The Oscar Quest: Reconsidered (Best Picture, 1989-1990)

The Oscar Quest began in May of 2010. I finished about fifteen months later, and wrote it up for this site. That was essentially the first thing I did on here. Five years have passed since then. I’ve grown as a person. My tastes have changed, matured (or gotten more immature, in some cases). So it feels fitting, on the five year anniversary of the site and of the Oscar Quest, to revisit it.

I want to see just how my opinions about things have changed over the past five years. I didn’t do any particular work or catch-up for this. I didn’t go back and watch all the movies again. Some I went back to see naturally, others I haven’t watched in five years. I really just want to go back and rewrite the whole thing as a more mature person, less concerned with making points about certain categories and films than with just analyzing the whole thing as objectively as I can to give people who are interested as much information as possible.

This is the more mature version of the Oscar Quest. Updated, more in-depth, as objective as possible, less hostile. You can still read the old articles, but know that those are of a certain time, and these represent the present.


Born on the Fourth of July

Dead Poets Society

Driving Miss Daisy

Field of Dreams

My Left Foot


Born on the Fourth of July is Oliver Stone’s second war film. It’s about Ron Kovic, an All-American kid who goes off to fight in Vietnam and comes back without his legs. And we see him being poorly cared for at the VA hospital, ignored by those back home, eventually leading to him turning into an anti-war protestor.

It’s a great film. Terrific performance by Tom Cruise. This seems like it came very close to winning Best Picture. I like it a lot. I don’t love it enough to take it, but in the right situation I like it enough to consider it a second choice. Then again, most of these films I’d consider a second choice, so that’s not very helpful. You start to see pretty quickly how Driving Miss Daisy won.

Dead Poets Society is one of those films people love. That was my introduction to it. People love this film beyond words. And then I saw it and went, “Yeah, that was really good.” But the love other people seemingly have wasn’t there for me. So, last time I felt an antagonism toward it just because that’s what you do when you’re young. Now I’m in that part where — well, we’ll get to it in a second.

Robin Williams is a new teacher at a boys prep school. And his methods are different and butt up against the traditions of the school. He tears pages out of books and stands on desks and all that stuff. “O Captain, my captain,” all of that. It’s basically Good Morning Vietnam but with the “teacher” narrative. Terrific film.

I go back and watch this every few years trying to have that switch turn on for me that gets me to love this the way other people do. It’s yet to happen. So now, rather than being antagonistic toward it, I’m in the space of, “I wish I loved this more.” Because then I could want to take it more. But here, it’s a fifth choice for me. It feels better than a fifth choice. But that’s what it is. Just not one of those movies I’d take.

Driving Miss Daisy is the greatest movie ever made. Just, the most universally beloved Best Picture winner and the film that solved racism.

So glad that’s over with.

Jessica Tandy is a retired teacher who is too old to drive, though she thinks she still can. Her son hires Morgan Freeman to be her personal driver. Tandy hates this, and refuses to be driven anywhere. Naturally she eventually relents, and she and Freeman become best friends over the years.

It’s a great film. I’m not gonna pretend like it’s not really entertaining. Should it have won Best Picture? Probably not. But I also can’t necessarily point to a film that would have held up better than this. Everything else is a good film that would have been about the same as a winner. The only difference is most of the other films wouldn’t have been as disliked. But none of them would have been anything higher than a fair winner.

Field of Dreams is one of the great sports films. Everyone knows it.

If you build it, he will come. Kevin Costner builds a baseball field in Iowa. It’s a classic.

Great movie. I love it a lot. Surprising Best Picture nominee, seems like it snuck on over something else. But I love it and it’s actually my favorite film in the category. I know it’s not a film that necessarily needs to win Best Picture, but I might have to take it because — what else do I like enough to take over it?

My Left Foot is a biopic of Christy Brown, whose cerebral palsy made him only capable of using (insert title here, though third person masculine possessive instead of first person).

Daniel Day-Lewis is great here, and it’s just one of those movies you can’t help but love. Though it does… it doesn’t look great. Very low budget and not the kind of film that holds up as a winner. But it is terrific and I like it more than most films in the category, so… it’s possible I could take it. Wouldn’t love taking it, but I could be okay with having to do so because of everything else.

