1989 marked the last of three times that a movie won the Academy Award for Best Picture without its director earning a nomination. Back then, it was “Driving Miss Daisy” that took the top prize; this year, it looks like “Argo” will pull off this Oscar rarity. But that is not the only parallel or tie-in between these two derbies separated by 23 years.
In 1989, Daniel Day-Lewis won his first Best Actor Oscar for “My Left Foot.” He picked up his second in 2007 for “There Will Be Blood” and is all but certain to win a record third lead actor award this year for “Lincoln,” a Civil-War themed film with a great Oscar pedigree.
In 1989, the Civil War and slavery also dominated “Glory,” a movie that won three Oscars including Best Supporting Actor for Denzel Washington, who is contending for the sixth time this year (“Flight“).
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In 1989, “Driving Miss Daisy” helmer Bruce Beresford was snubbed in the Best Director race. However, unlike “Argo” director Ben Affleck, the Aussie director had not gained traction from any precursor prizes: the National Board of Review chose Kenneth Branagh (“Henry V”); the Gotham critics went with Paul Mazursky (“Enemies: A Love Story”); the LA group honored Spike Lee (“Do the Right Thing”); the National Society of Film Critics voted for Gus Van Sant (“Drugstore Cowboy”); and the Golden Globe went to Oliver Stone (“Born on the Fourth of July”).
Stone was the only one of this quintet to reap a Directors Guild bid. He defeated Woody Allen (“Crimes and Misdemeanors”), Rob Reiner (“When Harry Met Sally”), Phil Alden Robinson (“Field of Dreams”), and Peter Weir (“Dead Poets Society”). The directors branch of the academy nominated Allen, Branagh, Weir, Jim Sheridan (“My Left Foot”) and Stone, who picked up a bookend to his 1986 Oscar for helming Best Picture champ “Platoon.”
Because only two Best Picture champs — “Wings” ( 1927/1928) and “Grand Hotel” (1931/1932) — had prevailed without directing nods, most pundits did not take “Daisy” seriously when predicting Oscar winners.
Heading into the Oscars, “Driving Miss Daisy” had won Best Picture from the National Board of Review and the Globe for Best Comedy/Musical (beating out “The Little Mermaid,” “Shirley Valentine,” “The War of the Roses,” and “When Harry Met Sally”).
Of the other four Best Picture contenders, “My Left Foot” took the top prize from the Gotham critics while “Born on the Fourth of July” claimed Best Drama at the Globes. The two big hits of the bunch — “Dead Poets Society” and “Field of Dreams” — had only won over audiences. The LA critics had gone with “Do the Right Thing” while the National Society had opted for “Drugstore Cowboy.”
Although Vietnam War-themed “July” was considered the frontrunner for Best Picture, eight days earlier “Driving Miss Daisy” scribe Alfred Uhry beat Stone and Ron Kovic for Best Adapted Screenplay at the Writers Guild of America Awards. The Pulitzer Prize champ went on to win the Oscar as well.
While “Daisy” star Jessica Tandy won Best Comedy/Musical Actress at the Globes, Michelle Pfeiffer (“The Fabulous Baker Boys”) had swept the precursors. At the Oscars, Tandy defeated Pfeiffer as well as Isabelle Adjani (“Camille Claudel”), Pauline Collins (“Shirley Valentine”) and Jessica Lange (“Music Box”) to become, at age 80, the oldest lead actress winner to date.
The other “Daisy” lead, Morgan Freeman, had racked up victories from the National Board of Review and the Globes. The drama Globe went to Tom Cruise (“Born on the Fourth of July”), while Day-Lewis was the critics darling, picking up support from Los Angeles, New York, and the National Society. It was a three-horse race at the Oscars with Branagh and Robin Williams (“Dead Poets Society”) rounding out the field.
