Previewing The Pivotal Year of 1989 for Oscar Podcast

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1989 is one of the years we continually refer back to as it was both one of the only Oscar years where Best Picture went to a film without a directing nomination for its director, and it was also the year the Academy shut out Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing.  I wrote about it for an Oscar Flashback already.

Essential viewing for next week’s podcast would have to include both Driving Miss Daisy and Lee’s exceptional, groundbreaking, all around brilliant Do the Right Thing.  The other films in the Best Picture race, Field of Dreams, Dead Poets Society, My Left Foot and Born on the Fourth of July could also be seen if you wanted to be thorough, though it’s easy to see why Driving Miss Daisy handily beat the competition.

This was also the year Daniel Day-Lewis and Denzel Washington won their first Oscars and kickstarted their formidable careers.  It was also the year Michelle Pfeiffer got the closest to winning a Best Actress Oscar, coming off the heels of the previous year where she showed her range with Dangerous Liaisons, Married to the Mob and Tequila Sunrise.  But how do you deny Jessica Tandy? You don’t.

Strangely, one of Woody Allen’s best films, Crimes and Misdemeanors was not nominated for Best Picture.  Another film worth seeing from that year is Enemies, A Love Story, which earned acting accolades. I have not seen that film in years but it was always a personal favorite.

30 Comments on this Post

  1. do you think “do the right thing” wasn’t nominated for anything because of the content? or because of the style? I believe now that it was because it was just so artistically ambitious. there are many films that fall into that category that were just too stylistically brilliant to get nominated or win

  2. julian the emperor

    Do the Right Thing was just superior to the competition that year, apart from Crimes and Misdemeanors, but that didn’t get nominated either.

    Enemies, A Love Story? I really enjoyed that film when I happened to catch up with it just last year. Lena Olin, whom I have never held in high esteem otherwise, is quite brilliant. Anjelica Huston also. It really manages to project the slightly eccentric, yet deeply human, atmosphere of the source material by the great master, Isaac Bashevis Singer.

  3. For me, Glory was the best movie of 1989. Why it didn’t get a Best Picture nomination is beyond me.

  4. Winston

    Yes it is possible to deny old ladies. Michelle deserved to win over Jessica Tandy!!

  5. Do The Right Thing is one of the rare films that inspires discussion about the character’s actions. also it’s rare for being funny and serious in the same time. and contemporary. truly great film.

  6. There are 4 kinds of years:
    – The good ones in which the Academy screws everything up by making an awful lineup.
    – The bad ones that end up with a good lineup since there are really not lots of options available.
    – The good ones that have good lineups.
    – The bad ones that have bad lineups.

    1989 belongs to the first group. Just like 2008.

  7. moviewatcher

    I think Driving Miss Daisy gets a bad rap for having won in a year which also featured Do the Right Thing. That happens a lot with the Oscars. Sure they went with the less controversial choice, but with that said, I think Driving Miss Daisy is a really great film. I barely paid attention to the fact that one of the main characters was white and the other black. I was much more interested in the friendship that was being forged, regardless of skin color. You’ve got two great actors playing off each other and making their characters feel as real as they can get. There are almost no hints at romance, and the movie is much better off without them. By the end of those two hours, you really get a feeling that these two people love each other, but not in a romantic way. And it hurts to know that one of them is now entering the final stages of her life. It’s simple, it’s compelling, it’s moving, it’s great.

  8. julian the emperor

    “I barely paid attention to the fact that one of the main characters was white and the other black. I was much more interested in the friendship that was being forged, regardless of skin color.”

    Ok…but the point IS that he’s black and she’s white.

    The universality of the story, if you will, and the basic message of human kindness wouldn’t really be poignant if it didn’t take place on the background of the racial inequality that the two main characters embody.

  9. Isabelle Adjani was more deserving the Best Actress Oscar than Jessica Tandy.

    It’s always frustrating when the Academy uses Actors/Actresses oscars as lifetime achievement awards. Who’s next? Robert Redford?

  10. The Pope

    Deydou,

    Redford has already won for Ordinary People, so we’re okay there. The one I’m dreading is Tom Cruise.

  11. Sean Troutman

    1989 is a great year. A few weeks ago, I took a look at the Best Cinematography nominations and watched James Cameron’s The Abyss and Ron Shelton’s Blaze for the first time because they were nominated. Haskell Wexler did the photography for Blaze and I felt like he got a nomination just based on reputation. Mikael Solomon’s innovative underwater photography earned him a deserved nomination for The Abyss. Other nominees were Robert Richardson for Born on the Fourth of July, Michael Ballhaus for The Fabulous Baker Boys, and the winner Freddie Francis for Glory. Richardson went on to win two years later for Oliver Stone’s JFK, and again for Scorsese’s The Aviator AND Hugo. His best cinematography though is Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds. He was nominated, but he lost to Avatar.

    Francis deserved the award because he’s probably the best British cinematographer next to Jack Cardiff, and he didn’t win for The Elephant Man. Also, Glory is fantastic all around.

    My Top 10 of 1989
    1. Field of Dreams
    2. Crimes and Misdemeanors
    3. Driving Miss Daisy
    4. Cinema Paradiso
    5. My Left Foot
    6. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
    7. Licence to Kill
    8. Do the Right Thing
    9. Shirley Valentine
    10. Heathers

  12. steve50

    1989 was a great and diverse year. Enemies: A love Story and Do the Right Thing are at the top of the list, but there was also Jesus of Montreal, Cinema Paradiso, and (I unashamedly admit) I fell hook-line-n-sinker for Field of Dreams.

