1989 in Review

Other Notable Films from 1989

During this period, there were plenty of films about race or racism that got nominated for Best Picture: in 1988, Mississippi Burning got a Best Picture nomination; in 1989 and 1990, Driving Miss Daisy and Dances With Wolves won Best Picture. However, there is a glaring omission here that most people at the time acknowledged as a massive snub: that film is Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing.

This is a film about race that offers no happy resolution, no easy answers; instead, it actually makes you think about the characters: how you feel about them and WHY you feel the way you do about them. It’s a movie where your thoughts about it and what you thought the massage was tells a great deal about your attitudes on race. Both of these are extraordinarily rare for any film on any subject, but when it comes to race, so many take on just one specific viewpoint, have flat characters or boil down their message into something massively over-simplistic and lack depth to their arguments about what the real problems are when it comes to race (some of which have even won Best Picture!). Much like Network, it’s a film that has only gotten more and more relevant and sharp in its insights as time has gone on and it’s a shame I wasn’t able to review the movie as a nominee for this project.

Other Notable Films

Roger & Me

Sex, Lies and Videotape

Batman

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

The Little Mermaid

Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure

Glory

Kik’s Delivery Service

The Killer

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

Crimes and Misdemeanors

When Harry Met Sally…

Drugstore Cowboy

1989 Nominees in Review

Field of Dreams: A-

Born on the Fourth of July: A-

My Left Foot: B+

Driving Miss Daisy: B- (Won Best Picture)

Dead Poets Society: C

A very good Best Picture nominee field, even if the winner was only my 4th favorite from 1989. Field of Dreams was one of the easiest watches in a while and I’m happy it got nominated, while Born on the Fourth of July is much headier fare but every bit as good as Stone’s previous Vietnam film, Platoon. My Left Foot is a simple character piece with some great performances, Driving Miss Daisy is a perfectly solid movie for your parents to watch and is led by two great performances. Finally, Dead Poets Society is the one that sticks out as undeserving in the field, and the ending annoyed me.

We’re finally out of the 1980s, one of the weakest decades for Best Picture nominees (this year notwithstanding), and are now entering the 1990s, a much better one on paper even if it’s by no means perfect. We have: a movie where Robin Williams’ character administers the same drug (Levodopa) that Williams later used for Parkinson’s near the end of his life; The highest grossing Western of all-time; Patrick Swayze gets the Best Picture nomination he so richly deserved after Road House was heinously snubbed the previous year; a Best Picture nominee solely created because the director desperately needed money; and this is one of two movies about the life of mobster Henry Hill that were released in 1990, where oddly enough the screenplays were written by different members of the same couple, this one by Nicholas Pileggi, the other by his wife Nora Ephron.

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