the one that made this movie. I can’t vote for this. I just can’t. Costner, Mel Gibson you are not. You did not deserve this Oscar. Which I hate to say, because I love Kevin Costner. I just hate Dances with Wolves.

Frears — This is a good movie. Huge fan of this one. It’s a noir made in the 80s, set in the 40s. It’s so strange-looking. It’s a little jarring at first to see a film that would have fit in the 40s made in the 90s. But it does work very well as a noir.

The film is about John Cusack as a small time hustler. Con man. He pulls little things, like going into a bar, ordering a drink and flashing a very specifically folded twenty at the bartender. Then when the bartender gets the drink he switches it out with a one. The bartender, seeing the folded bill, takes it and gives him change for a twenty. That’s the kind of shit he pulls. And one day he gets the shit kicked out of him for doing it. And he bleeds internally and almost dies, at which point his mother, Anjelica Huston, also a con artist (she fixes horse races by betting down long shots to get better odds on the one that’s gonna win ), whom he hasn’t spoken to in years, comes and helps him. And the film is mostly about how they son’t have the closest relationship, yet at the same time do have a mother/son relationship. And then midway through, enter Annette Bening, who is a ditzy con artist who pulls big, elaborate scams (like The Sting, scams). The first time we see her, she’s at the end of one, where they swindled a businessman out of money, and she shoots the alleged client and the dude thinks everyone is dead and runs away (it’s the one they show you in all the movies now with confidence tricks). Anyway, she starts sleeping with Cusack, and Huston thinks she’s only in it to screw him over. And yet they start planning this elaborate con, and stuff happens, and I don’t want to give away how it ends, but, it’s kind of fucked up. It’s the great tragedy of errors noir, kind of like Fargo, in that sense, where shit just goes wrong.

It’s a great, great film, and I highly recommend it. However, as for the direction, I just can’t vote for it. Which sucks. But — fucking Goodfellas came out this year. What can I do?

Schroeder — Yeah, this is a deceptively simple entry on this list. Despite seeming as though it were a standard film, this is actually a very well-directed movie. I mean, don’t get me wrong, it’s #5 on the list, because, well, the first four also did great jobs, but, this film definitely deserved to be nominated. Schroeder did a really nice job with this one.

The film is about Jeremy Irons, as a baron (I think he’s a baron. Modern day type dude), who is married to a very rich woman (Glenn Close), mostly for the money, or maybe not. The question is put throughout the film just how much the two loved one another. Irons has kept a mistress for a few years, as had Close, and she had health problems and was self-medicating a lot of the time (it’s very Michael Jackson, actually, how the whole thing plays out). And one day she ends up dead, and the film flashes back and forth, in one of those constant revelatory fashions, where we keep going back to the same events and seeing them from different perspectives and with new information each time. And the whole thing is about how Jeremy Irons looks so fucking guilty in the matter of his wife’s death — he was always a cold man, they fought, he saw she was dying and ordered no one to call a doctor — shit like that. The odds are overwhelmingly in the favor of the fact that this dude did it — this is around OJ too, so it’s great all around for parallels to real-lif cases. But the problem is, the lawyer he hires, pretty much has to take the case. And they set it up as such that, whether Irons is innocent or not doesn’t matter, because, the dude needs the money. So, the film gets the audience to go along with the case, wanting the lawyer to get him acquitted, and yet, we still don’t know if the motherfucker is guilty or not. And Irons plays it well throughout, constantly making it hard to tell whether or not he did it. Like, he cracks jokes about him killing his wife, but at the same time fucks up his story so many times. So, you don’t really know until the very end what actually happened.

So, yes, great movie. Highly recommended. Getting a vote from me? Nope. But, hey, once again, even if I wanted to, I can’t. Because —

Scorsese — It’s fucking Goodfellas. Do I need to say any more? And if you don’t think the direction was all that special, I’ll say this. Martin Scorsese, not nominated for Taxi Driver, lost for Raging Bull to Ordinary People, lost for Last Temptation of Christ. This is Goodfellas, perhaps his most famous film next to those first two. Dude hasn’t won an Oscar at this point, yet Oliver Stone has two. James L. Brooks has one. Woody Allen has one. Get the picture, yet?

My Thoughts: It’s fucking Goodfellas. Really?

My Vote: Scorsese

Should Have Won: Scorsese

Is the result acceptable?: Really?

Ones I suggest you see: If you haven’t seen Goodfellas, you’re dead to both me and the world. If you haven’t seen The Godfather Part III, you probably should. But don’t watch it with the other two. Watch it like, six months later. Because stand alone, it’s a great movie. As part of the trilogy, it’s not that great. But, alone, it’s really good. Also, The Grifters is a really good movie too. That’s fun to watch. It’s real noir. The kind of shit you’d see in the 40s, only now it looks like it was shot in the 80s trying to look like the 40s. Don’t hold that against it, though, it’s really good. Also, Reversal of Fortune is also a very good movie and I do recommend that you see it. I think most people would enjoy it. Courtroom movies always hold your attention, and this one’s no different.


5) Schroeder

4) Costner

3) Frears

2) Coppola

1) Scorsese

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