Bob Hoskins and Roger Rabbit listen for sounds of the villains in Who Framed Roger Rabbit

My Top 20:

  1. Who Framed Roger Rabbit
  2. Dangerous Liaisons
  3. Running on Empty
  4. A Fish Called Wanda
  5. The Unbearable Lightness of Being
  6. Bull Durham
  7. Wings of Desire
  8. Mississippi Burning
  9. Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown
  10. Rain Man
  11. The Accidental Tourist
  12. Castle in the Sky
  13. Die Hard
  14. Beetlejuice
  15. Married to the Mob
  16. Dead Ringers
  17. Eight Men Out
  18. Babette’s Feast
  19. Red Sorghum
  20. Big

note:  There is no year in which I have switched between as many films for my #1.  It originally was Rain Man, as I was won over by it in the theater.  It later changed to Dangerous Liaisons.  In later year, overwhelmed by my emotional reaction to the ending, Running on Empty ended up on top.  Then for a while I couldn’t decide between Running, The Unbearable Lightness of Being and Roger Rabbit and the three moved around for a while before Roger finally won out.

Consensus Awards:

  • Best Picture:  The Accidental Tourist
  • Best Director:  Alan Parker  (Mississippi Burning)
  • Best Actor:  Dustin Hoffman  (Rain Man)
  • Best Actress:  Jodie Foster  (The Accused)
  • Best Supporting Actor:  Dean Stockwell  (Married to the Mob)
  • Best Supporting Actress:  Michelle Pfeiffer  (Dangerous Liaisons)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay:  Dangerous Liaisons
  • Best Original Screenplay:  Bull Durham
  • Best Cinematography:  Wings of Desire
  • Best Foreign Film:  Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown

Academy Awards:

  • Best Picture:  Rain Man
  • Best Director:  Barry Levinson  (Rain Man)
  • Best Actor:  Dustin Hoffman  (Rain Man)
  • Best Actress:  Jodie Foster  (The Accused)
  • Best Supporting Actor:  Kevin Kline  (A Fish Called Wanda)
  • Best Supporting Actress:  Geena Davis  (The Accidental Tourist)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay:  Dangerous Liaisons
  • Best Original Screenplay:  Rain Man
  • Best Cinematography:  Mississippi Burning
  • Best Foreign Film:  Pelle the Conqueror

Kieslowski's Dekalog - the only 1988 film to make the top 240

Top 10 Films  (Top 1000):

  1. Dekalog  –  #132
  2. Wings of Desire  –  #247
  3. Dead Ringers  –  #439
  4. Distant Voices, Still Lives  –  #456
  5. Die Hard  –  #562
  6. Midnight Run  –  #615
  7. Yellow Earth  –  #642
  8. Last Temptation of Christ  –  #693
  9. Red Sorghum  –  #702
  10. Yeelen  –  #725

Top 5 Films  (1988 Best Picture Awards):

  1. The Accidental Tourist
  2. Rain Man
  3. Mississippi Burning
  4. The Unbearable Lightness of Being
  5. Working Girl

