The Oscar Quest: Best Picture – 1989

Everyone hates 1989. I am perplexed by 1989. Because I don’t know what to do with it. Sure, Driving Miss Daisy is not a good choice, but none of the other choices are particularly win-worthy. (Now, if Do the Right Thing were nominated…)

It seems Driving Miss Daisy wasn’t a choice the Academy loved — despite it winning Best Actress for Jessica Tandy (talked about here), which was a nice veteran Oscar — since it wasn’t even nominated for Best Director. I’d love to see the percentage of votes there. Must have been close all around. Best Director, instead, went to Oliver Stone for Born on the Fourth of July (talked about here). His second. Not a terrible decision. Best Actor was Daniel Day-Lewis for My Left Foot (talked about here). Brenda Blethyn also won Best Supporting Actress for the film (talked about here). Both were perfect decisions. And Best Supporting Actor was Denzel Washington for Glory (talked about here). I don’t like the decision at all. Danny Aiello was better, and if Denzel didn’t win here, maybe he could have won (laughable, I know, but one can hope) in 1992.

So that’s 1989. Really, I only like the My Left Foot wins. I’m cool with Tandy winning, though. And Stone is okay. But overall, the year just feels pretty weak. It stars with the Best Picture nominees, and all of these feel like #2s at best with no #1 in the bunch.


And the nominees were…

Born on the Fourth of July (Universal)

Dead Poet’s Society (Touchstone Pictures)

Driving Miss Daisy (Warner Bros.)

Field of Dreams (Universal)

My Left Foot (Miramax)

Born on the Fourth of July — Tom Cruise is an idealistic high schooler whose dream is to join the army. As soon as he graduates, he enlists. While fighting, he is shot and becomes paralyzed. We see him in the veteran’s hospital learning to live without the use of his legs. He becomes very bitter but overcomes his disability as best he can. He returns home disillusioned. He then starts protesting against Vietnam based on what he’s seen and experienced there. It’s a great film, and a great performance by Cruise. It’s also pretty essential, which is why I’m going light on the synopsis. It’s a film that should be experienced, rather than read on paper.

Dead Poet’s Society — Robin Williams is an English teacher who arrives at a stuffy boys prep school and livens up his students’ lives. He has them tear pages out of their books, is spirited and gives fun lectures, and teaches his students to love and respect poetry. And we follow the boys as they grow under his tutelage, reforming the titular society, which he himself founded when he was at the school. And stuff happens — good things, bad things, and eventually he is fired for being too rebellious, but then the boys all stand on their desks as a final sentiment toward him. It’s a great film. A touching film. Another classic. This is one of those — how many people haven’t seen this one?

Driving Miss Daisy — Ah, the big straw man. The one everyone points out, whether they’ve seen it or not, as the terrible Best Picture winner. Well, if you have seen it, you’ll probably agree — it’s a great film. Regardless of merit in the category, it’s a great film.

Jessica Tandy is a wealthy southern widow who is getting older. She normally drives herself around town, but one day, has an accident. Her son (Dan Aykroyd) hires a driver for her. That’s Morgan Freeman. And she’s adamant that she can drive herself and takes a disliking to him. But eventually they become friendly and then friends. And we see them over the course of many years as they grow to become the closest person each has in their lives. And she teaches him to read and all that, and — it’s just a great film. Sure, it’s light, and all that other stuff, but, in terms of the film alone — it’s really good.

Field of Dreams — Has anyone not seen this or not know what it’s about?

Kevin Costner, Iowa, farmer, “If you build it, he will come,” builds a baseball field — magic?

It’s a brilliant movie. A classic. If you haven’t seen this, it’s your fault.

My Left Foot — Oh man, what a movie this is.

Christy Brown is born with cerebral palsy and cannot move any part of his body except his left foot. And we see his early life, and all his family’s problems (your typical Irish problems — father works in the coal mine, has to support an ever-growing number of children, drinks a bit too much of the savings away). And we see him grow up and eventually use his disability to his advantage, eventually learning to paint these great pictures with the use of only his foot. It’s just — see this movie. Seriously. There are few more touching films out there. The scene where he draws with the chalk — oh man, gets me every time. What a great, great film.

My Thoughts: Yeah, I don’t really like this group. Driving Miss Daisy is nice but not substantial enough to win (kind of like The Help). Born on the Fourth of July is a bit too “been there, done that” after Coming Home (and even Platoon). Dead Poet’s Society, I don’t like for a win. I don’t know, I just — not for a win. And between Field of Dreams and My Left Foot — I’ll take Field of Dreams. It’s more cinematic, more uplifting, and if we’re gonna go for a simple and likable movie, might as well go with this one. Like I said — it’s a tough year to pick a winner. So why not just pick my favorite?

My Vote: Field of Dreams

Should Have Won: Anything, really, except what did win. Tough year. I can’t call this one. Can I say Do the Right Thing? Because that totally should have won.

Is the result acceptable?: Pretty terribly decision. Not as awful as people say, but close.

Ones I suggest you see: If you haven’t seen Field of Dreams, you’re dead to me.

I highly, highly suggest you see My Left Foot. If you think Gangs of New York or There Will Be Blood were the great Daniel Day-Lewis performances — you ain’t seen nothing yet. This is a film that’s impossible to hate. Impossible. It’s so fucking good.

Driving Miss Daisy is a great movie. It’s just weak as a Best Picture winner. Otherwise, it’s a very likable film. It’s really terrific.

Born on the Fourth of July is a great movie and Tom Cruise is terrific in it. But again, it feels kind of like a composite of Coming Home and Platoon. Still — it’s a great film. So that doesn’t matter anywhere outside this category. The film is great, and it’s an Oliver Stone film, and those are always worth watching.

Dead Poet’s Society is a film a lot of people love, and I do like it a lot. I just don’t love it as much as everyone else does, so I can’t recommend it as well as they can. You should definitely see it, though. It’s terrific.


5) Dead Poet’s Society

4) Born on the Fourth of July

3) Driving Miss Daisy

2) My Left Foot

1) Field of Dreams

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