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Oscar: a history buff with little humor?

Paul Vercammen

By Paul Vercammen
CNN Showbiz Correspondent

February 11, 1999
Web posted at: 11:12 a.m. EST (1612 GMT)

This news analysis was written for CNN Interactive.

Scenes from
Scenes from the movie "Shakespeare in Love"   

In this story:

Once more, with an accent

Don't make me laugh

In pursuit of the gold (plate)

LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- Somewhere in Hollywood, an actor dreaming of award recognition is probably hissing into his cell phone, urging his "people" to get him a role in tights or combat boots.

This year's Academy Award nominations indicate Oscar has a thing for the 16th century and an obsession with World War II. Just look at the best picture nominees:

16th Century
"Shakespeare in Love"
World War II
"Life is Beautiful"
"Saving Private Ryan"
"The Thin Red Line"

Some film industry critics might suggest Oscar voters, certainly not the demographic buying Spice Girls records, have lavished so much praise on the World War II and Elizabethan eras because they remember them so well.

Scenes from
Scenes from the movie "Elizabeth"   

But say what you want about Oscar voters, who are all members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, these people can make careers. And many moviegoers have opinions about their opinions. So let's examine a few more of these opinions.

Once more, with an accent

Queen Elizabeth is generating so much heat, she may need her own agent.

Playing the monarch of the moment, Cate Blanchett earned a best actress nomination for "Elizabeth," and Dame Judi Dench a best supporting actress pick in "Shakespeare in Love."

The British and the Aussies just kept coming during Oscar nominations earlier this week, especially actresses with non-American accents. Check out the acting categories (British nominees designated with a "B," Australian nominees with an "A"):

Best Actress:
  • Cate Blanchett (A) in "Elizabeth"
  • Fernanda Montenegro in "Central Station"
  • Gwyneth Paltrow in "Shakespeare in Love"
  • Meryl Streep in "One True Thing"
  • Emily Watson (B) in "Hilary and Jackie"
Scenes from
Scenes from the movie "The Thin Red Line"   

Best Supporting Actress:
  • Kathy Bates in "Primary Colors"
  • Brenda Blethyn (B) in "Little Voice"
  • Judi Dench (B) in "Shakespeare in Love"
  • Rachel Griffiths (A) in "Hilary and Jackie"
  • Lynn Redgrave (B) in "Gods and Monsters"

Best Actor:
  • Roberto Benigni in "Life is Beautiful"
  • Tom Hanks in "Saving Private Ryan"
  • Ian McKellen (B) in "Gods and Monsters"
  • Nick Nolte in "Affliction"
  • Edward Norton in "American History X"

Best Supporting Actor:
  • James Coburn in "Affliction"
  • Robert Duvall in "A Civil Action"
  • Ed Harris in "The Truman Show"
  • Geoffrey Rush (A) in "Shakespeare in Love"
  • Billy Bob Thornton in "A Simple Plan"

While American men did fare better, we might add that Roberto Benigni (who also got a best director nomination, and his movie a best foreign film nomination in addition to best picture) is Italian. And Fernanda Montenegro is Brazilian.

Scenes from
Scenes from the movie "Saving Private Ryan"   

All this means a lot of Yankees, mainly women, didn't make the cut.

Don't make me laugh

Comic actors also found themselves on Oscar's cutting-room floor this year. Comedy may be therapeutic, but Oscar voters may appear to have it confused with poison oak -- avoiding it, then getting itchy upon contact.

Among this year's notable Oscar snubs were Jim Carrey for "The Truman Show," Bill Murray for "Rushmore" and Cameron Diaz for "There's Something About Mary."

Funny, Carrey won a Golden Globe Award for his performance. Jim, maybe they still pictured you with asparagus in your teeth in "Ace Ventura."

Bill, perhaps they thought more of you as the "Cinderella kid," taking golf swings at the tops of flowers in "Caddyshack."

And Cameron, while you were voted best actress by the New York Film Critics, the Academy apparently didn't find anything Oscar-worthy about your adventures with lovesick eccentrics in "There's Something About Mary."

Scenes from
Scenes from the movie "Life Is Beautiful"   

Still, this year's nominations were dominated by "Shakespeare in Love." So, perhaps, honor the Bard and all's well with comedy.

In pursuit of the gold (plate)

It's well known that Oscar also turns his gold-plated back on teen flicks and action-adventure films.

Take 1998's action-adventure biggie, "Armageddon." Nothing against Bruce Willis, but he's not going to be buying a tux to talk on Oscar night about a role that entailed drilling holes in asteroids.

And someday, Jennifer Love Hewitt may dress up as an Academy Awards nominee. But not for screamin' and sportin' the wet look last fall in "I Still Know What You Did Last Summer."

You want to get wet and nominated? Sink with "Titanic." Or get shot at by Nazis on the Normandy Coast. There's little, it seems, that can compete with pain and suffering in Oscar's eyes.

Maybe those left-out Oscar hopefuls can find a script about an English acting troupe putting on Shakespeare for the troops in 1944.

y: CNN's Paul Vercammen finds holiday movie glut tries to satisfy studio appetites

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