note:  This seems like a good year to discuss how I come up with this list, seeing as how there is basically no consensus.  The winner of this list is the film that ends up as the Best Picture winner for the Consensus Awards.  These awards don’t involve my opinion of the films in question – my views only matter in that I decide how much to weigh each award.  Basically, each Best Picture win is worth 100 points and each nomination is worth 50.  So, then you end up with a raw total.  Three films end up with a raw total of 200 – Accidental Tourist, Rain Man and Mississippi BurningRain Man won the Oscar and the Globe, while the other two each won a critics award and were nominated for both the Oscar and the Globe.  The next two each earned 150 – Unbearable was nominated for a Globe and won a critics award while Working Girl won the Globe and was nominated for the Oscar.  But then the weighted total comes into play.  I rate certain awards at 100% (Academy Award, BAFTA, New York Film Critics, LA Film Critics), some at 90% (National Society of Film Critics, Boston Society of Film Critics, PGA (once it starts in 1989)) and the rest at 80% (National Board of Review, Chicago Film Critics, Golden Globe, Broadcast Film Critics Award).  So, Rain Man, by winning the Oscar (100) and the Globe (80) gets 180.  But Tourist, gets 50 for its Oscar nomination, 40 for its Globe nomination and 100 for winning the New York Film Critics, for 190 total, and thus the win.  Mississippi Burning, got the same 90 for the Oscar and Globe noms, as well as 80 points for winning the NBR.  It’s an odd year because no film won multiple critics awards and none of the 5 critics winners (Bull Durham and Little Dorrit were the other two) won the Globe, Oscar or BAFTA.  So, for the first time since 1978 only one film wins more than 1 award and it doesn’t get the consensus award.  It doesn’t help that because of different dates with the BAFTA’s only two films eligible in 1988 ended up with BAFTA Best Picture nominations (A Fish Called Wanda and Babette’s Feast), while 6 films from 1989 ended up with them over the course of two years.  On the other hand, while the Globes upped the ante and nominated 7 films for Best Picture – Drama, the 12 nominated Globe films didn’t include critics winners Bull Durham or Little Dorrit or eventual Oscar nominee Dangerous Liaisons, while Globe nominees Gorillas in the Mist, A Cry in the Dark, Running on Empty, Big, Midnight Run and Who Framed Roger Rabbit all received no other nominations.  So, the Top 5 films in the 1988 Best Picture Awards only received 12 Best Picture nominations and 6 Best Picture wins combined, or, only 2 more nominations and 4 fewer wins than Schindler’s List would do on its own just five years later.

Top 10 Films  (Awards Points):

  1. Mississippi Burning  –  965
  2. Rain Man  –  924
  3. Dangerous Liaisons  –  725
  4. A Fish Called Wanda  –  708
  5. Working Girl  –  645
  6. Who Framed Roger Rabbit  –  548
  7. Bull Durham  –  533
  8. The Unbearable Lightness of Being  –  439
  9. The Accidental Tourist  –  411
  10. Running on Empty  –  380

note:  For the first time since 1973, only the second time since 1956, and the last time to date, no film breaks 1000 points.  Dangerous Liaisons sets a record for awards points without earning any points from the Golden Globes (broken in 1998).  Mississippi Burning becomes the first film to ever finish 1st in Awards Points without winning any of the 5 categories – it comes in 3rd at the Oscars, 2nd at the critics, 4th at the BAFTA’s, tied for 4th at the Globes and 3rd at the guilds.  But, it is one of only three films (Unbearable Lightness and Accidental Tourist being the other two) to get points in all 5 categories.

Top 10 Films  (Box Office Gross):

  1. Rain Man  –  $172.82 mil
  2. Who Framed Roger Rabbit  –  $156.45 mil
  3. Coming to America  –  $128.15 mil
  4. Big  –  $114.96 mil
  5. Twins  –  $111.93 mil
  6. Crocodile Dundee II  –  $109.30 mil
  7. Die Hard  –  $83.00 mil
  8. The Naked Gun  –  $78.75 mil
  9. Cocktail  –  $78.22 mil
  10. Beetlejuice  –  $73.70 mil

note:  Rain Man becomes the first top film at the box office to get an Oscar nomination for Best Picture since 1982 and the first to win since 1979.

Ebert Great Films:

  • Wings of Desire
  • Dekalog
  • Last Temptation of Christ

Nighthawk Golden Globes:

The magnificent and radiant Michelle Pfeiffer in Dangerous Liaisons - winner of the 1988 Nighthawk Award

Drama:

  • Best Picture:  Dangerous Liaisons
  • Best Director:  Stephen Frears  (Dangerous Liaisons)
  • Best Actor:  Dustin Hoffman  (Rain Man)
  • Best Actress:  Christine Lahti  (Running on Empty)
  • Best Supporting Actor:  River Phoenix  (Running on Empty)
  • Best Supporting Actress:  Michelle Pfeiffer  (Dangerous Liaisons)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay:  Dangerous Liaisons
  • Best Original Screenplay:  Running on Empty

