DoTheRightThing

This story is the second in a three-part series called Best Picture (redux), a historical revision of the Best Picture nominees and winners from the 1970s, 80s and 90s.

The selection of Driving Miss Daisy as Best Picture in 1989 is about Hollywood, racism and how the former views the latter. The Academy and its voters believe that if white people are nice to their help — Driving Miss Daisy, Crash and The Help — then they couldn’t possibly be racist. It is enlightenment through condescension.

Driving Miss Daisy isn’t a message movie. It’s a finely acted afterschool special.

Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing — the best film of 1989 and the best film ever made about race in America — was not nominated for Best Picture.

While Do the Right Thing won the best picture awards presented by the Los Angeles and Chicago film critics and Roger Ebert said it “empathized with all the participants,” others saw it as an incendiary device. On the Criterion DVD of the film, Lee points out that New York magazine’s Joe Klein lamented the death of Sal’s Pizzeria but not that of a young black man killed by the police.

Cut to 2016, when advanced technology presented continuous and unequivocal proof of rampant unnecessary police violence against black people, when America had to be reminded that black lives matter, when America elected Donald Trump as President.

Unfortunately, Do the Right Thing is timeless.

When Buggin’ Out asks the timeless question — “How come you ain’t got no brothers up on the wall?” — the camera cuts to black and white photographs of Italian Americans: Academy Award winners like Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Frank Sinatra and Liza Minnelli. “Boycott Sal’s,” Buggin’ Out yells as Mookie (played by Lee himself) leads him out of the pizzeria.

Spike Lee received an Academy Honorary Award in 2015 at the Governors Awards. A few months later, he skipped the real Academy Awards.

The Best Picture (redux) goes to …

1980 | RAGING BULL (Martin Scorsese)

The nominees were …

Coal Miner’s Daughter
The Elephant Man
Ordinary People
Raging Bull
Tess

The nominees should have been …

Airplane!
The Empire Strikes Back
Ordinary People
Raging Bull
The Shining

Honorable mention

American Gigolo
Caddyshack
The Great Santini
Melvin and Howard

Best Picture | Ordinary People

Best Picture (redux) | Raging Bull

Man against man. Man against self. In black and white, with Robert De Niro, Cathy Moriarty and Joe Pesci.

Martin Scorsese’s third Best Picture (redux) win.

1981 | RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (Steven Spielberg)

The nominees were …

Atlantic City
Chariots of Fire
On Golden Pond
Raiders of the Lost Ark
Reds

The nominees should have been …

Atlantic City
Blow Out
Body Heat
Raiders of the Lost Ark
Reds

Honorable mention

Modern Romance
The Postman Always Rings Twice
Prince of the City
The Road Warrior
Superman II
They All Laughed
Time Bandits

Best Picture | Chariots of Fire

Best Picture (redux) | Raiders of the Lost Ark

Harrison Ford vs. Nazis, directed by Steven Speilberg, screenplay by Lawrence Kasdan, story by George Lucas and Phillip Kaufman.

1982 | E.T. the EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL (Steven Spielberg)

The nominees were …

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
Gandhi
Missing
Tootsie
The Verdict

The nominees should have been …

Blade Runner
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
Diner
Tootsie
The Verdict

Honorable mention

48 Hrs.
Fast Times at Ridgemont High
Missing
Personal Best
Poltergeist
The Road Warrior
Victor Victoria

Best Picture | Gandhi

Best Picture (redux) | E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial

Steven Spielberg turns suburbia into a wonderland, wins consecutive Best Picture (redux) awards.

1983 | THE KING OF COMEDY (Martin Scorsese)

The nominees were …

The Big Chill
The Dresser
The Right Stuff
Tender Mercies
Terms of Endearment

The nominees should have been …

The King of Comedy
The Right Stuff
Risky Business
Tender Mercies
Terms of Endearment

Honorable mention

The Dead Zone
The Hunger
The Man with Two Brains
Trading Places

Best Picture | Terms of Endearment

Best Picture (redux) | The King of Comedy

A prescient satire of celebrity, with Robert De Niro, Jerry Lewis and Sandra Bernhard.

Martin Scorsese’s fourth Best Picture (redux) win.

1984 | AMADEUS (Milos Foreman)

The nominees were …

Amadeus
The Killing Fields
A Passage to India
Places in the Heart
A Soldier’s Story

The nominees should have been …

Amadeus
Ghostbusters
Once Upon a Time in America
The Terminator
This is Spinal Tap

Honorable mention

Beverly Hills Cop
Moscow on the Hudson
Paris, Texas
Repo Man
Stranger Than Paradise

Best Picture | Amadeus

Best Picture (redux) | Amadeus

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was rock and roll’s original bad boy, but Salieri (F. Murray Abraham) won Best Actor.

