The Academy Awards were just on. I missed them because, frankly, they are rather boring, and I did not have a spare 3 hours to watch the current years crop of movie talent receiving their well deserved accolades, goody bags, and golden statuettes. But, I got to thinking. Sometimes the inanimate players in a movie need recognition. After all, what is a car scene without a car, a train crash without a train, and an alien invasion without a ship? I decided that vehicles really need to have their own awards. The awards presentation could be hosted at a local auto shop, and the prizes could be an oil change or new wiper blades. I came up with some memorable performances, and winners in a few categories. They are as follows:
Best animated car movie: Cars 1 and 2, plus the additional cartoon cars as voiced by Larry the Cable Guy and other talent. I love Mater the tow truck, as do the children for whom the cartoons are designed (or are they designed for adults?)
Best car going over a Cliff:
The 1966 convertible Thunderbird in Thelma and Louise (1991)
The performance by the 1966 Thunderbird convertible at the end of Thelma and Louise was so epic, I created a category just for this car. The creative human talents behind the movie were nominated for, and received numerous awards for this movie, including anAcademy award for best screenplay written directly for the Screen. But, be honest, did you cry more for the loss of our leading ladies, or the annihilation of that T-Bird? If one is to go out, might as well do it in style, I suppose. Five identical 1966 Thunderbird convertibles were used to make the movie. One ’star car’, one camera car, one back-up car, and two stunt cars. That blue bird going over a cliff (It was actually filmed just south of Dead Horse Point State Park in Utah, not in the Grand Canyon) became an enduring symbol, and revitalized interest in the T-Bird. Model car companies released miniature T-Birds, and certain car collectors decided they needed to get a T-Bird in to their collection to remain current, preferable a 1966 Thunderbird.
The final scene, where Thelma and Louise embrace each other before driving off a cliff, become an iconic scene. Several copycats picked up the theme, creating alternate endings for the movie, parodies, music videos and commercials. Would it have had the same impact if Thelma and Louise had gone over a cliff in a Honda or a Jeep? No, I don’t think so. The car was the star.
Notable mentions for Best Car going off a Cliff:
The vehicles in Its a Mad Mad Mad World (1963)
Milton Berle drives a 1962 Imperial Crown convertible, while his mother-in-law, Ethel Merman, abuses him from the back seat. Another car, driven by Smiler Grogan (Jimmy Durante) goes crazily careening past the Imperial Crown and plunges over a cliff. After a long prison sentence Smiler Grogan was driving like a mad man to a California park where he hid $350,000 from a crime committed 15 years ago.
He accidentally plunges over a cliff in view of the Milton Berle family, and 3 other cars whose occupants go down to help. Grogan tells the people who all climbed down that a fortune awaits these good Samaritans. He tells them where the money is buried, then dies. The rest of the movie involves our good samaritans racing and fighting each other to get to the park, and retrieve the money.
The cars are not the leading act in this movie, but without them, a race for stolen treasure would not be very interesting. A few other vehicles come in to play, including a small airplane. The vehicles are crucial to the story line.
Also of note is the police car in Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977.) The police car is chasing after UFO’s at night and goes over a cliff in the process. How often does that happen?
Best Stunt Act with A Car: There are many, many of these. The one I like the best is short and sweet, and the numerous parodies are just as entertaining. It is actually a commercial for Volvo featuring Jean-Claude Van Damme doing the splits. You can see it here, //www.youtube.com/watch?v=GHES6m-6F3Q.
Best Steve McQueen racing movie: Yes there are several. I picked Lemans (1971), because the overriding content is about motor sports. It also comes off more like a documentary than an action film-it’s about racing, not being a hero.
Best Retro Cool Car Movie: American Graffiti (1973). This movie looks like someone stole all the vehicles from a retro car show and drove and parked as many of them as possible in every scene. Anything of significance occurring with a character takes place in a car. The movie is really about young people doing the same old things they have always done, but in very, very cool vehicles unique to a classic time in car manufacturing.
All of our award winners will receive a swag bag filled with air fresheners and car wash coupons, and their choice of a matchbox car. Now that is an Academy Awards show worth watching!