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Rain Man

Dustin Hoffman has starred in three Oscar winners for best picture. I would say he has a knack for picking good scripts, but he did also star in Ishtar, so he’s not all that good at it. Fortunately for him, he followed that stinker up with Rain Man.

The best picture of 1988, Rain Man is the story of Charlie Babbitt, a yuppie sports car importer in Los Angeles who has had no contact with his father for more than a decade. When he finds out his father has died, he flies back to Cincinnati to tie up a few loose ends with the estate, only to learn that the will calls for $3,000,000 to be put in a trust while Charlie gets a used car and some rose bushes. Charlie digs into the truth behind the trust that has been set up and discovers the existence of a brother he never knew, Raymond. Raymond is Autistic Savant and has been living in an assisted living facility for most of Charlie’s life. When Charlie realizes his long lost brother is the one who is receiving the big bucks payout, he kidnaps Raymond and takes him on a cross country road trip. Over the course of the trip Charlie stops seeing Raymond as a payout and starts seeing him as a brother.

This is a charming movie, a decent movie, a fairly good movie, but not a great movie. Hoffman and Cruise give great performances, and Cruise’s is so good it makes you forget what a total nutjob he is now. That is something that is very important in the My Year with Oscar project: judging each Oscar winner on its merits, and not on the mental instability of those who made it. This will come into play when we look at the best picture of 1995.

I also like the character trait of having Charlie repeat "I got the rose bushes. I definitely got the rose bushes." It sounds like something his brother would say.

One troubling aspect is just how far Charlie comes in his transformation from yuppie scum to loving brother. It is after Charlie finds out it was Raymond who sang to him as a child that he takes his brother to Vegas and uses his autism to win at blackjack. So sure, Charlie loves his brother, but he still loves cash money.

So all in all, this is a very good movie. But when you look at other movies released that year you realize just how weak the field was. Rain Man competed against the very uninspiring field of The Accidental Tourist, Mississippi Burning, Working Girl, and Dangerous Liaisons. All five nominees fall into the same catergory of good but not great. Also released that year was Bull Durham, a classic baseball movie, but not one that stands out in the crowd. It wasn’t even the best baseball movie Kevin Costner filmed in that 12 month stretch. So what it all comes down to is Rain Man really was the best movie of 1988, but likely would not have been the best movie of very many other years.


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