Comedy / Musical:

  • Best Picture:  Who Framed Roger Rabbit
  • Best Director:  Robert Zemeckis  (Who Framed Roger Rabbit)
  • Best Actor:  Forest Whitaker  (Bird)
  • Best Actress:  Jamie Lee Curtis  (A Fish Called Wanda)
  • Best Supporting Actor:  Kevin Kline  (A Fish Called Wanda)
  • Best Supporting Actress:  Geena Davis  (The Accidental Tourist)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay:  Who Framed Roger Rabbit
  • Best Original Screenplay:  A Fish Called Wanda

It would take until 1997 before Japan would submit a Miyazaki film to the Oscars. But My Neighbor Totoro was the best Foreign Film of 1988, submitted or not.

Nighthawk Awards:

  • Best Picture:  Who Framed Roger Rabbit
  • Best Director:  Robert Zemeckis  (Who Framed Roger Rabbit)
  • Best Actor:  Dustin Hoffman  (Rain Man)
  • Best Actress:  Christine Lahti  (Running on Empty)
  • Best Supporting Actor:  Kevin Kline  (A Fish Called Wanda)
  • Best Supporting Actress:  Michelle Pfeiffer  (Dangerous Liaisons)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay:  Dangerous Liaisons
  • Best Original Screenplay:  A Fish Called Wanda
  • Best Editing:  Who Framed Roger Rabbit
  • Best Cinematography:  The Unbearable Lightness of Being
  • Best Original Score:  Last Temptation of Christ
  • Best Sound:  Die Hard
  • Best Art Direction:  Dangerous Liaisons
  • Best Visual Effects:  Who Framed Roger Rabbit
  • Best Sound Editing:  Die Hard
  • Best Costume Design:  Dangerous Liaisons
  • Best Makeup:  Beetlejuice
  • Best Original Song:  “Let the River Run” from Working Girl
  • Best Animated Film:  Who Framed Roger Rabbit
  • Best Foreign Film:  My Neighbor Totoro

note:  A reminder yet again about Foreign Film.  I use Academy eligibility rules – so Foreign Films are eligible in the year of their release in their home country, but for everything else when they are released in the U.S..  However, they also cut off films after a year.  So, Totoro was only eligible for other Oscars if it was released before the end of 1989.  So, what to do?  I make it eligible for everything else in 1989, but it will lose Best Animated Film to The Little Mermaid, just like here Castle in the Sky loses to Roger Rabbit.

My Top 5 Foreign Films originally released in their home countries in 1988:

  1. My Neighbor Totoro
  2. Grave of the Fireflies
  3. Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown
  4. Hanussen
  5. Red Sorghum

note:  These would have been Oscar eligible that year.  The first two were not submitted (Japan submitted a film called Hope and Pain which I have never seen).  The next two were nominated and lost to Pelle the Conqueror (which I think is vastly over-rated).  Red Sorghum was submitted but not nominated.  I am including this list from here on out because there are usually enough good Foreign Films each year to justify it and because these films usually aren’t eligible for the other awards and it confuses people.

Nighthawk Notables:

  • Best Film to Watch Over and Over:  A Fish Called Wanda
  • Best Line:  “Aristotle was not Belgian.  The central message of Buddhism is not ‘every man for himself.’  And the London Underground is not a political movement.  Those are all mistakes, Otto.  I looked them up.”  Jamie Lee Curtis in A Fish Called Wanda
  • Best Opening:  Who Framed Roger Rabbit
  • Best Ending:  Running on Empty
  • Best Scene:  Kevin Costner telling the batter the pitch in Bull Durham
  • Funniest Film:  A Fish Called Wanda
  • Best Guilty Pleasure:  Willow
  • Most Over-Rated Film:  Pelle the Conqueror
  • Worst Film:  Caddyshack II
  • Sexiest Performance:  Susan Sarandon in Bull Durham
  • Performance to Fall in Love With:  Solveig Dommartin in Wings of Desire
  • Star of the Year:  Michelle Pfeiffer  (Dangerous Liaisons, Married to the Mob, Tequila Sunrise)
  • Best Use of a Song  (dramatic):  “Fire and Rain” in Running on Empty
  • Best Use of a Song  (comedic):  “Jump in the Line” in Beetlejuice
  • Best Ensemble:  Eight Men Out
  • Watch the Film, SKIP the Book:  Who Framed Roger Rabbit

