Best Picture #62: Driving Miss Daisy

Each week this column will highlight one winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture, progressing chronologically until all winners have been discussed. There will be a brief discussion of the film itself followed by a mention of what we wish won from the nominees in the given year (though in many cases there were films that were superior in terms of quality and/or impact that were not nominated). This week’s entry is Driving Miss Daisy (1989).

One of those winners that seems to have been perplexing and misplaced from the moment it occurred, Driving Miss Daisy is a slight film that attempts and mostly fails to tackle grand ideas about racism. It’s a film that takes place over decades but never lets any scene breathe for long enough for the passing of time to be felt, instead opting for some quick dialogue to let us know the titular Miss Daisy and her driver Hoke are gradually coming to mutually respect each other and eventually become friends. Beyond the suspension of disbelief required as Hoke continues to work this job where he is consistently disregarded and mistreated years after beginning and with other offers on the table, the central relationship never feels genuine during any individual scenes. It’s just an excuse to throw out a couple mildly amusing jokes and references to historical events that have no bearing on the story, which makes some sense given that it was adapted from a play and there’s a necessity to limiting the action in that setting, but in a film there could be so much more.

The Real Best Picture:

1989 is the year we got Dekalog, perhaps the greatest achievement in all of film. Do the Right Thing was released and remains one of the most vital American films. When Harry Met Sally brought rom coms to their peak. Indiana Jones came back in his most fun adventure. The cinematic careers of two of today’s greatest artists, Steven Soderbergh and Adam Sandler, were launched with Sex, Lies, and Videotape and Going Overboard. Miyazaki crafted one of his best with Kiki’s Delivery Service. For All Mankind proved one of the most awe inspiring documentaries and Christmas Vacation started providing laughs that have filled millions with holiday cheer. There are plenty of others I’m not listing but there are few years that have more films I love and none of them were nominated. Of the pitiful listing we did get, I would have to go with Field of Dreams as my preferred winner because the ending always makes me wonder what it would be like if my dad had taught me how to play catch. 

Best Picture Winners

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