    Glory was a great epic, Soderbergh arrived on the scene with Sex, Lies… and kicked off the indie movement (and gave Sundance cred) Kenneth Branaugh with the first “approachable” Shakespeare in years. He and his companion, Emma, were the “next big thing”. Julia Roberts began her rise with Steel Magnolias.

    Until recently, I don’t think we’ve had such a year loaded with great films. Definitely pivotal.

  13. Sean Troutman

    Whoops, I forgot that Glory would be my number 3 and everything else would move down one lol

  14. steve50

    +1 Sean! Field of Dreams, yes.

  15. Bryce Forestieri

    what? we doing this already? ok, ima ready my list!

  16. Bryce Forestieri

    As you will see (if you bother at all) I’m much fonder of this year’s Best Picture nominees than the previous one. I cite them all five, and believe all five are essential viewing for 1989 which is pretty rare for me. Although DRIVING MISS DAYSY is a worthy winner and better than numerous other winners (e.g. THE ENGLISH PATIENT), any of the other nominees would have been solid selections in my book, with FIELD OF DREAMS clearly being the best out of the five.

    THE 27 Films Worth Your Time From 1989

    1. DO THE RIGHT THING
    2. DRUGSTORE COWBOY
    3. CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS
    4. SEX, LIES & VIDEOTAPE
    5. THE COOK, THE THIEF, HIS WIFE & HER LOVER
    6. FIELD OF DREAMS
    7. THE KILLER
    8. HENRY V
    9. SANTA SANGRE
    10. DEAD POETS SOCIETY
    11. LAST EXIT TO BROOKLYN
    12. TETSUO: THE MAN OF IRON
    13. JESUS OF MONTREAL
    14. BACK TO THE FUTURE II
    15. THE SEVENTH CONTINENT
    16. BLACK RAIN (the American film, possibly Ridley’s coolest film)
    17. BORN ON THE FOURTH OF JULY
    18. PATLABOR: THE MOVIE
    19. O SANGUE
    20. DRIVING MISS DAISY
    21. CASUALTIES OF WAR
    22. KIKI’S DELIVERY SERVICE
    23. BATMAN (Indeed, one of my favorite Tim Burtons –and the sequel. A lot of people did 180’s on these films after Nolan’s first, but mostly second Batman movie. Shameful)
    24. ENEMIES, A LOVE STORY
    25. THE ABYSS – SPECIAL EDITION
    25. PUPPET MASTER
    26. FOR ALL MANKIND
    27. MY LEFT FOOT

    Guilty Pleasures: TANGO & CASH + STEEL MAGNOLIAS

    Most Overrated: CINEMA PARADISO (Only got through it because the guy is as gorgeous as I’ve ever seen in movies) + Whatever art Bela Tarr might have done this year.

  17. I agree. Glory takes it, for me.

  18. Well said, moviewatcher. I think Driving Miss Daisy is quite special.

  19. K. Bowen

    A good film year. The transition from the high-concept big budget action film to the indies of the nineties.

    Field of Dreams and Drugstore Cowboy.

  20. Let’s also not forget the most FUN movie of 1989, which was hands-down Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. I actually think I rate this one even higher than Raiders when I’m ranking the Indy movies (uh, not exactly a hard task).

    As a proud Canadian, I’ll also cite “Jesus Of Montreal” as one of the year’s very best movies. It easily makes my imaginary 1989 Oscar ballot and gives Do The Right Thing a run for its money.

  21. I don’t rate it higher than Raiders, which is among Steven Spielberg’s best-directed movies, but it’s definitely the most fun of the Indiana Jones films for me. The Ford-Connery dynamic was wonderful.

    Podcasters: Can you talk about the Best Original Score category? Last Crusade is a great score and it lost to….

    THE LITTLE MERMAID — Don’t forget it!! It’s also a significant film, the first of the Disney resurgence in the 90s, leading to Beauty and the Beast (Best Picture nominee), Aladdin, and The Lion King.

  22. Also—it’s great you have a previewing post! We can then post questions this way before the podcasts.

  23. Nice to see Shirley Valentine on your list. Still one of my favorite movies with a great acting job from Pauline Collins

  24. fantastic list bryce… we have the same tastes. i’d move one film up or two a spot here or there but overall its spot on. good work!

  25. Born on the Fourth of July is a masterpiece, a great American film, and it should have won. Driving Miss Daisy is trite, simple-minded,
    patronizing pablum, another best pic embarrassment for the Academy.

    Other ’89 films that deserved to be nominated — Casualties of War, Crimes and Misdemeanors, Do the Right Thing, The Fabulous Baker Boys.

  26. Winston

    You guys need to talk about the piano scene in the Fabulous Baker Boys!! That was so classic!! Red dress, Makin’ Whoopee!!

  27. Dekalog.
    And We’re No Angels totally worked.
    Kickboxer was a revelation, as was Weekend at Bernies.
    Tom Selleck and Kirk Cameron were making their moves…
    Wilder and Pryor were shunted for DDL?

  28. Some of you might be interested in this discussion on reddit about weakest Best Picture winner in the past 25 years. Driving Miss Daisy been mentioned. http://www.reddit.com/r/movies/comments/1kz3z4/what_is_the_weakest_oscar_winner_for_best_picture/?sort=new

  29. Bryce Forestieri

    :)

  30. Dekalog takes BP and BD from me for 1989.

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