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Don't let the Academy 'Shine'


Reviewer's picks lean to the dark side

February 18, 1997
Web posted at: 2:30 p.m. EST

From Movie Reviewer Paul Tatara

(CNN) -- The Academy Award nominations have been announced, and aside from the snubbing of Courtney Love and the honoring of Billy Bob Thornton (who flat out refuses to play the Hollywood game), there are few real surprises this time around.

I'm sure Madonna is very upset, having spent the past year and a half tirelessly portraying a grown-up, but the fact of the matter is that she can't act. Blame who you want, but it ain't the material, girl.

What follows are my projected winners as well as my personal favorites. As always, I may be right or I may be wrong -- my crystal ball for these things fogged over when Marisa Tomei won for "My Cousin Vinny."

BEST ACTOR: Judging from the flared-nostril response I received from some of our readers when I dared to criticize Geoffrey Rush's performance in "Shine" (one man thoughtfully called me "an idiot"), I would have to say that this one is a no brainer.

But people seem to think that if you have negative comments about Rush, you are somehow inherently belittling the accomplishments of the actual David Helfgott. This couldn't be any further from the truth -- Rush, it seems ridiculous to have to point out, is just pretending. Helfgott, on the other hand, is a brilliant and very courageous man.

I do think that any one of a number of actors could have given this performance, though. Accurate or not, it is so wild and in-your-face it precludes anything resembling nuance. Rush will win, and people around the world will leap off their sofas. I, however, will remain seated.


My pick: Billy Bob Thornton's nomination for "Sling Blade," a film with a total budget that is probably half of what was spent on getting the sweat stains out of those linen shirts in "The English Patient," is a minor miracle in-and-of itself. He, not Geoffrey Rush, is the great new talent of 1997.

BEST ACTRESS: For the first time in years, this is probably the single strongest category. The weak link here is the radiant Kristin Scott Thomas, but even she is quite the Movie Star, and I mean that in the best possible way. Keaton made a nice comeback, and Emily Watson could pull off a first-time-out upset, but the contest comes down to sentimental favorite McDormand and Golden Globe winner Blethyn. Blethyn should get it.

My pick: Brenda Blethyn, easily.


SUPPORTING ACTOR: A pretty meaty category, with James Woods' nomination being the only real travesty. Over-the-top histrionics aside, the old-age makeup makes him look like an installation at Madame Tassaud's Museum of Racism. The Academy likes to pull surprises in the supporting categories, but Cuba Gooding Jr. seems to be the front-runner, with Edward Norton (a future big-time star) a close second.

My pick: William H. Macy's desperate portrayal of a first-class schmuck is almost too authentic to bear. He makes you extremely uncomfortable, which is what he's supposed to do, and, for this reason, I doubt that anyone will vote for him. I would, but only because I can relate.


SUPPORTING ACTRESS: 1996 was definitely a great year for both actors and actresses. This is another nice selection of talent, but Lauren Bacall will win simply because she's Lauren Bacall and is still standing. Jean-Baptiste and Joan Allen both gave better performances, though. Possible upset by Jean-Baptiste.

My pick: Marianne Jean-Baptiste, who, win or not, will be heard from again.

BEST DIRECTOR: Whoever directed the Best Picture winner will almost certainly walk away with this one, so that excludes Forman, whose film wasn't even nominated. Never have understood how that works. Evidently the Academy feels that making a picture about a sleazy pornographer is more honorable than actually being a picture about a sleazy pornographer.

Smart-alec film buffs, myself included, would be pleased to see the Coen Brothers (Joel is just the figurehead) get the recognition they have so long, if sporadically, deserved. Considering, though, that one sequence in "Fargo" consists of a man feeding Steve Buscemi head-first into a wood chipper, that would seem, um, unlikely.

My pick: Mike Leigh.

BEST PICTURE: This is a real toughie. Again, it all depends on how many people are going to vote a straight "Shine" ticket. "The English Patient" is the kind of thing that voters usually lean towards -- aerial photography, an honorable war, a literary background, and (though nobody will admit it) Kristin Scott Thomas taking her clothes off. "Shine," of course, is "Shine," and I'm an idiot.

English Patient

"Secrets and Lies" will either win or get fewer votes than the "Jethro gets his head stuck in a vase" episode of "The Beverly Hillbillies" (that would be a write-in). "Jerry Maguire's" oft-quoted line is "show me the money," which, let's face it, is what the Oscars are all about, but I really don't think it stands a chance.

And let me reiterate, in only two words, why "Fargo" won't do it -- "wood" and "chipper." Again, I really hope I'm wrong, but look for "Shine."

My pick: I like "Secrets and Lies," a film with a subtly complex emotional depth that is the gentle snowfall to "Shine's" bowling ball dropped from an airplane.

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