– – – – – – – – – –

The Reconsideration: I’ll start by saying that the best film of 1989 isn’t in this category. But based on what I have to work with, there’s only two films I like enough to take. Dead Poets Society — ehh. As a choice, not as a film. Fifth for me. Born on the Fourth of July, like it a lot, but wouldn’t take it. Driving Miss Daisy I like a lot, but wouldn’t particularly want to take it unless I had to. Fortunately, I like the other two films better. My Left Foot would be okay as a compromise choice, and it almost is. But Field of Dreams is pretty clearly my favorite film in the category. I don’t love it as a historical winner, but my favorite is my favorite, so I’m voting for that. It’s the best of the hand I was dealt. So that’s my choice.

– – – – – – – – – –

Rankings (category):

  1. Driving Miss Daisy
  2. Born on the Fourth of July
  3. Dead Poets Society
  4. Field of Dreams
  5. My Left Foot

Rankings (films):

  1. Field of Dreams
  2. My Left Foot
  3. Driving Miss Daisy
  4. Born on the Fourth of July
  5. Dead Poets Society

My Vote: Field of Dreams


The Last Word: I can’t honestly tell you there was a better winner in this category than Driving Miss Daisy. I can’t tell you Driving Miss Daisy is a good winner, but it’s not like there’s a definitive choice outside of it. We all prefer our specific choice to it, but which of these honestly holds up better? My Left Foot is great, but how does that look as a winner? Fine, but not overly strong historically. So same as Driving Miss Daisy without the complete hatred people have toward it. Born on the Fourth of July? Would be okay with the Picture-Director combo and be solid enough to seem fine, but it’s not like it’s remembered as much or any better than Driving Miss Daisy. Field of Dreams? Great movie. But as a winner? Fine. But Best Picture does not particularly change the movie’s stature. Dead Poets Society? About the same as Driving Miss Daisy but without the hatred. Not an overly strong winner. Honestly, I think Driving Miss Daisy almost had to win this, because at least now we have a reaction about this year’s winner. Otherwise it would be kind of “ehh.” The biggest thing I can say about this is — I can’t hate the decision because I can’t rally around an alternative choice. At least… a choice that was nominated. That’s the discussion I want to have about this year. Not Driving Miss Daisy. Why the real best film of the year isn’t on the list. But since that’s not our purpose here, I’m gonna stick with, this isn’t one of the worst decisions of all time because I can’t point to a better one. This might be the best choice as a bad winner.

– – – – – – – – – –

– – – – – – – – – –



Dances with Wolves


The Godfather Part III



Awakenings is a terrific film. Very overshadowed by the competition, but a terrific film.

Robin Williams is a doctor who discovers that a new drug helps patients who have been catatonic. They were all victims of an encephalitis outbreak and have been catatonic for years. He gives them the drug and they start to be able to move again. We focus on his relationship with one patient, who became catatonic as a boy and now is forty and able to move again. It’s a very emotional and touching film.

This was only the second Best Picture nominee directed by a woman (Children of a Lesser God was the first). I like it a lot. Fifth choice for me in the category on personal preference. Probably fourth maybe in terms of what the best choice is. I wouldn’t take it, but that’s because of the competition more than anything. This is a great film.

Dances with Wolves is a good film whose biggest flaw as a Best Picture winner is that it’s not Goodfellas.

Kevin Costner is a Civil War soldier injured in battle and told he’s gonna lose his leg because they can’t get him the proper care in time. Preferring to die than lose his leg, he gets on a horse and rides between the battle lines, figuring he’ll be shot. Though him doing this confuses the enemy long enough for his side to actually win the battle. This allows for him to get the proper care and be sent home. He’s transferred to an outpost as far west as he can possibly be sent. It’s basically desolate. Just him, the Native Americans and the wolves. He befriends the natives, and that’s much of the film. Until the whites come and go, “That’s enough of that.” And then it ends.

It’s a very good movie. One I’d be happy with having won most years. Just… not over Goodfellas. I don’t hate it as a choice, but it’s also not Goodfellas and I’m not gonna pretend like it is or ever could be.

