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Simple-Minded: `Gump’ Grabs 13 Nominations Acclaimed `Hoop Dreams’ Virtually Ignored

In the view of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, life really is like a box of chocolates.

Mixed in with all those caramel-peanut clusters is the obligatory cherry-slug surprise.

That’s one negative reaction to Tuesday’s announcement that “Forrest Gump,” the second-highest-grossing film of 1994 (behind “The Lion King,”) is the year’s mostOscar-nominated feature.

The film, about a simple man who can, earned 13 Academy Awards nominations, a total that hasn’t been attained since 1966’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”

Nothing against the enjoyable “Gump,” but if it’s the best that 1994 had to offer, then truly the year was a lost cause for movies.

For the record, “Forrest Gump” is a contender for Best Picture, Best Director (Robert Zemeckis), Best Actor (Tom Hanks), Best Supporting Actor (Gary Sinise), Best Adapted Screenplay and eight other awards of declining importance.

No other movie garnered more than seven nominations, and three films snared that number: “Pulp Fiction,” “The Shawshank Redemption” and Woody Allen’s “Bullets Over Broadway.”

“Gump,” “Pulp Fiction” and “The Shawshank Redemption” join Robert Redford’s “Quiz Show” and the light British comedy “Four Weddings and a Funeral” as the five Best Picture nominees.

“Gump” director Zemeckis, a Golden Globe winner, leads the pack for Best Director. Joining him are Allen, Redford, Quentin Tarantino for “Pulp Fiction” and Poland’s Krzysztof Kiesloski for “Red.”

Besides Hanks, a strong field of Best Actor nominees include Morgan Freeman for “The Shawshank Redemption,” Nigel Hawthorne for “The Madness of King George,” Paul Newman for “Nobody’s Fool” and John Travolta for “Pulp Fiction.”

By contrast, the lineup for Best Actress may be the least deserving in a decade. Jodie Foster, a two-time Oscar winner, is up again for “Nell.” Two Best Actress nominees were nominated for their work in littleseen films: Jessica Lange for “Blue Sky” and Miranda Richardson for “Tom & Viv.” And the final two were from mainstream Hollywood productions: Winona Ryder for “Little Women” and Susan Sarandon for “The Client.”

The Best Supporting acting nominees were somewhat more deserving. The actors feature five fine performances: Besides Sinise for “Gump,” Martin Landau is up for “Ed Wood,” Samuel L. Jackson for “Pulp Fiction,” Paul Scofield for “Quiz Show” and Chazz Palmintieri for “Bullets Over Broadway.”

Diane Wiest, a 1986 winner for “Hannah and Her Sisters,” was nominated for her work in yet another Allen film, “Bullets Over Broadway.” Her competition includes Uma Thurman in “Pulp Fiction,” Rosemary Harris for “Tom & Viv,” Helen Mirren for “The Madness of King George” and “Bullets Over Broadway” co-star Jennifer Tilly.

So much for the more notable nominees. Who, then, was ignored?

At the top of any such list has to be the critically acclaimed documentary “Hoop Dreams.” Despite earning top marks from virtually every critic in the country, the heart-breaking saga of two Chicago prep basketball players earned but a single nomination: Best Editing.

Standing only an outside chance at a Best Picture nomination, a possibility that several critics argued for, “Hoop Dreams” might have qualified for Best Documentary Feature. But following the pattern of past years, when such acclaimed documentaries as “The Thin Blue Line” were passed over, “Hoop Dreams,” too, was ignored by the nominating committee.

And what about “The Lion King”? If “Gump” earned more than $300 million at the box office, then Disney’s annual animated blockbuster earned at least $5 million more. Yet it earned only four nominations, three for Best Original Song and one for Best Original Score.

As for acting, how does “Four Weddings and a Funeral” earn a Best Picture nod and the actor who made that film the inspired comedy it is, Hugh Grant, receive no mention at all? At least he has his Golden Globe award for consolation.

Not so for Ralph Fiennes and John Turturro, passed over as the leads of “Quiz Show.” Not so for Jennifer Jason Leigh and Campbell Scott, ignored as the leads of Alan Rudolph’s “Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle.”

And not so, too, for director Kieslowski who, despite being nominated for Best Director and Best Original Screenplay, saw his Swissfinanced film “Red” not nominated because of a controversial Academy ruling.

The banning of “Red,” the third of Kieslowski’s European-saga series that includes “Blue” and “White,” leaves Golden Globe winner “Farinelli,” from Belgium, as the favorite for Best Foreign Language film. Other foreign nominees include the first Cuban entry “Strawberry and Chocolate,” Macedonia’s “Before the Rain,” Taiwan’s “Eat Drink Man Woman” and Russia’s “Burnt By the Sun.”

Ultimately, though, such controversies serve only to fuel this entertainment we call the Academy Awards. While nowhere near as stuffy and out-of-date as Grammy voters, the 5,000-odd members of the Academy do boast their eccentric voting patterns.

They’ll give us their final tallies come Oscar night, March 27, which, speaking of chocolate, likely will be a night for snickers.

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