61st Annual Academy Awards Results and Commentary (1989)

  • Date of Ceremony: Wednesday, March 29, 1989
  • For films released in: 1988
Other years:

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The 61st Annual Academy Awards were presented at the Shrine Auditorium on Wednesday, March 29th, 1989.

Seeing as we have to discuss the infamous Rob Lowe/Snow White opening number — not to mention the 9+ minute “stars of tomorrow” number — it’s important that we talk about the real stars of the night: the winners.

Topping the nominations list with eight nominations, Rain Man went home that night with four golden statuettes: Best Picture, Best Director for Barry Levinson, Original Screenplay, and Dustin Hoffman’s second Best Actor Oscar.

I’m supposed to be jaded by this point. I’m very honored and I thank the Academy for your support. And I also thank Tom Hanks and Max von Sydow and James Olmos and my good friend Gene Hackman for their wonderful work, even if they didn’t vote for me. I didn’t vote for you guys, either. It’s a pleasure to be here with such good work.” – Dustin Hoffman

Jodie Foster found her great work in The Accused rewarded with a Best Actress Oscar. Foster said that, “This is such a big deal and my life is so simple. There are very few things: there’s love and work and family. And this movie is so special to us because it was all three of those things.”

A couple of upsets occurred in the Supporting categories. Most pundits had Martin Landau winning for Tucker: The Man and His Dream, but the Oscar went to Kevin Kline for his work in A Fish Called Wanda.

A thank you to Michael Shamberg, the producer of ‘A Fish Called Wanda,’ who got me together, oh, six or seven years ago with John Cleese, and he said, ‘I want to write a movie where you get run over by a steamroller and eat of a lot of Michael Palin’s tropical fish.’ I said, ‘Great, sounds good. I’m in. Let’s do it.’ And then he actually wrote it.” – Kevin Kline

While pundits had also pegged Sigourney Weaver, also nominated as Best Actress, as the Best Supporting Actress winner, she went home empty-handed. Geena Davis’ work in The Accidental Tourist took home that category.

The show had no host and producer Allan Carr had devised an opening number where Snow White (played by Eileen Bowman of the satirical stage show Beach Blanket Babylon) went looking for the Hollywood stars. Along the way, she comes across Merv Griffin who sings “I’ve Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts” while introducing her to Hollywood legends Buddy Rogers, Alice Faye, Cyd Charisse, Tony Martin, Dorothy Lamour, Roy Rogers, Dale Evans, Vincent Price and Coral Browne. He then announces her blind date, Rob Lowe, who, in the previous year, was in a sex tape scandal during the Democratic National Convention. Snow White and Rob then break into a rendition of “Proud Mary.” We’re not kidding.

Later on in the show, the proceedings ground to a halt with a 9+ minute song and dance number “I Wanna Be an Oscar Winner” featuring “the stars of tomorrow” wondering what they’ll do on the Oscars in the future. Predicting the stars of tomorrow is a hit-and-miss proposition as the editors of Vanity Fair’s Hollywood issue are probably all too familiar with. Here’s a list of some of the people involved. While some have current TV careers, and a couple have done movies, none of them are regulars at the Oscars: Blair Underwood, Holly Robinson, Joely Fisher, Keith Coogan, Patrick O’Neal, Tyrone Power Jr., Carrie Hamilton, Ricki Lake, Tricia Leigh Fisher, Corey Feldman, Patrick Dempsey, Corey Parker, Chad Lowe, Tracy Nelson, D.A. Pawley, Christian Slater, Savion Glover, Melora Hardin and Matt Lattanzi.

So how did the production numbers go over? Not well. Just after the ceremony, seventeen Hollywood luminaries including Julie Andrews, Paul Newman, Billy Wilder, Sidney Lumet and former Academy president Gregory Peck wrote a letter calling the show “an embarrassment to both the Academy and the entire motion picture industry” and adding that “It is neither fitting nor acceptable that the best work in motion pictures be acknowledged in such a demeaning fashion.”

The producers had also not cleared the use of Snow White with Disney, which threatened to sue. At 3 hours and 19 minutes long, it couldn’t end fast enough. Sadly, the telecast was also Lucille Ball’s last public appearance. She died less than a month later.


Best Picture

  • Rain Man
    Mark Johnson [Producer]

Best Directing

  • Rain Man
    Barry Levinson

Best Actor in a Leading Role

Best Actress in a Leading Role

  • The Accused
    Jodie Foster

Best Actor in a Supporting Role

  • A Fish Called Wanda
    Kevin Kline

Best Actress in a Supporting Role

  • The Accidental Tourist
    Geena Davis

Best Foreign Language Film

  • Pelle the Conqueror

Best Art Direction

  • Dangerous Liaisons
    Stuart Craig [Art Direction] and Gerard James [Set Decoration]

Best Cinematography

  • Mississippi Burning
    Peter Bizou

Best Costume Design

  • Dangerous Liaisons
    James Acheson

Best Documentary (Feature)

  • Hotel Terminus: The Life and Times of Klaus Barbie
    Marcel Ophuls [Producer]

Best Documentary (Short Subject)

  • You Don't Have to Die
    William Guttentag [Producer] and Malcolm Clarke [Producer]

Best Film Editing

  • Who Framed Roger Rabbit
    Arthur Schmidt

Best Makeup

  • Beetlejuice
    Ve Neill, Steve La Porte and Robert Short

Best Music (Original Score)

