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1989   Introduction | List

1989 was a seminal year for me and for my love of cinema. It's not surprising that all six of the movies I consider five-star pictures this year also appear on my list of 100 favorite films. 1989 was my last year of high school and my first year formally studying film; the last summer I lived at home in rural Massachusetts and the first Fall I lived in New York City. It was a year of indelible visits with old friends in Boston as well as a year of living in extreme isolation at the Vanderbilt YMCA on 47th St.solitarily roaming the grey thoroughfares of a Manhattan that was slowly digging itself out of an economic depressionand discovering the many revival houses dotted around the city at the time. 

Due to this combination of both overly familiar and brand new surroundings, my memories of seeing movies in 1989 seem to span far more than a single calendar year. It’s hard to reconcile that the same stretch of time when I saw Batman, Parenthood, Dead Poets Society, Field of Dreams, Licence to Kill, and The Abyss in the suburban multiplexes of my youth, was the same period that I saw Sex Lies and Videotape, Crimes and Misdemeanors, The Big Picture, Driving Miss Daisy, Sea of Love, Harlem Nights, and The War of the Roses in theaters that were totally new to me in New York.  I simultaneously have vivid memories of watching Say Anything, Great Balls of Fire, Skin Deep, and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade over and over on VHS for what seems like the entire duration of my time in high school (though it couldn’t have been). And I’ll never forget seeing When Harry Met Sally, Drugstore Cowboy, Henry V, Mystery Train, The Little Mermaid, and The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover during memorable weekend stints in Boston. Most significant was seeing Do The Right Thing, which I went to eight times during its initial release—in my hometown, in Boston, and in several New York theaters. For someone dreaming of one day making his own movies, having such a personal and powerful picture playing in theaters all around was electric.

So while I can’t claim 1989 was one of the greatest years in cinema, it remains a milestone year for me, imprinted and distinguished by the movies I saw.

In 2019, I revisited the entire year of films on, or close to, their 30th anniversaries.
Here's the trailer for the series I curated for myself and my friends.

Here's a list of what  I thought was best work of the '89:

BEST DIRECTOR:
Spike Lee - DO THE RIGHT THING
Woody Allen - CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS
Steven Soderbergh - SEX, LIES, AND VIDEOTAPE
Gus Van Sant - DRUGSTORE COWBOY
Rob Reiner  - WHEN HARRY MET SALLY
Peter Greenaway - THE COOK THE THIEF HIS WIFE & HER LOVER

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY:
NORA EPHRON - WHEN HARRY MET SALLY
Spike Lee - DO THE RIGHT THING
Woody Allen - CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS
Steven Soderbergh - SEX, LIES, AND VIDEOTAPE
LOWELL GANZ, BABALOO MANDEL, RON HOWARD - PARENTHOOD

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY:
ALFRED UHRY - DRIVING MISS DAISY
GUS VAN SANT, DANIEL YOST - DRUGSTORE COWBOY
KEVIN JARRE - GLORY
COLIN WELLAND, EUZHAN PALCY - A DRY WHITE SEASON
SHANE CONNAUGHTON, JIM SHERIDAN - MY LEFT FOOT

BEST ACTRESS:
MICHELLE PFEIFFER - THE FABULOUS BAKER BOYS 
MEG RYAN - WHEN HARRY MET SALLY
JENNIFER JASON LEIGH - LAST EXIT TO BROOKLYN
JESSICA LANG - MUSIC BOX
JESSICA TANDY - DRIVING MISS DAISY

BEST ACTOR:
MARTIN LANDAU - CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS
JAMES SPADER - SEX, LIES, AND VIDEOTAPE
JOHN CUSACK - SAY ANYTHING
MORGAN FREEMAN DRIVING MISS DAISY
RICHARD E. GRANT - HOW TO GET AHEAD IN ADVERTISING

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS:
ANJELICA HUSTON -  ENEMIES: A LOVE STORY & CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS
LAURA SAN GIACOMO - SEX, LIES, AND VIDEOTAPE
DIANNE WIEST - PARENTHOOD
SALLY FIELD - STEEL MAGNOLIAS 
BRENDA
 FRICKER - MY LEFT FOOT

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR:
DANNY AIELLO - DO THE RIGHT THING
MARLON BRANDO - A DRY WHITE SEASON
DENZEL WASHINGTON GLORY
ARMIN MUELLER-STAHL MUSIC BOX
ROBERT SEAN LEONARD  - DEAD POETS SOCIETY

BEST DEBUT FEATURE:
Steven Soderbergh - SEX, LIES, AND VIDEOTAPE
Cameron Crowe - SAY ANYTHING
KENNETH BRANAGH - HENRY V
Michael Lehmann - HEATHERS
Steve Kloves - THE FABULOUS BAKER BOYS

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY:
ERNEST R. DICKERSON - DO THE RIGHT THING
JOHN SEALE - DEAD POETS SOCIETY
FREDDIE FRANCIS - GLORY
ROBERT RICHARDSON - BORN ON THE FOURTH OF JULY
MIKAEL SALOMON - THE ABYSS

BEST EDITING
BARRY ALEXANDER BROWN DO THE RIGHT THING
STEVEN SODERBERGH SEX, LIES, AND VIDEOTAPE
STEVEN ROSENBLUM
 GLORY
ROBERT LEIGHTON 
WHEN HARRY MET SALLY
JENNIFER BEMAN WHITE, WENDEY STANZLER - ROGER & ME

BEST MUSIC/SCORE:
ALAN MENKEN, HOWARD ASHMAN - THE LITTLE MERMAID
MAURICE JARRE - DEAD POETS SOCIETY
BILL LEE - DO THE RIGHT THING 
HANS ZIMMER -  DRIVING MISS DAISY
JAMES HORNER - FIELD OF DREAMS

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE:
ROGER & ME

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FEATURE:
THE SEVENTH CONTINENT 

BEST SURPRISE:
Miko Hughes - PET SEMATARY

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT:
THE JANUARY MAN
BACK TO THE FUTURE PART II

MOST OVERRATED:
THE WAR OF THE ROSES
BATMAN

BEST YEAR OVERALL:
DAVID LEAN - The restoration of Lean’s 1963 masterpiece LAWRENCE OF ARABIA overseen by Robert A. Harris’ was released in its 216-minute cut this year, igniting a new passion for this director’s work (as well as for classic cinema,  70mm production and projection, and film restoration) that still burns three decades later.