Thursday, January 6, 2011

Time-Delayed Oscars: 1990

Cross-posted at The_Goat_Speaks.

I read somewhere that somebody read somewhere that Matt Damon said somewhere that the Oscars should be on a 10-year time delay. You can fact-check me if you like. If it turns out that I was wrong and he said 5 years, or that it was actually Matt Dillon or something, shut up. It doesn't really affect what I'm going to do. It's just a lead-in. Gawd, you can be so nitpicky sometimes, you know?

Anyway, the point (in my mind) is that it takes a while for movies to be processed through critical consensus and the cultural hive mind to enter into some form of canon, and that the Oscars, which take place while some of these films are still being shown, is simply not a very accurate gauge of which of these movies is going to make it.

Let me give you an example. A Beautiful Mind won Best Picture in 2001. Now, many of you may be like me. You saw it. You thought it was pretty OK. You really haven't thought of it since.

Perhaps I am wrong on this. You may even think it was great, a keeper, an all-time classic. Me, I doubt it. I don't think it has the legs. I think it, like How Green Was My Valley in 1941, will only be remembered for having won the big gold boy and not much else.

How many of you have sat down with a bowl of popcorn and How Green Was My Valley lately?

You know what came out in 1941?

The Maltese Falcon with Humphry Bogart.

The great Preston Sturges comedy Sullivan's Travels.

A little movie called Citizen Kane.

What do you think would win the Oscar if they were giving it out today?

So anyway, this got me thinking, which I do sometimes. What movies of today will survive? Which ones are going to be remembered in ten years, twenty years, even fifty years? What if we were to put on our hindsight glasses and check out which of yesterday's films have lasted? Instead of going back 10 years per The Bourne Suggestion, I've decided to roll it back 20 years for a very good reason. 1) I want to do a few of these; 2) I doubt I want to do more than 10, so 1990 - 2000 is just fine. After that, I can either quit, or do 2000 - 2010 year-by-year if I feel like it, or just do 1980 - 1989. Nothing can stop me.

These are the movies that I personally think have lasted. Note I'm not saying they're all GOOD. But for one reason or another, they've lasted, and will probably continue to last in the collective memory.

Here we go.

When Henry Hill laughs, he doesn't mess around.
He just hoves open his laugh hole.
Click for All The Movies of 1990

The Survivors (According to Goat)

Dances With Wolves -- Certainly not the best movie of the year, but better than people remember, mainly for the buffalo hunt scene, an unvarnished (to my eye) look at Lakota culture, and because it was exactly the sort of role Costner should play. Still ponderously long.

Darkman -- This isn't as well-remembered, but many critcs have rediscovered and re-appreciated this minor cult movie. It's notable for featuring a pre-Spider Man Sam Rami as director and a pre-stardom Liam Neeson in the title role. Also for being totally nutso.

Edward Scissorhands -- This is generally remembered as one of the best -- if not THE best -- of Tim Burton's flicks, and the first early indications of how weird and wonderful Johnny Depp was willing to be.

Ghost -- Really this is only here for that Unchained Melodies clay pottery cheeseball love scene, which reached some kind of iconic status. 40% of Demi Moore didn't even exist when the scene was shot. This was actually nominated for Best Picture.

The Godfather III -- This isn't fondly remembered, and therefore it's a little bit underrated. Only a bit. It will be remembered because it is riding the coat-tails of its more sucessful cousins.

Goodfellas -- I don't think I have to say more, do I? OK, I will. But later on.

The Grifters -- I'm not sure this con-artist story is remembered, actually. I almost didn't mention it. But its really good, so I think it will keep coming up from time to time. It was one of the last relevant Anjelica Houston performances and one of the first for Annette Benning. John Cusack nearly gets killed by getting gut-punched, if you like that sort of thing.

Henry & June -- The first NC-17 movie. That is all.

Home Alone -- Macauley Culkin will never escape this. Neither will we.

The Hunt For Red October -- This one certainly won't still be on the list in another 10 years. Maybe it shouldn't be now. However, it was the first big Alec Baldwin role, and Sean Connery made no attempt at an accent in his role as a Russian, because he is Sean Connery, and you can go to hell.

Jacob's Ladder -- A mind-bender movie before its time. Tim Robbins is excellent in this. We should be glad it was shot before M. Night Shyamalan was out there.

Joe Versus the Volcano -- I'm pretty sure this flop has reached cult status by now. It's easily the most re-watchable Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan movie.

King of New York -- Is this just me? My introduction to Christopher Walken and Laurence Fishburne. Still among my favorite performances from both.

Miller's Crossing -- As long as the Coens keep knocking them out of the park, most of their movies will remain relevant. This gangland movie is one of their very best, though. Almost the best movie of 1990 in my opinion. And yet somehow, it remains only the second-best gangster movie of the year. More soon.

Misery -- Nobody's forgetting Kathy Bates in this anytime soon.

Postcards From The Edge -- Almost didn't include this, but I've been seeing lots of Meryl Streep love for her performance here lately.

Pretty Woman -- This (awful) movie will be one of a handful of movies from 1990 that will probably still be remembered in fifty years.

Quick Change -- Bombed in 1990. Today, remembered as one of Bill Murray's best.

Reversal of Fortune -- Jeremy Irons won Best Actor for this, and that's pretty much all that's notable. I don't think it will make this list if we revisit in 2020.

Tremors -- Might just be me. One of the most fun movies of that year. I think the people who remember this one love it. It'll live on as a classic B-movie.

Total Recall -- It had a lady with three boobs in it. Not a single man aged 30 - 50 has forgotten this. I promise you.

The Time-Delayed Oscar Goes To. . .

