A recent issue of a national magazine (whose name now escapes me) invited readers to meet a few members of the august Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
The good news: Rodney Dangerfield was not among them.
The bad news: Mickey Rourke and Don Rickles were.
Yes, folks, 1994’s Oscar-nominated films were chosen, in part, by guys whose cinematic oeuvre includes “Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man” and “Buy This Tape You Hockey Puck.”
Can you do any worse?
Of course not. That’s why The Spokesman-Review sponsors an annual Oscar contest. It gives you, our readers, a chance to guess who will win gold for their movie work.
But wait. Maybe there are those among you who don’t have a clue about Oscar. Maybe you haven’t seen the films or don’t remember what you have seen or are as confused as those of us who have seen nearly all of them (and are trying desperately to forget the majority).
For those who need it, we offer the following tokens of Oscar-picking advice and/or miscellaneous information. In any event, we hope you find them entertaining, if not illuminating.
British acting is being celebrated in four instances. Nigel Hawthorne and Helen Mirren, Best Actor and Best Supporting Actress for “The Madness of King George.” Miranda Richardson and Rosemary Harris, Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress for “Tom & Viv.” It’s interesting to note, however, that the British entry for Best Picture, “Four Weddings and a Funeral,” boasts no acting nominations whatsoever. Whither Hugh Grant?
Shouda, coulda, Woody
There once was a time when a certain gaggle of film fans would drool over the prospect of a new Woody Allen film. Now a certain cartel is likely to spit at the mere mention of Allen’s name.
Whatever, whenever the man has a movie out, an Oscar nomination is likely. This year he is up for Best Director and Best Original Screenplay (with Douglas McGrath) for “Bullets Over Broadway.”
So let’s indulge in some trivia.
Question: Allen earned three Oscars out of four nominations in 1977 for “Annie Hall.” They were Best Director, Best Original Screenplay and Best Picture (he missed out on Best Actor). How many Oscar nominations has Allen received overall? How many has he won?
Answer: Including his Best Picture nods for “Annie Hall” and “Hannah and Her Sisters” (1986), Allen has amassed 20 nominations. The breakdown: Best Actor (“Annie Hall”) one, Best Director six, Best Original Screenplay 11. He has won four times (in addition to his “Annie Hall” haul, he won Best Original Screenplay for 1986’s “Hannah and Her Sisters”). < Mission: Perhaps Not So Impossible
Martin Landau has had one of those careers that you just shake your head at. A weird-looking man whose early career saw him cast as psychos in such films as “North By Northwest,” Landau is best known for his television work on the early episodes of “Mission: Impossible” and the syndicated sci-fi show “Space: 1999.”
But since the late 1980s, Landau has pulled off three exquisite performances. All have earned him Best Supporting Actor nominations.
He was Jeff Bridges’ adviser in “Tucker” (1986). He played the central figure, a respected ophthalmologist who conceives a calm rationale for murder, in Woody Allen’s “Crimes and Misdemeanors” (1989).
Nothing, however, matches his performance this year as Bela Lugosi in Tim Burton’s bio-pic of trashy filmmaker Edward Wood Jr., “Ed Wood.”
New to be known
Of the 10 stars up for Best Supporting Actor/Actress, seven are first-time nominees. They include:
Actor - Gary Sinise, “Forrest Gump”; Samuel L. Jackson, “Pulp Fiction”; and Chazz Palmintieri, “Bullets Over Broadway.”
Actress - Jennifer Tilly, “Bullets Over Broadway”; Uma Thurman, “Pulp Fiction”; Helen Mirren, “The Madness of King George”; and Rosemary Harris, “Tom & Viv.”
The only rookie nominee for the main acting categories is Nigel Hawthorne for “The Madness of King George.”
Closest to a sure thing
The acting ranks are full of nominees with good winning percentages. Tom Hanks is one for two as Best Actor, winning in 1993 for “Philadelphia” and losing in 1988 for “Big.” Diane Wiest is Hanks’ match in the best Supporting Actress category, winning in 1986 for “Hannah and Her Sisters” and losing in 1989 for “Parenthood.” Jodie Foster is two for three, losing as a 14-year-old Best Supporting Actress nominee in 1977 for “Taxi Driver” and winning Best Actress honors in 1988 for “The Accused” and 1991 for “Silence of the Lambs.”