  • The Milagro Beanfield War
    Dave Grusin

Best Music (Original Song)

  • Working Girl "Let the River Run"
    Carly Simon [Music and Lyric by]

Best Short Film (Animated)

  • Tin Toy
    John Lasseter and William Reeves

Best Short Film (Live Action)

  • The Appointments of Dennis Jennings
    Dean Parisot and Steven Wright

Best Sound

  • Bird
    Les Fresholtz, Dick Alexander, Vern Poore and Willie D. Burton

Best Sound Effects Editing

  • Who Framed Roger Rabbit
    Charles L. Campbell and Louis L. Edemann

Best Visual Effects

  • Who Framed Roger Rabbit
    Ken Ralston, Richard Williams, Edward Jones and George Gibbs

Best Writing (Screenplay - based on material from another medium)

  • Dangerous Liaisons
    Christopher Hampton

Best Writing (Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen)

  • Rain Man
    Ronald Bass [Story by] and Barry Morrow [Screenplay and Story by]

Special Achievement Award

  • Richard Williams
    Note: …for the animation direction of Who Framed Roger Rabbit.

Honorary Award

  • National Film Board of Canada
    Note: …in recognition of its 50th anniversary and its dedicated commitment to originate artistic, creative and technological activity and excellence in every area of film making.
  • Eastman Kodak Company
    Note: …in recognition of the company's fundamental contributions to the art of motion pictures during the first century of film history.

Gordon E. Sawyer Award

  • Gordon Henry Cook

Scientific or Technical Award (Academy Award of Merit)

  • Ray M. Dolby [of Dolby Laboratories Incorporated] and Ioan Allen [of Dolby Laboratories Incorporated]
    Note: …for their continuous contributions to motion picture sound through the research and development programs of Dolby Laboratories.

Scientific or Technical Award (Scientific and Engineering Award)

  • Roy W. Edwards and Engineering Staff of Photo-Sonics Incorporated
    Note: …for the design and development of the Photo-Sonics 35mm-4ER High-Speed Motion Picture Camera with Reflex Viewing and Video Assist.
  • Arnold & Richter Engineering Staff, Otto Blaschek and Arriflex Corporation
    Note: …for the concept and engineering of the Arriflex 35-3 Motion Picture Camera.
  • Bill Tondreau [of Tondreau Systems], Alvah Miller [of Lynx Robotics], Paul Johnson [of Lynx Robotics], Peter A. Regla [of Elicon], Dan Slater [of Elicon], Bud Elam [of Interactive Motion Control], Joe Parker [of Interactive Motion Control], Bill Bryan [of Interactive Motion Control], Jerry Jeffress [of Interactive Motion Control], Ray Feeney [of Interactive Motion Control], Bill Holland [of Interactive Motion Control] and Kris Brown [of Interactive Motion Control]
    Note: …for their individual contributions and the collective advancements they have brought to the motion picture industry in the field of motion control technology.

Scientific or Technical Award (Technical Achievement Award)

  • Grant Loucks [of Alan Gordon Enterprises Incorporated] and Geoffrey H. Williamson [of Wilcam]
    Note: To Grant Loucks of Alan Gordon Enterprises Incorporated for the design concept, and to Geoffrey H. Williamson of Wilcam for the mechanical and electrical engineering, of the Image 300 35mm High-Speed Motion Picture Camera.
  • Michael V. Chewey
    Note: …for the development of the motion picture industry's first paper tape reader incorporating microprocessor technology.
  • BHP Inc
    Note: …successor to the Bell & Howell Professional Equipment Division, for the development of a high-speed reader incorporating microprocessor technology for motion picture laboratories.
  • Hollywood Film Company
    Note: …for the development of a high-speed reader incorporating microprocessor technology for motion picture laboratories.
  • Bruce W. Keller [of Technical Film Systems, Incorporated] and Manfred Michelson [of Technical Film Systems, Incorporated]
    Note: …for the design and development of a high-speed light valve controller and constant current power supply for motion picture laboratories.
  • Dr. Antal Lisziewicz [of ISCO-Optic GmbH] and G.M. Berggren [of ISCO-Optic GmbH]
    Note: …for the design and development of the Ultra-Star series of motion picture lenses.
  • James K. Branch [of Spectra Cine Incorporated], William L. Blowers [of Spectra Cine Incorporated] and Nasir J. Zaidi [of Spectra Cine Incorporated]
    Note: …for the design and development of the Spectra CineSpot one-degree spotmeter for measuring the brightness of motion picture screens.
  • Bob Badami [of Offbeat Systems], Dick Bernstein [of Offbeat Systems] and Bill Bernstein [of Offbeat Systems]
    Note: …for the design and development of the Streamline Scoring System, Mark IV, for motion picture music editing.
  • Gary Zeller [of Zeller International Limited]
    Note: …for the development of Zel-Jel fire protection barrier for motion picture stunt work.
  • Emanuel Trilling [of Trilling Resources Limited]
    Note: …for the development of Stunt-Gel fire protection barrier for motion picture stunt work.
  • Paul A. Roos
    Note: …for the invention of a method known as Video Assist, whereby a scene being photographed on motion picture film can be viewed on a monitor and/or recorded on video tape.
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