The Oscar Quest: Best Actor – 1988

Love me some 1988. Love Rain Man. Not the best Best Picture choice in the world, but based on the nominees, it would have been my choice too. Barry Levinson also won Best Director for the film (talked about here), which makes sense.

Best Actress this year was Jodie Foster for The Accused (talked about here), which is a terrific decision. Possibly a top ten decision of all time. Best Supporting Actor was Kevin Kline for A Fish Called Wanda (talked about here), a decision so good it masks how shitty that category is. And Best Supporting Actress was Geena Davis for The Accidental Tourist (talked about here), which, while I wouldn’t have voted for it, is okay.

And then here — pretty self-explanatory. You can’t really argue with it. Dustin Hoffman. Rain Man. “Oh, yeah, right.” Of course he won.


And the nominees were…

Gene Hackman, Mississippi Burning

Tom Hanks, Big

Dustin Hoffman, Rain Man

Edward James Olmos, Stand and Deliver

Max von Sydow, Pelle the Conqueror

Hackman — Mississippi Burning is about a civil rights investigation into the killing of three black teenagers in Mississippi. It’s a great movie. You should have seen it.

Hackman is the dude running the investigation. He’s a southern-born man, who knows the way things work down there, which allows him to get further with the investigation than his northern-born, liberal partner, Willem Dafoe, can. It’s a really strong performance, and a really great film, but, ain’t no one gonna beat Dustin Hoffman here. No one. (Plus Hackman got a second Oscar three years after this. He wound up okay.)

Hanks — How have you not seen Big? Kid, makes a wish to be bigger, turns into Tom Hanks.  Great story. Great film.

Hanks is fantastic here. But I’m not voting for him, two Oscar wins or not. Ain’t nobody beating Dustin Hoffman here.

Hoffman — Rain Man. Dustin Hoffman. End of story. Here’s your winner.

Olmos — Stand and Deliver is such a great film. Edward James Olmos is an inner-city math teacher who helps get his students to be better at math. It’s such a classic. It’s so great.

Olmos is fantastic, but the nomination is the win. He had no shot here, Dustin Hoffman or no Dustin Hoffman. Be glad we have the film. That’s the real prize.

von Sydow — Pelle the Conqueror is a film about a Swedish man’s immigration into the United States with his son. He finds work on a farm, and the film is about, basically, the slow death of his dream to make a new, better life in America. It’s pretty powerful.

von Sydow is terrific here. Like, really terrific. But he was never gonna beat Dustin Hoffman. It’s a shame, too, because here’s a dude that’s earned an Oscar over his career. One of these days, he’s gonna do something worth a Supporting actor Oscar, and he’s gonna win it, and it’s gonna be great (assuming he doesn’t win solely on veteran status). But really, here’s a dude that should have fared better with the Academy.

My Thoughts: Is there any doubt here that it’s Hoffman? No one else really comes close. Maybe Hackman, but even so — it’s so clearly Dustin Hoffman here.

My Vote: Hoffman

Should Have Won: Hoffman

Is the result acceptable?: Oh yeah. It’s probably one of the top ten, and if not ten, fifteen, best Best Actor decisions of all time. I know the film may be a bit too sentimental to some, but you can’t deny the strength of Hoffman’s performance. He was really the best choice here.

Performances I suggest you see: If you haven’t seen Rain Man or Big, you’re dead to me.

You also kind of need to see Mississippi Burning. Don’t be a racist.

You also kind of need to see Stand and Deliver. Otherwise you fail at watching movies. (Get it? Fail?)

Pelle the Conqueror is a strong film. Not for everyone. It’s a foreign film. But, Max von Sydow is terrific in it.


5) von Sydow

4) Olmos

3) Hackman

2) Hanks

1) Hoffman


3 responses

  1. BlueFox94

    Can it be arguable that it is Tom Cruise, not Dustin Hoffman, is the lead in “RAIN MAN”

    Bob Hoskins (“WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT”) and Jeremy Irons (“DEAD RINGERS”) should have displaced Olmos and Von Sydow :)

    January 19, 2012 at 5:19 pm

  2. samuelwilliscroft

    Whilst Olmos and Sydow were weak nominees, I would argue that the performances above, particularly Hoskin’s, are just about as Oscar worthy as Harrison Ford in Indiana Jones and the Raiders Of The Lost Ark. Iconic but not Oscar-worthy

    May 30, 2015 at 1:10 am

  3. samuelwilliscroft

    Whilst Olmos and Sydow were weak nominees, I would argue that the performances above, particularly Hoskin’s, are just about as Oscar worthy as Harrison Ford in Indiana Jones and the Raiders Of The Lost Ark. Iconic but not Oscar-worthy.

    May 30, 2015 at 1:11 am

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