1991 Oscars Playback: Revisiting when ‘Dances with Wolves’ whacked ‘Goodfellas’

Welcome back to Oscars Playback, in which Gold Derby editors and Experts Christopher Rosen and Joyce Eng revisit Oscar ceremonies and winners of yesteryear. This week, we break down the 63rd Academy Awards in 1991, honoring the films of 1990.

As far back as we can remember, Best Picture was “Dances with Wolves'” to lose. Even though many people then and now prefer Martin Scorsese‘s “Goodfellas” to have won, the Western — the fourth highest-grossing film of 1990 — pretty much had the award on lock. It led the way with 12 nominations and won seven, including Best Director for Kevin Costner, the first of three actor-turned-director winners of the ’90s. Besides “Goodfellas,” “Dances with Wolves” beat “Awakenings,” “The Godfather Part III” and “Ghost,” the highest-grossing film of the year, for the top prize. Seven-time nominee “Goodfellas,” on the other hand, just won one award, Best Supporting Actor for Joe Pesci, who had a banner 1990 between that and “Home Alone,” and delivered one of the greatest and briefest speeches of all time.

SEE Oscars Playback: When ‘Braveheart’ roared to an upset win

Not only did Scorsese lose Best Director, but he also lost Best Adapted Screenplay for “Goodfellas,” which he co-wrote with Nicholas Pileggi. These days, a lot of writing and directing nominees win in the former category as a consolation prize of sorts if Best Picture and/or Best Director are clearly going to someone else. Had that happened here, what kind of overdue narrative would Scorsese have had afterward?

Elsewhere, we make the case for Macualay Culkin, cringe at the red carpet introductions, and applaud “pasta chef” Diane Ladd‘s campaign.

Intro and our favorite 1990 films (0:00)
General thoughts on ceremony (18:33)
Best Picture (31:26)
Best Director (44:25)
Best Actor (47:53)
Best Actress (55:16)
Best Supporting Actor (56:55)
Best Supporting Actress (1:00:07)
Screenplay awards (1:04:19)
Other categories and ceremony thoughts (1:07:12)

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