1985 | BACK TO THE FUTURE (Robert Zemeckis)

The nominees were …

The Color Purple
Kiss of the Spider Woman
Out of Africa
Prizzi’s Honor
Witness

The nominees should have been …

After Hours
Back to the Future
Blood Simple
Brazil
Witness

Honorable mention

Lost in America
The Purple Rose of Cairo

Best Picture | Out of Africa

Best Picture (redux) | Back to the Future

One hell of a yarn set in 1985 and 1955, with Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson, Crispin Glover and a 1981 DeLorean DMC-12.

1986 | BLUE VELVET (David Lynch)

The nominees were …

Children of a Lesser God
Hannah and Her Sisters
The Mission
Platoon
A Room with a View

The nominees should have been …

Aliens
Blue Velvet
Hannah and Her Sisters
Platoon
A Room with a View

Honorable mention

The Color of Money
Down and Out in Beverly Hills
The Fly
Little Shop of Horrors
Salvador

Best Picture | Platoon

Best Picture (redux) | Blue Velvet

Neo-noir mystery, with sex, violence and Dennis Hopper as a sociopath who huffs gas and tortures Isabella Rossellini. Set in Lumberton, N.C. Filmed in Wilmington.

Oliver Stone made a war double feature with Platoon and Salvador, picking up two Best Screenplay nominations and winning Best Picture and Best Director for Platoon.

1987 | FULL METAL JACKET (Stanley Kubrick)

The nominees were …

Broadcast News
Fatal Attraction
Hope and Glory
The Last Emperor
Moonstruck

The nominees should have been …

Broadcast News
Full Metal Jacket
Hope and Glory
The Last Emperor
Moonstruck

Honorable mention

Planes, Trains and Automobiles
The Princess Pride
Radio Days
Raising Arizona

Best Picture | The Last Emperor

Best Picture (redux) | Full Metal Jacket

A war movie in two parts: Marine boot camp run by real-life drill instructor R. Lee Ermey and Matthew Modine’s “duality of man” in battle.

1988 | BULL DURHAM (Ron Shelton)

The nominees were …

The Accidental Tourist
Dangerous Liaisons
Mississippi Burning
Rain Man
Working Girl

The nominees should have been …

Bull Durham
Dangerous Liaisons
Die Hard
A Fish Called Wanda
Hairspray
Midnight Run
The Unbearable Lightness of Being
Who Framed Roger Rabbit
Wings of Desire
Working Girl

Honorable mention

Beetlejuice
Big
Clean and Sober
Heathers
The Last Temptation of Christ

Best Picture | Rain Man

Best Picture (redux) | Bull Durham

A romantic comedy inside a sports movie. Or the other way around. Written and directed by Ron Shelton, with Kevin Costner, Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins.

1989 | DO THE RIGHT THING (Spike Lee)

The nominees were …

Born on the Fourth of July
Dead Poets Society
Driving Miss Daisy
Field of Dreams
My Left Foot

The nominees should have been …

Born on the Fourth of July
Crimes and Misdemeanors
Do the Right Thing
Drugstore Cowboy
sex, lies and videotape

Honorable mention

Batman
The Fabulous Baker Boys
Glory
Roger & Me
Say Anything …
When Harry Met Sally …

Best Picture | Driving Miss Daisy

Best Picture (redux) | Do the Right Thing

The hottest day of the summer in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, with Spike Lee, Danny Aiello, John Turturro, Richard Edson, Giancarlo Esposito and breakout performances by Rosie Perez and Robin Harris.

• • •

Footnotes | I am not initiating the myth that I have seen every movie from the 1970s, 80s and 90s. Or even most of them.

These lists are partly the result of research and aggregation, employing Metacritic, Rotten Tomatoes, AFI’s 100 Greatest Films, the Sight and Sound polls (critics and directors), Time’s 100 Movies, The Hollywood Reporter’s 100 Favorite Films, Entertainment Weekly’s All-Time Greatest movies and IMDb’s top-rated movies.

The annual awards from critics organizations were also considered: National Board, National Society, New York, Los Angeles and Kansas City in the 70s. Chicago began its awards in 1988, then Boston, Dallas-Fort Worth, Florida, San Diego and the Southeastern critics in the 90s. The Golden Globes and Producers Guild awards were included in this group.

Finally, the annual top 10 lists from critics Siskel & Ebert and Andrew Sarris had their say.

But ranking movies is a nutty, little pursuit. It is art, not science.

Movies are personal. So when a tie-breaker was needed, I broke it. Sometimes, when one was not needed, I barged in and made a personal choice anyway.

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