Film History:  Pelle the Conqueror wins the Palme d’Or.  Red Sorghum wins the Golden Bear in Berlin.  The Film Preservation Act is passed.  The Screenwriters Guild goes on strike for five months.  The Last Temptation of Christ is released to wide-spread protests, including the setting fire to a cinema in Paris.  Heat and Sunlight wins the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance.  Stand and Deliver wins a record 6 Independent Spirit Awards, including Best Picture, a record that still stands.  The Museum of Moving Image opens in London.  E.T. becomes the first film to have videotape sales in excess of 15 million.

Academy Awards:  For the first time since 1955, only one film is nominated for Picture, Director and Screenplay – and, like Marty, it then wins all three – Rain Man.  Dangerous Liaisons becomes the first film since 1980 to get a Best Picture nomination without getting any other Best Picture nominations from other groups.  Rain Man becomes the first film since 1968 to win Best Picture without winning any awards from the major critics groups.  For the first time, all five Best Picture nominees are December releases.  Lawrence Kasdan joins Martin Ritt as the only directors to fail to earn Best Director nominations when their films were nominated for Best Picture twice in the same decade (1983 – The Big Chill, 1988 – The Accidental Tourist); they would later by joined by Frank Darabont.  For only the second time, neither France nor Italy is nominated for Best Foreign Film.  Instead, India is nominated for the first time in 31 years and Denmark becomes the first country to win back-to-back awards since 1973, and the last to date.  The Accused becomes the first film to win Best Actress with no other nominations since 1961.  Twelve different films win feature film Oscars – the most since 1968.  Rain Man is the first Best Picture winner in 7 years not to be nominated for Best Sound.

Aside from the acting choices I mention below, the big misses here are Christine Lahti for Running on Empty and the big nominations for Who Framed Roger Rabbit and The Unbearable Lightness of BeingLightness was nominated for Adapted Screenplay, but both deserved to be nominated for Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay and Actor.  They also missed out on Peter Gabriel’s great score for Last Temptation of Christ, the creative art direction in Beetlejuice and they really chunked the costume design category.  They got the winner right (Dangerous Liaisons – one of the best winners in the category ever), but instead of A Handful of Dust, Tucker, Coming to America and Sunset, I would have gone with Roger Rabbit, Red Sorghum, Little Dorrit and Eight Men Out.  They also really blew it by not nominating Dangerous Liaisons for its makeup.  And aside from blowing it by giving Best Foreign Film to Pelle the Conqueror instead of Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, Almodovar’s brilliant film also deserved nominations for Actress (Carmen Maura) and Original Screenplay.

  • Worst Oscar:  Best Foreign Film for Pelle the Conqueror
  • Worst Oscar Nomination:  Best Foreign Film for Pelle the Conqueror
  • Worst Oscar Omission:  Best Actress for Christine Lahti in Running on Empty
  • Worst Oscar-Nominated Film:  Beaches
  • Best Eligible Film with No Oscar Nominations:  Wings of Desire
  • Best Eligible English-Language Film with No Oscar Nominations:  Dead Ringers
  • Best Foreign Film Submitted but Not Nominated:  Red Sorghum  (China)
  • Worst Oscar Category:  Best Costume Design  (I agree with the winner but none of the other nominees)
  • Best Oscar Category:  Best Supporting Actor
  • Oscar / Nighthawk Award Agreements:  Best Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium, Actor, Supporting Actor, Editing, Art Direction, Visual Effects, Costume Design, Makeup

