Once again we have a tight race, but the Wapner-watching and Kmart underwear wearing math whiz won the contest just as he won a pile of money in Vegas. This movie is special to me in a lot of ways, and perhaps it’s special to you in a variety of ways as well. But so many of us collectively, whether or not we realize or remember, there is something extra special about Rain Man. For most people, this movie is the first time we heard about autism. Like me, you probably had that embarrassing moment when someone said to you something like, “Did you know that so-and-so’s son is autistic?” and before you could stop yourself you blurted out, “Yeah? So he’s really good at math?” Thankfully we all know much more than we did before about this disorder, and hopefully even more as time goes on. Even though our preconceived notions may have come from this movie, maybe it was in watching it that we also realized our ignorance to Autism when Cruise’s character Charlie yells out, “He’s capable of a lot more than you know!”
In the original script, Raymond was supposed to be mentally handicapped with an outgoing and friendly disposition, but it was Hoffman who suggested the character be autistic and withdrawn. He was very involved in the development of this character–and as a result the movie itself–which brings me to that extra something that makes this movie stand out amongst the rest. For this film, I believe it’s Dustin Hoffman’s performance. I mean, we definitely have a solid and highly compelling story along with both hilarious and heart-wrenching adventures throughout, but Hoffman’s Raymond is the special ingredient.
This movie marks the very first time I can ever remember an actor’s performance making such an impact on me. After watching Rain Man I wanted to see more. Tootsie, Kramer vs Kramer, Midnight Cowboy, The Graduate: Dustin Hoffman owns each character and therefore, each movie. And his character in this case, Raymond, is one of his absolute best. Watching him rock back and forth, repeat sentences (97X. BAM! The future of rock ‘n’ roll), point out minute and seemingly unimportant details (maple syrup is supposed to be on the table before the pancakes), rattle off trivial information (QANTAS has never crashed), and express strong attachment to routine (three minutes to Wapner), I felt like I could watch him act like this for hours on end. He made it believable. Engaging. Fascinating. He made you want to know more about Raymond. As much as I love this movie in its entirety, it is DH’s performance that made it one of my favourites, and it might even be the reason it made it to IMDb’s top 250.
Congratulations Rain Man. This is your week.
Amadeus and Stand By Me are such great movies, it’s hard to believe that they’re actually runners up. A good friend of mine introduced me to Amadeus and I went in hesitant. All I knew of it was that it was nominated for a bunch of Oscars and the trailer looked boring. Turns out I couldn’t get enough of it. Everything from Mozart’s hyena laugh to Salieri’s creepy and devious plot to take the prodigy down, the movie captures you and keeps you thinking about it long after the end credits roll. And Stand By Me comes from Stephen King, perhaps the greatest storyteller since Tolkien. The plot is magnetic: Who doesn’t want to know about what happened to a group of kids who went on a trip into the woods to try and find a dead body? The leech scene and the pie scene both still haunt me to this day.
And the Oscar goes to…
Best actor: Um… Dustin Hoffman. Duh! Although I think my brother came up with a great nomination: Gordy Lachance. You don’t hear much about him now, but he was the main character, Wil Wheaton, in Stand By Me.
Best actress: Elizabeth Berridge. She played Constanze, Mozart’s wife. I remember thinking she was really cute, but she also did a great job in her role.
[In a telephone booth with the door closed]
Raymond: Uh oh fart. Uh oh fart.
Charlie: Did you fart, Ray? Did you #&%@$ fart?
Charlie: How can you stand that?
Raymond: I don’t mind it.
Charlie: How can you stand it?
Raymond. Ten minutes to Wapner. We’re definitely locked in this box with no TV.
And an honourable mention from Stand By Me: “If I could only have one food for the rest of my life? That’s easy. Pez. Cherry-flavoured Pez. No question about it.”
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: The 80’s was the greatest decade. It even beats out the 40’s with the “builder generation” beating the Nazi’s and inventing duct tape. Why? Because of the A-Team, Tears for Fears, Atari, and movies like this.