Best Actor hopefuls Miguel Angel Hoppe and Fernando Arroyo
Because last year, we received mounds of letters (real, actual hand-written letters) from fans thanking all the awesome prognosticators at Reverse Shot for aiding them in their annual office Oscar pools, we thought we’d extend a helping hand again. Though we’ve kept decidedly mum this year regarding the Academy Awards (as faithful readers know, our, uh, “passion” for nominees such as Dreamgirls, Notes on a Scandal, and Babel might have gotten in the way of our reportage), we of course have our favorites we’ll be rooting for while we chomp our nachos and swill down our Rolling Rock. Of course, it’s not about who you favor, but WHO WILL WIN? Who will clutch his glorious trophy and with it scale the heights of fame and fortune, a la Linda Hunt? Who will use her newfound clout and recognition to finally find spiritual soalce with herself and peace with others, like Sandy Dennis?
This year seems pretty cut and dry, with a head-to-head best picture battle between critical front-runner Death of Mr. Lazarescu (can unanimous acclaim work against it?!?) and audience favorite The Black Dahlia (which would give Brian De Palma his record fourth Best Picture Oscar). While there’s no obvious lead for best actor like last year’s Banlop Lomnoi (Tropical Malady), it looks like it’s come down to a neck and neck battle between Broken Sky leads Miguel Angel Hoppe and Fernando Arroyo. Best Actress, of course, will go to The Queen’s Helen Mirren.
But rather than continue to rehash all the predictions made elsewhere, I’d like to take the time to reminisce about the moment of my childhood when I realized how essential the Academy Awards were to the landscape of the art form known as cinema.
Come fly with me in my movie time machine back to 1989: The civil rights movement was in its nascent period, Wallace was leading in the presidential primaries, and polio was the unseen evil invading our children’s summer camps. That was also the year that Bruce Beresford’s Driving Miss Daisy rightfully wiped the floor with that angry agitator Spike Lee’s overly incendiary and just-plain icky Do the Right Thing at the Oscars. America’s myopic liberal cognoscenti had widely proclaimed Lee’s sugarcoated, wishful-thinking portrait of racial unrest as the year’s most important film (only Wim Wenders had the balls to rain on Spike’s parade, calling him a coward at Cannes for not “taking sides” in his overly balanced political film). Yet the Academy Awards had the foresight to step up and recognize that the themes and lovable characters of Miss Daisy would prove to be so enduring, that its climactic proclamation of racial union (“You’re my best friend!”) would be brought back to life in a future best picture winner, last year’s hard-hitting Crash.
Do the Right Thing’s righteous loss for Best Picture (it wasn’t even nominated, to make way for more trenchant, artistically viable fare like Dead Poets Society, Field of Dreams, and My Left Foot), was the culmination of a decade that saw the triumph of challenging character studies that had foregone narrative bloat and spectacle (Gandhi, Out of Africa, The Last Emperor) and the passageway to another, which would see the uncontested, worthy triumphs of Dances with Wolves over Goodfellas, Forrest Gump over Pulp Fiction, and Shakespeare in Love over The Thin Red Line. I can think of no greater testament to Oscar’s sizzling-iron branding of Classic onto American films than Driving Miss Daisy: Dan Aykroyd’s exasperated head-shaking, oft-called upon to loosen up awkward scene transitions; Esther Rolle’s slow-motion death-by-snap-peas; Morgan Freeman’s feeding Tandy some “Tanks-givin’ pie” before she croaks (black people aren’t just good drivers—they make for nice human feeding tubes, too!). What will this year’s Oscar memories be? Write in your choices and receive an extra-special handmade T-shirt, featuring the iron-on Oscar-winning actor of your choice.*
* All we have left are Roberto Benigni and Margaret Rutherford