Golden Globes:  For the first time in 8 years a film gets nominated for Picture, Director and Screenplay at the Globes but not Picture at the Oscars; two films actually pull it off – Running on Empty and A Cry in the DarkA Cry in the Dark goes even further – the first film in 9 years to get those nominations at the Globes and none of them at the Oscars.  Meanwhile, Bird becomes the first film to win Best Director and fail to earn a Best Picture nomination (if eligible) in 20 years.  It beats out the other five films, all of which were nominated for Picture, Director and Screenplay: A Cry in the Dark (4 noms, 0 wins), Running on Empty (5 noms, win for Screenplay), Mississippi Burning (4 noms, 0 wins), Rain Man (4 noms, wins for Picture (Drama) and Actor (Drama)) and Working Girl (a leading 6 noms, a leading 4 wins – Picture and Actress (Comedy), Supporting Actress, Song).  All are Drama nominees except Working Girl.  Also in the Best Picture (Drama) race are Gorillas in the Mist, The Accidental Tourist and The Unbearable Lightness of Being.  It is a strange year; aside from the 7 nominees for Picture (Drama), three actresses would tie for Best Actress (Drama) – Sigourney Weaver for Gorillas in the Mist, Jodie Foster for The Accused and Shirley MacLaine for Madame Sousatzka.  MacLaine would become the only actress in history to win the Golden Globe for Best Actress (Drama) and fail to earn an Oscar nomination.

Awards:  Rain Man becomes the first film since 1968 to win Best Picture without winning any awards from the major critics groups.  The only thing that earns any consensus from the critics are Screenplay, in which Bull Durham wins 4 awards and Cinematography, in which Wings of Desire wins 3.  In Picture, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actress and Director no single person wins more than one award.  Only two films even manage to win Picture and Director – Mississippi Burning, which gets both from the National Board of Review and The Unbearable Lightness of Being, which earns both from the National Society of Film Critics.  Aside from Rain Man, Dangerous Liaisons and Working Girl also fail to win any critics awards.  The New York Film Critics give Picture to The Accidental Tourist and Director to A World Apart.  The L.A. Film Critics give Picture to Little Dorrit and Director to Dead Ringers.  The Boston Society of Film Critics give Picture to Bull Durham and don’t give out Director at all.  The only film that wins more than two awards from the same group is Mississippi Burning, which takes home Picture, Actor, Supporting Actress and Director from the NBR, tying it with A Man for All Seasons and Terms of Endearment for second place all-time at the NBR with 320 points.

For the first time since 1982, Woody Allen fails to earn a WGA nomination.  Who Framed Roger Rabbit becomes the first film since Close Encounters of the Third Kind in 1977 to earn DGA, WGA and ACE nominations without getting a Best Picture nomination at the Oscars (it also, like Close Encounters, wins the Motion Picture Sound Editors Award).  Rain Man wins the DGA and the ACE and loses at the WGA and ASC (Cinematography), just like The Last EmperorA Fish Called Wanda and Working Girl both earn DGA and WGA nominations.  Mississippi Burning earns the final DGA nom, ties with Rain Man for the ACE and loses the ASC to Tequila SunriseDangerous Liaisons and Bull Durham win the two WGA awards – the second year in a row that neither winner earned a DGA nom (something that has never happened since).

The Last Emperor (in the year after its Oscar win) becomes the only film between 1982 and 1993 to win the Oscar and the BAFTA.  Rain Man will have to wait another year before going 0 for 3.  Twelve different films win a BAFTA with only three films winning more than one – The Last Emperor and Empire of the Sun, with 3 each and A Fish Called Wanda with 2.  The major awards are split.  The Last Emperor gets 11 nominations, but only wins Picture, Costume Design and Makeup.  A Fish Called Wanda does win Actor and Supporting Actor (for Michael Palin) among its 9 nominations.  Au revoir les enfants only earns 4 nominations, but they are Picture, Director, Original Screenplay and Foreign Film; it wins Director but nothing else.  The two Screenplay awards go to A World Apart and The Unbearable Lightness of Being, neither of which is nominated for Best Picture.  The final Best Picture nominee is Babette’s Feast, which only wins Foreign Film.  Empire of the Sun does win Cinematography, Score and Sound but, like at the Oscars the year before, fails to get a nomination for Picture or Director.  With all the Oscar Best Picture nominees getting released so late in the year, none of them are eligible for BAFTA’s – all of them except Mississippi Burning would earn nominations the following year.