What do you mean I'm shot through the head?
Shot through the head how?  In what way? 
You mean I'm bleeding?  I'm some kind a corpse? 
In what way am I dead?  I'm dead to you how, exactly?
Best Picture

Real Nominee List: Awakenings, Dances With Wolves, Ghost, The Godfather III, Goodfellas.

Today's List: Edward Scissorhands, Goodfellas, Miller's Crossing, Misery, Pretty Woman

We're starting with an easy one here. Best Picture was awarded to Dances With Wolves, a well-made Kevin Costner white-man-among-the-Lakota period epic. I've noticed a lot of derision thrown Dances' way, partly, I think, because Kevin Costner hasn't done much of note in a decade, but mostly because it won the Oscar instead of the movie that pretty much everybody agrees was the superior film: Martin Scorcese's gangster amazement Goodfellas.

I'm putting up the poll on the FilmChaw blog, but I'm pretty sure I'm right on this. Most people remember Goodfellas as one of the greats. There's little doubt in my mind that it would have taken top prize for Best Picture and a director statue for Scorcese.

Best Actor

Jeremy Irons won in 1990. Honestly, I thnk it is a crapshoot who would take it if there were a do-over today. Irons is a fine actor who was probably very good in what is basically a forgotten movie. De Niro in Goodfellas was mainly supporting, as was Joe Pesci (he won for supporting and obviously still would). I don't know if there's enough love for Ray Liota's lead performance to win. Other possibilities include Christopher Walken for King of New York, Johnny Depp for Edward Scissorhands, and Gabriel Byrne for carrying Miller's Crossing. Alec Baldwin in Miami Blues and Michael Rooker in Henry: A Portrait of a Serial Killer gave performances that are still sometimes talked about, even if their movies really aren't given much love. Walken's probably my pick, but that's just a personal preference. I think it was a weak year for the category, so a consensus hasn't built up.

Best Actress

Kathy Bates won in 1990. I think it's reasonable to assume she'd still win in an iconic role.

What do you think?  Vote!


Astin said...

Depp also did Cry-Baby in 1990, he was definitely trying to prove he wasn't your standard pretty-boy actor.

Ghost Dad was also a 1990 film, a giant leap forward for the career of Head of the Class' Kimberly Russell.

We don't have to speak of Ghosts Can't Do it though.

Best movie of 1990? Die Hard 2. Most nostalgically remembered? Young Guns II. Winner of the hindsight Oscar? Not a movie, just a single line - Kindergarten Cop's "It's not a tumor!"

Okay, Goodfellas.

Paul S said...

Good call on Tremors and it's nice to see Joe Versus The Volcano getting some respect although it's still a struggle t find somebody who's seen it let alone likes it.

Shrike said...

Huge Tremors fan. I have a soft spot for Hunt for Red October, too.

jjok said...

interesting year. I'm looking at the list from 1990 and saw some things I enjoyed.

and guiltily.....Men At Work which had some really funny lines and generally made me laugh.

Big fan of tremors. Not of Ghost at all.....

Deniro was nominated for best for Awakenings too, not sure if that's what you meant or not.

Julius_Goat said...

Yeah, Ghost was awful. I'm mentioning it because I think it is still remembered, not because I think it was good.

I also enjoyed Flatliners and Men at Work, but left it out as it struck me they have been buried by the sands of time. Maybe not if they get some love here.

I saw Awakenings and honestly, I can't remember more than scraps of it. This isn't common for me. I think it was probably a very well-meaning movie that is perfectly respectable. I also doubt many people are renting it this weekend.

Similarly, Di Niro in Awakenings is just not a performance I ever read/hear about anymore, though it was lauded at the time. But Goodfellas is so warmly regarded that I'm guessing that it would be considered the award-worthy performance in 2010.

BLAARGH! said...

Goodfellas... easy.

Though it would never happen, Rooker for Henry.

I saw the premier of Henry at the Angelica in 86, It was scary as hell walking out of there with Rooker and Otis walking next to me on Houston street.

Hambone said...

Whoa, just realized 1990 was a huge year for movies.

Awakenings I remember actually being a good movie. And I recently realized its about a guy who is often on RadioLab. Weird to hear him twenty years later, after I'd forgotten him altogether.

Of the list of actual nominees and your nominees, the only two movies I'm really interested in watching are Miller's Crossing and Edward "What is this LON DON??!" Scissorhands.

Both magnificent movies. Both spoke to things inside of me those other movies simply couldn't.

Dawn Summers said...

I tried to vote for Ghost! It wouldnt let me!

Julius_Goat said...

@dawn -- Mark it down. Today is the day that Google Blogger developed good taste.

Dawn Summers said...

This is a violation of my civil rights!

Kochise said...

I just came across this blog because I googled that Matt Damon quote you refer to in your intro. We actually took this comment and ran with it. Last year was the first annual 20/20 awards, where we annually revisit the Oscars from 20 years earlier, and reevaluate them through the perspective of 20 years of hindsight.

I'm always surprised when I ask folks what they think is the best film of all time, and how often that film was something that was released in the last year. Not to say that the greatest film couldn't have been released yesterday, but I think it takes a bit of perspective to really understand and determine that. It's a lot like fashion, we think we're wearing some real boss duds, or sporting a styling haircut, but then when we look back at photos of ourselves from 20 years ago the thought is more often than not "good lord, what was I thinking?"

Anyway, our 20/20 Awards are currently gearing up for year two.

Check us out:

Kochise said...

For anyone interested, our voting body announced our nominees for this year's awards (films from 1990). The winners will be announced at a live ceremony on April 20, in Seattle.