Ghost is so great. It’s a genius idea turned into a movie that could only come out when it came out. You could never make this exact movie again. And that’s why it works.

Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore are in love. One day, he’s murdered. His spirit lingers on for some unknown purpose — mostly because he knows who killed him and knows she’s in danger of being killed if he doesn’t help her. So he enlists the help of Whoopi Goldberg, a phony medium who can actually speak to ghosts. So they go around, trying to help Demi Moore. Oh, and there’s pottery.

You know this movie was popular because a 40 year old song hit #1 the charts again after this movie came out (“Unchained Melody”). It’s really well done. Never should have won, but the nomination is appropriate because it gives you an accurate screenshot of 1990. I support that. But it’s still a fourth choice at best here, if not outright fifth historically. No one takes this over Goodfellas. No one should.

The Godfather Part III is the bastard stepchild of that franchise. Which is a shame, because on its own, it’s a terrific film. It’s just not as good as the other two, and it’s one of those things that’s almost impossible to live up to.

I’m not gonna vote for this. It’s good enough to have been a Best Picture nominee but not good enough to hold up as a winner. It’s not even the best crime film in the category. Third choice at best in this one. Doubt this would be anyone’s vote here.


You know how I know how perfect this film is and how we all think it should have won? Because I can post that image right there and we all know exactly what it is, what part of the film it’s from, everything about it.

This movie is a masterpiece. Did it necessarily need to win Best Picture? No. It didn’t need it to validate its existence. But it’s the best film in the category and would be the best film a lot of years around this, so let’s just leave it at — pretty much all of us would take this as the choice and history has pretty much proven this to be the best film here.

– – – – – – – – – –

The Reconsideration: It’s Goodfellas. There’s nothing to discuss here. It’s Goodfellas and then everything else. If Goodfellas isn’t here, then maybe I’d be okay with something else. But it is, so it’s the choice. The end.

– – – – – – – – – –

Rankings (films):

  1. Goodfellas
  2. Dances with Wolves
  3. The Godfather Part III
  4. Awakenings
  5. Ghost

Rankings (films):

  1. Goodfellas
  2. The Godfather Part III
  3. Ghost
  4. Dances with Wolves
  5. Awakenings

My Vote: Goodfellas


Goodfellas. You’re not a film buff if you haven’t seen this.

Dances with Wolves is essential. All around. Best Picture winner, great film, and if you want to complain that it beat Goodfellas, you can’t not have seen it. That makes it essential.

The Godfather Part III is essential. Because again, you can’t complain that it’s not as good unless you’ve actually seen it. Because it’s really good. It’s just not as good as the first two, which are two of the greatest movies ever made. How could it have been as good as those? Either way, must see.

Ghost is essential. Culturally. It’s a classic, it won an Oscar, and all I’m gonna do to justify how essential it is, is show you this one image, and as soon as you see it, you’ll understand:

Awakenings is a very high recommend. It’s a terrific film that most people will like. Should be seen by anyone who loves movies, though it’s not 100% essential. If I were you, I wouldn’t skip it.

The Last Word: Dances with Wolves, on its own, is a fine choice. Dare I say a pretty good choice. But since history has shown Goodfellas to be one of the greatest movies ever made and a film that everyone loves, Dances with Wolves doesn’t look so good as a winner over that. It’s somewhere between How Green Was My Valley beating Citizen Kane (the good end) and The Greatest Show on Earth beating High Noon and The Quiet Man (the bad end). I get it, but it’s not a choice that’s held up as the best one they could have made. That’s really all this is.

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(Read more Oscar Quest articles.)


3 responses

  1. IMHO, Driving Miss Daisy still beats out Crash any day of the week.

    October 12, 2018 at 12:27 pm

  2. But honestly, Do the Right Thing or Sex, Lies and Videotape at least should have been nominated, IMHO.

    September 26, 2019 at 11:04 am

  3. Even though Dances with Wolves still loses out to Goodfellas, after a few years, I think it was totally worthy of being nominated now. Maybe in some weaker years, Dances with Wolves might even get the win. But just not in 1990.

    May 16, 2021 at 1:56 am

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