Best Actor:  There was a lot of talk going into the Oscars about the five H’s.  Dustin Hoffman was in Rain Man, the front runner for Best Picture and had won the Golden Globe for Actor (Drama).  Tom Hanks had won Actor (Comedy) at the Globes and the LA Film Critics for his performance in Big.  Gene Hackman had won the NBR and earned a Globe nomination for Mississippi Burning.  Bob Hoskins, fresh off a near win two years before for Mona Lisa, had been nominated at the Globes for Who Framed Roger Rabbit, which was a strong contender for Best Picture.  William Hurt hadn’t earned any awards attention so far, but The Accidental Tourist looked strong for Best Picture and Hurt was riding three consecutive nominations.  Also in contention were Jeremy Irons (winner of the New York Film Critics for Dead Ringers), Michael Keaton (winner of the NSFC for Clean and Sober), Kevin Costner (winner of the Boston Society of Film Critics for Bull Durham) and Globe nominee (and future Indie winner) Edward James Olmes for Stand and Deliver.  When the nominations were announced, Hoskins and Hurt were out.  Olmos was in, along with, amazingly, Max Von Sydow, with his first ever Oscar nomination for Pelle the Conqueror.  Hoffman would go on to win (rightfully, in my opinion), though he would lose the BAFTA to John Cleese for A Fish Called Wanda.  But amidst all of this, two performances were lost – namely Forest Whitaker for his incredible performance as Charlie Parker in Bird (he did earn a Globe nom) and Daniel Day-Lewis in The Unbearable Lightness of Being (though Day-Lewis would win the Oscar the next year).  While the Oscars owed something to Von Sydow for years of magnificent performances (though, oddly, like Liv Ullmann, when he finally got his first nomination it was not for a Bergman film), he didn’t belong with the others.  My own nominee list would be Hoffman, Hackman, Whitaker, Hoskins and Day-Lewis, followed in the next five slots by Irons, Costner, John Malkovich (Dangerous Liaisons), Hurt and Keaton, with Hanks sliding down to the 11 spot.

Whatever you do, don't call him stupid. The amazing Kevin Kline in A Fish Called Wanda (1988).

Best Supporting Actor:  Three different people win critics awards for Best Supporting Actor and all three of them are nominated at the Oscars: Dean Stockwell for Tucker and Married to the Mob (NYFC, NSFC), River Phoenix for Running on Empty (NBR) and Alec Guinness for Little Dorrit (LAFC).  The fourth Oscar nominee is Martin Landau, who wins at the Globes for Tucker.  All of them lose to Kevin Kline for A Fish Called Wanda, one of the few times that the Oscars go completely against the grain and I agree with them.  Kline’s performance is a powerhouse of acting, brilliant and funny and so unlike anything he had done before.  Guinness and Phoenix are nominated at the Globes, along with Raul Julia (Moon Over Parador), Neil Patrick Harris (Clara’s Heart) and Lou Diamond Phillips (Stand and Deliver).  Though Phillips also wins at the Indies, it is a very weak Globes group.  Kline does get nominated at the BAFTA’s, but in the lead and it is Michael Palin who wins.  My own nominees include four of the five Oscar nominees – Stockwell comes in sixth place, bumped out by Michael Keaton in Beetlejuice.  The awards groups missed a lot of great more bizarre performances in 1988 – not only Keaton, but Alan Rickman in Die Hard and Tim Robbins in Bull Durham.  They also miss out on more traditional Oscar type performances from former nominees in the category – Morgan Freeman in Clean and Sober and Brad Dourif in Mississippi Burning.  Any of those would have been far better choices than Harris.  My top 10, in order, are Kline, Phoenix, Guinness, Keaton, Landau, Stockwell, Dourif, Rickman, Freeman and Palin.

