March 29, 1995 in Food

No Big Surprises Predictability Ruled The Oscar Awards, With ‘Forrest Gump’ Being The Big Winner

Bob Strauss Los Angeles Daily News
 

You really couldn’t expect the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to go for that box-ofchocolates routine. Surprises, like fat, are something the movie establishment abhors. Upsets were as unfashionable at the 67th Academy Awards ceremony as excess ounces on dreamy Hollywood bodies.

From its unthreatening theme of comedy and the movies to its easily predictable major winners, the Oscars for 1994 were all about reassurance. In that way, they seemed machinetooled to complement the film of the evening, “Forrest Gump.” The show and its results were just like the movie: full of heartwarming and record-marking feats, light on anything too upsetting.

Even “Gump’s” inevitable triumph was becomingly modest, as if not to provoke the folks who think the movie is not all that terrific. The most financially successful film ever to win a Best Picture Oscar won only five other statuettes, enough to make it the night’s big winner but nowhere near as ostentatious as a steamroller with 13 nominations could have been.

Of course, star Tom Hanks’ second Best Actor victory in a row - a feat achieved only once before, by Spencer Tracy in 1937 and ‘38 - was enough to grace “Gump” with the historical import its popularity and genuine accomplishment demand.

Hanks’ second teary acceptance speech acknowledged all the help he had - the co-stars who played so well off of blank slate Forrest, the Oscar-winning special effects team that made the character seem so remarkable, also-awarded director Robert Zemeckis, who balanced the sentimentality and silliness of the character just so. When it comes to well-placed humility, Hanks is indeed an all-time winner.

As if they were worried about frightening Forrest or something, everybody was on their best behavior; a less-controversial Oscar show is hard to remember. Quentin Tarantino, whose aggressively impolite “Pulp Fiction” could have been the evening’s big spoiler, even graciously refrained from saying “everything” in his one, Best Original Screenplay acceptance speech. Anyone who knows how the movies’ most provocative new bad boy can go on forever, about anything, can appreciate his classy show of restraint.

From “Gump’s” first win of the evening for Film Editing, it was clear that things were going to be kept kind and congratulatory. Editing was the one category in which the year’s most troublesome omission, the documentary “Hoop Dreams,” could have come back to remind the academy of its shortcomings. Better for the unavoidable scolding to come from funny emcee David Letterman and his Top 10 list.

Even if it didn’t win as many awards as it could have, that warm, Gumpy feel pervaded the ceremony. Sentimentality, another “Gump”inspired commodity, abounded throughout the acting categories. Jessica Lange’s win for “Blue Sky” was, as predicted, a nod to a little movie that could - the thing’s been sitting on a shelf for four years - and what could be more in keeping with the Gump philosophy than that?

It was clear from the first award announced that the Gump attitude would prevail. Dianne Wiest became the second actress in history to win a Best Supporting Actress Oscar and the first actor ever to win twice under the same writerdirector. More significantly, she did so in the major race that has most often been the sight of surprises in the recent past.

Martin Landau, another shoo-in for his Bela Lugosi in “Ed Wood” is, like the three other acting winners, a longtime academy favorite who was swept to victory on a tide of excellence.

That presenter Paul Newman didn’t even mention the names of the non-“Gump” Best Cinematographer nominees was obviously a glitch but indicative of a kind of pre-ordained sensibility that pervaded the ceremonies. The fact that “Legends of the Fall” lenser John Toll was the biggest surprise winner of the night had a certain justice to it - which would have been more poetic if the best-shot work in competition, Piotr Sobocinski’s “Red” photography, had pulled the upset.

The show’s biggest surprise being in a technical category is indicative of just how safe the 1994 Oscars were. “The Lion King’s” two Music awards were, of course, foregone conclusions. And the much ballyhooed rise of the independents - films produced outside of the Hollywood studio system - was checked once again, as it has been consistently in recent years. Only five Oscars went to non-studio projects, and two of those to Disney-owned Miramax, which went into the awards ceremony with a leading 22 nominations.

Design and sound awards were spread out democratically and, in practically every case, given to the most worthy candidates.

The honorary awards were particularly wellpresented this year, with Oprah Winfrey just the right person to hand Quincy Jones his Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award and Arnold Schwarzenegger the only guy who could share the stage with Irving Thalberg Award recipient Clint Eastwood.

I’ve repeatedly championed “Forrest Gump” as far more than a button-pushing, big-hearted, feel-good exercise for confused boomers. But there’s no denying that most of the 67th Academy Awards’ pronounced Gumpishness was a response to those very qualities.

“Forrest Gump” is a great film that captures the tenor of its time with ambitious accuracy - and no Best Picture winner has really done that since the mid-‘70s. Still, one hopes that an organization that’s just recently found the courage to reward such uncompromising and challenging works as “Unforgiven” and “The Piano” - works like the darker, more interesting “Pulp Fiction” - will be willing to take those kinds of risks again soon.