“Daisy” won four of its leading nine Oscar nominations: Best Picture (Richard Zanuck and Lili Fini Zanuck), Best Actress (Tandy), Best Adapted Screenplay (Uhry), and Best Makeup (Lynn Barber, Kevin Haney, and Manlio Rocchetti). The five losses were for Best Actor (Freeman), Best Supporting Actor (Dan Aykroyd), Best Art Direction (Bruno Rubeo and Crispian Sallis), Best Costume Design (Elizabeth McBride), and Best Editing (Mark Warner).
“July” won two of ite eight Oscar races: Directing and Editing. It and “Daisy” were the only Best Picture nominees up for Best Editing. The last movie to win the top Oscar without at least contending for cutting was “Ordinary People” in 1980.
“My Left Foot” won two of its Oscar bid: Best Actor (Day-Lewis) and Best Supporting Actress (Brenda Fricker).
OSCAR PARALLELS & TIE-INS (1989 & 2012)
1989 – “Driving Miss Daisy” wins Best Picture with no directing nod.
2012 – “Argo” is frontrunner for Best Picture with no directing nod.
1989 – Day-Lewis wins Best Actor (“My Left Foot”).
2012 – Day-Lewis is frontrunner for Best Actor (“Lincoln”).
1989 – Day-Lewis, Washington (“Glory”), cinematographer Robert Richardson (“Born on the Fourth of July”), composer John Williams (“Born on the Fourth of July,” “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade”), sound editor Wylie Stateman (“Born on the Fourth of July”) and sound mixer Greg Russell (“Black Rain”).
2012 – Day-Lewis, Washington (“Flight”), Richardson (“Django Unchained”), Williams (“Lincoln”), Stateman (“Django Unchained”) and Russell (“Skyfall”).
CIVIL WAR THEME
1989 – Major Oscar contender “Glory” (with Best Supporting Actor winner Washington).
2012 – Major Oscar contender “Lincoln” (with Best Supporting Actor frontrunner Tommy Lee Jones).
1989 – Adjani nominated as Best Actress for French language performance.
2012 – Riva nominated as Best Actress for French language performance.
1989 – Tony-winning playwright Uhry wins for Best Adapted Screenplay.
2012 – Tony-winning playwright Tony Kushner (“Lincoln”) frontrunner for Best Adapted Screenplay.
1989 – Film set largely on water (“The Abyss”) wins for Best Visual Effects.
2012 – Film set largely on water (“Life of Pi“) frontrunner for Best Visual Effects.
1989 – Disney film (“The Little Mermaid”) about a fiesty redheaded princess is Oscar nominee (and winner).
2012 – Disney film (“Brave“) about a feisty redheaded princess is Oscar nominee.
1989 – Former Academy President Howard Koch receives the Hersholt humanitarian award.
2012 – Koch’s son Hawk Koch is the newly elected Academy President.
1989 – Oscar ceremony hosted by first-timer Billy Crystal (with rookie producer Gil Cates).
2012 – Oscar ceremony hosted by first-timer Seth MacFarlane (with rookie producers Neil Meron and Craig Zadan).
NAMES TO REMEMBER
1989 – Zanuck is an Oscar winner; Nora Ephron and Marvin Hamlisch are nominees.
2012 – Zanuck, Ephron, and Hamlisch will be part of the “In Memoriam” segment.
1989 – New producer Cates brought back the tradition of the previous year’s acting winners returning to present to the new acting champs. Jodie Foster (“The Accused”), Geena Davis (“The Accidental Tourist”), and Kevin Kline (“A Fish Called Wanda”) accepted, but Dustin Hoffman (“Rain Man”) did not (past winner Gregory Peck took his place).
2012 – Meryl Streep (“The Iron Lady”), Jean Dujardin (“The Artist”), Octavia Spencer (“The Help”), and Christopher Plummer (“Beginners”) will all present at the Oscars.
1989 – “Batman” (directed by Tim Burton) is the top film at the box office.
2012 – “The Dark Knight Rises” (directed by Christopher Nolan) is the second-highest film at the box office.