John Sayles' over-looked baseball film Eight Men Out (1988)

Under-appreciated Film of 1988:

Eight Men Out  (dir. John Sayles)

How do I feel about the Black Sox?  A lot of my feelings on the whole scandal stem from this film.  I already knew who they were and the basics of the scandal before I ever saw the film.  Indeed, for me, and a lot of people, feelings on this film would have been tinged with having already seen Field of Dreams.  Eight Men Out came out 8 months before Field but made just barely more in its entire theatrical run than Field did in its opening weekend.  And it is hard to watch Field of Dreams and not have sympathy for Joe Jackson.

Ray Liotta’s performance as Joe Jackson in Field of Dreams is a great performance – better than any of the individual performances in Eight Men Out, but D.B. Sweeney’s performance here might be the more accurate one.  Jackson was shy, most likely illiterate and immensely talented.  Whether he took the money or not, whether he had agreed to anything or not, he clearly did everything he could in his power to win the World Series in 1919.  People who know me know of my fierce opposition of Pete Rose ever being reinstated.  But the major difference is that Rose went to work everyday with the rule hanging in the clubhouse about betting on baseball.  The banning of Jackson was rather arbitrarily decided by Kenesaw Mountain Landis, the newly appointed commissioner of baseball, and, as it shows in the film, decided after the Black Sox players were acquitted in court.  For several of the players, there is no question of their guilt and culpability and they deserved to be gone from the game – namely Gandil, Risborg and Felsch.  For others, like Eddie Ciccotte and Lefty Williams, who clearly took part in the conspiracy, this film, and the strong portrayals of the characters by David Straithairn and James Reed, at least help us to understand why they would do such a thing.  They had an owner who was making good money and not passing any of it down and they had family concerns.

But the most interesting story to come out of the film is that of Bucky Weaver.  Weaver is played, with a considerable amount of sympathy, by John Cusack.  He knew about the conspiracy but refused to take part and did his best to win the series.  He didn’t tell anyone, but there weren’t rules about that at the time.  Nonetheless, Landis banned him for life as well.  Weaver spent the rest of his life trying to get reinstated and his family continues to this day.  If there is anything that has helped the cause, it is first the book Eight Men Out (originally written in 1963), but more importantly, the film.  Landis wanted to make a sweeping move that would clean up the game and help restore its reputation.  However, Landis was also brutally authoritarian, a bad judge who had a higher rate of rulings overturned than any other federal judge of his time.  He was always convinced that he was in the right, even when he was not.  Of course, it’s not up to Landis anymore, but Bud Selig, and if he for even one minute considers reinstating Pete Rose, a man who knew he was breaking rules that would get him banned from the game, without first restoring Weaver and Jackson, he will prove himself to be an even bigger jackass than I have always said he was.

I have a great deal of admiration for this film.  It does a great job of telling one of the most interesting stories in baseball history.  It does it with style and with a great ensemble cast that doesn’t highlight anyone in particular at the price of ignoring anyone else.  Aside from the already mentioned actors, there are very solid performances from John Mahoney as Kid Gleason, the manager, and John Sayles himself as writer Ring Lardner.  The role that Sayles assigns to Lardner really was filled by Christy Matthewson, one of the greatest pitchers in baseball history, but Sayles looks so much like Lardner, it seemed to fall in place perfectly – especially the moment where he wanders through the team train singing “I’m Forever Blowing Ball Games.”  In a year where Gorillas in the Mist was getting Oscar nominated for its writing, Beaches for its art direction and Sunset for its costume design, Eight Men Out didn’t receive any nominations at all, from any of the awards groups.  John Sayles, one of the great outside filmmakers in history, is often ignored like this.  He’ll be back in this category again.

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