After the Academy counts votes for 1994’s Best Supporting Actor, the name announced on March 27 likely won’t be Samuel L. Jackson. If that comes to pass, though, he won’t be to blame.
Jackson’s performance in “Pulp Fiction” as a Bible-quoting hit man is the chili spice to Best Actor nominee John Travolta’s beefy stock. In the film’s spirit of joyful nihilism, he is - irony alert - the sole voice of redemption.
If he doesn’t win, it will be because he is up in one of the traditionally tough categories. Look for Gary Sinise to score in a “Forrest Gump” rush, or the deserving Martin Landau (“Ed Wood”) to finally triumph after three nominations. The only other obstacle to a Jackson win would be a “Pulp Fiction” backlash, which - considering the film’s level of violence - is a real possibility.
So it goes in Hollywood. Yet this guy Jackson is the real thing. Check out his performance in “Jungle Fever” as Wesley Snipes’ drug-addled brother. Or study his portrayal of an emotionally distant father in “Fresh” (see capsule review below), one of the 1994’s best films now available on video.
In “Fresh,” Jackson plays a man incapable for one reason or another (drink, drugs, violence - you choose) of taking care of his son (Sean Nelson). Yet he can teach the boy chess, which the boy - whose street name constitutes the film’s title - takes to as a natural.
Yet it isn’t a mere board game to which the boy utilizes his talents. And Jackson as the father is as shocked as anyone about how well the boy learns his lesson. His embarrassed confusion over Fresh-the-boy’s climactic tears helps give “Fresh”the-film one of the strongest endings of any film released in 1994. Nothing can change that, Oscar or no.
Several films shifted their video-opening date from Tuesday to avoid bumping heads with 1994’s top-grossing film: “The Lion King.”
With “The Lion King,” which originally had been scheduled to debut March 3, Disney is doing the unusual: Releasing a film on video that’s still in the theaters (although in re-release).
Of the five films nominated for Best Picture, only one is now on video: “Four Weddings and a Funeral” (Polygram).
Kevin Reynolds is best known as Kevin Costner’s buddy. But he’s also a director in his own right (“Fandango,” “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves”). “Rapa Nui” (Warner) is Reynolds’ look at the legend of Easter Island. It stars Jason Scott Lee (“Dragon” The Bruce Lee Story”) and Esai Morales (“La Bamba”) as warriors of different tribes competing in a 17th-century-type triathlon. It’s scenic, if a bit light in plot.
Instead of making another mock-documentary of ghetto life, director Boaz Yakin has more ambitious plans: He wants to do nothing less than examine the very nature of survival. The result is Machiavelli goes homeboy. Yakin melds “Boyz N the Hood” with “Searching for Bobby Fischer” and comes up with a movie that manages to hold its intention through to the final fadeout. In between, Yakin uses well the talents of veterans Samuel L. Jackson and Giancarlo Esposito and 12-year-old newcomer Sean Nelson, who stars as the title character - a young boy, braving danger to set in motion an intricate plan of revenge on his enemies. Rated R.
This was to be Jean-Claude Van Damme’s breakthrough, his “Total Recall,” the film that would prove him capable of handling real drama. Forget it. Van-Damme stars as a District of Columbia policeman who, get this, pursues criminals through time. As intelligent entertainment, it makes about as much sense as a second-grade primer. As pure film, it isn’t near as well-made as “Hard Target” (thanks to action director John Woo). As an acting exercise for Van-Damme, it rivals the best of Tony Danza. Rated R.
MEMO: This sidebar ran with story: WHAT’S NEW TO VIEW Available this weekend: “Andre” (Paramount), “Carnosaur 2” (New Horizons), “Timecop” (MCA/ Universal), “Fresh” (Hollywood), “Dangerous Indiscretion” (Paramount), “A Million to Juan” (Prism). Available on Tuesday: “The Lion King” (Disney), “Princess Caraboo” (Columbia-TriStar).