MEMO: This is a sidebar that appeared with the story:

And the winners are…. List of winners at Monday night’s 67th annual Academy Awards: Picture: “Forrest Gump.” Actor: Tom Hanks, “Forrest Gump.” Actress: Jessica Lange, “Blue Sky.” Director: Robert Zemeckis, “Forrest Gump.” Supporting actor: Martin Landau, “Ed Wood.” Supporting actress: Dianne Wiest, “Bullets Over Broadway.” Original screenplay: Quentin Tarantino and Roger Avary, “Pulp Fiction.” Adapted screenplay: Eric Roth, “Forrest Gump.” Foreign film: Russia, “Burnt by the Sun.” Art direction: Ken Adam and Carolyn Scott, “The Madness of King George.” Cinematography: John Toll, “Legends of the Fall.” Costume design: Lizzy Gardiner and Tim Chappel, “The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.” Documentary feature: Freida Lee Mock and Terry Sanders, “Maya Lin: A Strong Clear Vision.” Documentary short subject: Charles Guggenheim, “A Time for Justice.” Film editing: Arthur Schmidt, “Forrest Gump.” Makeup: Rick Baker, Ve Neill and Yolanda Toussieng, “Ed Wood.” Music original score: Hans Zimmer, “The Lion King.” Music original song: Elton John and Tim Rice, “Can You Feel the Love Tonight,” from “The Lion King.” Animated short film: Alison Snowden and David Fine, “Bob’s Birthday.” Live action short film (tie): Peter Capaldi and Ruth Kenley-Letts, “Franz Kafka’s It’s a Wonderful Life,” and Peggy Rajski and Randy Stone, “Trevor.” Sound: Gregg Landaker, Steve Maslow, Bob Beemer and David R.B. MacMillan, “Speed.” Sound effects editing: Stephen Hunter Flick, “Speed.” Visual effects: Ken Ralson, George Murphy, Stephen Rosenbaum and Allen Hall, “Forrest Gump.” Previously Announced: Honorary award: Italian filmmaker Michelangelo Antonioni for lifetime achievement. Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award: Clint Eastwood, for a consistently high quality of motion picture production. Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award: Quincy Jones. Technical award of merit: Eastman Kodak Co. for the development of the Eastman EXR Color Intermediate Film 5244. Technical award of merit: Petro and Paul Vlahos for the conception and development of the Ultimatte Electronic Blue Screen Compositing Process. The Associated Press

This is a sidebar that appeared with the story:

And the winners are…. List of winners at Monday night’s 67th annual Academy Awards: Picture: “Forrest Gump.” Actor: Tom Hanks, “Forrest Gump.” Actress: Jessica Lange, “Blue Sky.” Director: Robert Zemeckis, “Forrest Gump.” Supporting actor: Martin Landau, “Ed Wood.” Supporting actress: Dianne Wiest, “Bullets Over Broadway.” Original screenplay: Quentin Tarantino and Roger Avary, “Pulp Fiction.” Adapted screenplay: Eric Roth, “Forrest Gump.” Foreign film: Russia, “Burnt by the Sun.” Art direction: Ken Adam and Carolyn Scott, “The Madness of King George.” Cinematography: John Toll, “Legends of the Fall.” Costume design: Lizzy Gardiner and Tim Chappel, “The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.” Documentary feature: Freida Lee Mock and Terry Sanders, “Maya Lin: A Strong Clear Vision.” Documentary short subject: Charles Guggenheim, “A Time for Justice.” Film editing: Arthur Schmidt, “Forrest Gump.” Makeup: Rick Baker, Ve Neill and Yolanda Toussieng, “Ed Wood.” Music original score: Hans Zimmer, “The Lion King.” Music original song: Elton John and Tim Rice, “Can You Feel the Love Tonight,” from “The Lion King.” Animated short film: Alison Snowden and David Fine, “Bob’s Birthday.” Live action short film (tie): Peter Capaldi and Ruth Kenley-Letts, “Franz Kafka’s It’s a Wonderful Life,” and Peggy Rajski and Randy Stone, “Trevor.” Sound: Gregg Landaker, Steve Maslow, Bob Beemer and David R.B. MacMillan, “Speed.” Sound effects editing: Stephen Hunter Flick, “Speed.” Visual effects: Ken Ralson, George Murphy, Stephen Rosenbaum and Allen Hall, “Forrest Gump.” Previously Announced: Honorary award: Italian filmmaker Michelangelo Antonioni for lifetime achievement. Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award: Clint Eastwood, for a consistently high quality of motion picture production. Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award: Quincy Jones. Technical award of merit: Eastman Kodak Co. for the development of the Eastman EXR Color Intermediate Film 5244. Technical award of merit: Petro and Paul Vlahos for the conception and development of the Ultimatte Electronic Blue Screen Compositing Process. The Associated Press

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