The Oscar Quest: Best Supporting Actor – 1989
Everyone knows 1989. We all have opinions. No need to talk about it. We’ll let the individual articles do the talking.
Driving Miss Daisy wins Best Picture and Best Actress for Jessica Tandy (talked about here). Veteran Oscar. Best Actor was Daniel Day-Lewis for My Left Foot (talked about here), and Brenda Fricker also won Best Supporting Actress for the film (talked about here). And Oliver Stone won Best Director for Born on the Fourth of July (talked about here).
And then there’s this category. I don’t really know what to do with it. It’s — I don’t know. Smells like a makeup Oscar to me. (Which isn’t a surprise, considering the Academy’s treatment of Denzel and their blatant racism throughout history.)
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR – 1989
And the nominees are…
Danny Aiello, Do the Right Thing
Dan Aykroyd, Driving Miss Daisy
Marlon Brando, A Dry White Season
Martin Landau, Crimes and Misdemeanors
Denzel Washington, Glory
Aiello — Do the Right Thing is a film you need to have seen. You don’t get a synopsis because this is a prerequisite to reading this blog. You don’t get to have an opinion about this category unless you’ve seen this fim already.
Aiello plays Sal, owner of Sal’s pizza. To me, he’s the only person who should ever have won this category. I understand Denzel winning for historical reasons, but based solely on performance — Aiello was better. Seriously, watch the films again. Denzel isn’t any better here than he was in Cry Freedom. He won because he didn’t win that other time (which I understand, since Sean Connery needed the win that year. And if Connery didn’t win, Morgan Freeman was going to). And that’s fine, but Aiello totally deserved this based solely on performance.
Aykroyd — Driving Miss Daisy is a pretty self-explanatory film. I don’t think I need to explain what it’s about.
Dan Aykroyd plays Daisy’s son, and he doesn’t really have that big a role in the film. It’s the kind of nomination where — he’s a respected actor in a classy film, and he came along for the ride. That’s nice. But he was never going to win. Anyone considering voting for him here is doing so because they want Dan Aykroyd to have an Oscar. As long as they’re willing to admit that, then it’s okay. Otherwise, he totally shouldn’t have won here.
Brando — A Dry White Season is an Apartheid film. Donald Sutherland is a South African schoolteacher who at first refuses to take sides, but eventually sees the brutality against the blacks and takes a stand. A man he knew who was looking into the death of his son (which is, shall we say, questionable) is killed, and he knows the police had something to do with it. So he hires Marlon Brando, a civil rights attorney, to take on the case. And Brando is fucking great here. He’s so great. He’s so dry and sarcastic. He really livens up the film.
Of course, it’s not that great a performance. It’s clear Brando doesn’t give a shit and is reading his lines off a piece of paper, but the performance is fun, and I like the nomination. It’s one of those, “Hey, we still love you” nominations. He was never going to win. But it’s nice to see him here, and it gives the film some recognition, which, given its subject matter, is a very good thing. So I like the nomination. Still not voting for him, though.
Landau — Crimes and Misdemeanors is a Woody Allen film that I really only like half of. And the half is really only because Alan Alda is such a schmuck in it. I’m only gonna deal with the Martin Landau half of the film, since that’s all this nomination requires.
Martin Landau is a successful, I wanna say, dentist. Or plastic surgeon. Some sort of doctor. And he’s been having an affair with Angelica Huston for some time. And he’s been telling her that he’s going to leave his wife for her, even though he really has no plans to do so. And then she starts getting upset, and unpredictable. Saying she’s gonna go tell his wife, how she’s right across the street from his house and is gonna tell her — really scary stuff for him. And he gets in touch with his brother, who knows a guy who knows a guy who could take care of it. So he hires the guy to kill her. And at the last minute, he has a change of heart, and goes over there to stop it. But then as he gets there, he finds that the job has already been done. And he goes home, distraught, back to his life.
That’s pretty much the role. People really seemed to love the performance Landau gave. I didn’t. I thought he was much, much better in Ed Wood, and clearly deserved to win for that. So to me he’s a #5 here.
Washington — Glory is an Ed Zwick film, and if you don’t know the Ed Zwick film, that basically means — it’s the most obvious Oscar bait you can think of. Every single one of his films (that isn’t a romantic comedy or thriller) is really glaring Oscar bait, designed to appeal to as many people as possible. And in every single one of them, there’s something missing from them. They end up being various shades of okay or good, but none of them actually turn out to be that good. And they always end up being popular because they’re designed to pander to people.
Take Blood Diamond. That movie was terrible. Yet, everyone loves it.
This film — I don’t really like it that much. To me, it’s pandering, baity, and looks like it was shot for the BBC. I know it’s about black troops, but there’s no bite to the film whatsoever. It’s a black movie made by white people. You know who would have made a better version of this story? Spike Lee.
Denzel plays a freed (or escaped, I forget) slave who is part of the regiment. And he basically doesn’t do all that much in the film. The first time we see him, he’s getting whipped for going out to find shoes. We see that he’s been whipped many times before. He looks directly at Matthew Broderick as he’s whipped, doesn’t make a sound, even as a tear rolls down his face. (It’s so manipulative it’s disgusting, that scene.) And then later on, he tells the men to have some backbone, when the army cuts their pay (they were told they’d get a certain amount, as soldiers, but since they’re black, the army cut their pay), he rallies them to refuse payment. And then by the end, he dies saving Matthew Broderick. It’s a performance that only wins because the Academy likes when their black actors are subordinates to whites. Denzel only wins because his character eventually dies saving a white man. It’s fucking disgraceful that Denzel doesn’t win for Malcolm X or Cry Freedom, yet wins for this. It’s a makeup Oscar, yes, but it’s also racist. (Notice how almost any time a black actor gets an Oscar, it’s racist? And how the really great black performances don’t ever win? Why don’t more people talk about this?) I’m not voting for him at all. Not gonna do it. I did not like the performance, and Aiello was so much better. Let him win, because he’s Denzel and he’s awesome. But I’m not voting for it.
My Thoughts: It’s Aiello all the way for me. Denzel deserved an Oscar, and I’m cool with him winning, but I did not see anything in that performance that required a vote from me. Aiello gave the best performance in the category, and to be honest with you, if the Academy really wanted to do the best thing they could for black people with this category, they’d have given it to Danny Aiello. Do the Right Thing is a much more progressive film than Glory. There’s really no argument anyone can use here to convince me that Denzel deserved this outside of, “He’s Denzel Washington.” Other than that — no fucking way. Danny Aiello was so much better.
My Vote: Aiello
Should Have Won: Aiello
Is the result acceptable?: Yes. After all, he’s Denzel.
Performances I suggest you see: If you haven’t seen Do the Right Thing, you’re dead to me.
You should probably see Glory. Everybody loves it. I think it’s okay. But everyone else will probably say you need to see it.
A Dry White Season is a good film, but I like Cry Freedom better. I’m not a huge fan of the Apartheid films, but this is a solid one.
Driving Miss Daisy is a great film and is essential. The reason it’s essential is because, in order to complain about it having won, you need to have seen it. And once you see it, you’ll realize that it’s only fault is having won Best Picture. Outside of that, it’s a really good movie.
Crimes and Misdemeanors — it’s a Woody Allen movie. We know how I am with those. I don’t really like it. I like Alan Alda’s performance and that’s about it. Just figured I’d mention it, since Woody has his own scale of whether or not you should see things.