But only Paul Scofield is batting a perfect thousand. He won as Best Actor in his only previous nomination, for 1966’s “A Man For All Seasons.”
In the director’s race, Robert Redford (“Quiz Show”) is the only other past winner besides Allen. In his other directing nomination, he won in 1980 for “Ordinary People” (beating out, amazingly enough, Martin Scorsese for “Raging Bull”). Nominated as Best Actor for 1973’s “The Sting,” he lost to Jack Lemmon (“Save the Tiger”).
So good for so long
Paul Newman, Best Actor nominee for “Nobody’s Fool,” is a treasure trove of trivia all by himself. For one thing, he has been nominated at least once in four of the past five decades. His first nomination came in 1958 for “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.”
He was nominated three times in the 1960s: “The Hustler” (1961), “Hud” (1963) and “Cool Hand Luke” (1967).
He missed out in the 1970s (although his second starring venture with Robert Redford, “The Sting,” won the Best Picture Oscar for 1973). But he picked up again in the 1980s with “Absence of Malice” (1981) and “The Verdict” (1982) before finally winning in 1986 for “The Color of Money.”
As far as trivia goes, though, this is Newman’s clincher: His winning role as Fast Eddie Felson was the same character he created 25 years before in “The Hustler.”
Liked but not well-liked
By being nominated for the littleseen 1994 melodrama “Blue Sky,” Jessica Lange upped her acting nomination total to six. Four of those nominations were for Best Actress and included “Frances” (1982), “Country” (1984), “Sweet Dreams” (1985) and “The Music Box” (1989).
Her lone win, for Best Supporting Actress, came in the 1982 hit “Tootsie.”
Et tu, Vinnie?
For what it’s worth, John Travolta’s two Oscar-nominated performances featured him playing a character bearing a distinctly Italian name. In 1977, he was Tony Manero in “Saturday Night Fever.” In 1994, he was Vincent Vega in “Pulp Fiction.”
And what was his character’s name in the television show that brought him his first fame? Travolta played Vinnie Barbarino in “Welcome Back, Kotter.”
Who’s providing the direction here?
The correct answer to the above question is: Certainly not the academy.
Take the Best Director race.
Allen is a directing legend, and Redford is a veteran. But the other three directing nominees are new to the Oscar race.
Robert Zemeckis (“Forrest Gump”), Krzysztof Kieslowski (“Red”) and Quentin Tarantino (“Pulp Fiction”) are all first-time nominees.
Interestingly enough, the films of Allen and Kieslowski aren’t even up for the Best Picture award.
Which begs the question: Who directed Best Picture nominees “Four Weddings and a Funeral” and “The Shawshank Redemption”? For the record, the answers are, respectively, Mike Newell and Frank Darabont.
Let’s get this straight. Kieslowski’s “Red” doesn’t get a Best Picture nomination because even though it was filmed in Switzerland, produced by a Swiss crew with Swiss money and chosen as Switzerland’s official Oscar entry, it didn’t meet the Academy’s standards for foreign-language nominees.
But Kieslowski, as consolation, gets a Best Director nomination.
So “Bullets Over Broadway” doesn’t get a nomination because … well, just because. And yet Allen gets his obligatory Best Director and Best Original Screenplay nominations, and the film, as consolation, earns seven nominations overall.
Meanwhile, Darabont (a Best Adapted Screenplay nominee) and Newell are left to contemplate their Best Picture-nominated efforts that, apparently, directed themselves.
But then that’s the way the academy works. To paraphrase Yakov Smirnoff: Whatta system!
And, sure, Smirnoff is still waiting for his first Oscar nomination. But then so is Don Rickles.
MEMO: This sidebar ran with story: YOU PICK ‘EM Fill out the ballot on Page E3 and send it in before March 24. Prizes are free movie passes, good at all area Act III theaters ($100 for first place, $50 for second, $25 for third). Winners will be announced in the April 1 IN Life section.
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