OSCAR WATCH 1999
Sometimes, the Academy gets it just right--Babe, Amadeus, and this year, Life is Beautiful.
But oh, the old, provincial Academy members just get so many things wrong. They consistently prove the victims of hype, campaign pressure, and seeming bouts of ignorance, laziness and forgetfulness. Let us examine the transgressions of 1999...
Exhibit A--The Rushmore Debacle: Bill Murray's performance in Rushmore is not only uproarious but finally an example of Murray's (usually latent) virtuosity. He combines his characteristic bitterness with a tinge of both pathetic sentimentality and self-awareness. The result is comic perfection. Despite numerous critics' awards, the Oscars passed him over. Which is fine--only if the Academy truly believed he was undeserving. But Rushmore didn't receive a single nominations. (I mean, for goodness sakes, it lost out on a Best Screenplay nomination to Saving Private Ryan)--proof that the Academy just didn't see it. They never opened the videotapes sent to them, they never went to a screening. As a result, they ignored the true best picture of the year.
Exhibit B--The Supporting Actress Nightmare: The list: Kathy Bates, Brenda Blethyn, Judi Dench, Rachel Griffiths and Lynn Redgrave. What were they thinking? Judi Dench was her usual curmudgeon self as Queen Elizabeth in Shakespeare in Love, but blink and you miss her. Brenda Blethyn ruined Little Voice, and Bates overplayed Libby in Primary Colors. (And where's Lisa Kudrow for The Opposite of Sex?) But look at the nominees again for this category--you'll notice something very interesting...
Exhibit C--The Anglo-American War: The Oscars love to nominate Brits. Only they don't like to give them awards. In 1995, Sense and Sensibility racked up an overwhelming number of nominations. And then it lost in virtually every single category (to Braveheart, an American made pseudo-British film). In 1992, Marisa Tomei beat out four British actresses for her Supporting Actress Oscar. In 1997, Frances McDormand beat out a host of British actress for her Oscar--she was on screen for less than half of Fargo. But the best example came in 1998, when Helen Hunt beat out four British actresses for her undeserved golden boy. What does it mean? It means that the American Academy of Arts and Sciences nominates British films and cast members to gain credibility and then ditches them to gain ratings. It means that Kathy Bates has the upper hand in her war against four British actresses. And it means that Shakespeare in Love will have to fight awfully hard to win anything-not only is it a British film competing against an American film, but that film is Saving Private Ryan, a juggernaut of sentimental patriotism.
The ceremonies, mark my words, will be vehemently controversial. For one thing, some members of the audience attending the Oscars intend to demonstrate their displeasure at the decision to honor Elia Kazan, the Lifetime Achievement winner who infamously "ratted" out supposed Commies in the film industry, by sitting on their hands or booing when the director appears on stage. But even more interesting will be the weird dynamics within the categories.
Will Saving Private Ryan split Best Picture votes with The Thin Red Line, leaving the race open for Shakespeare in Love or Life is Beautiful? Will the Academy give Tom Hanks another undeserved Oscar because they refuse to credit Ian McKellan for his portrayal of a gay film director? (the Academy refuses to acknowledge gay actors in gay roles--only straight actors who feign gayness get nominated. Witness the fact they passed over Rupert Everett in My Best Friend's Wedding for Greg Kinnear in As Good As It Gets.)
And most importantly--will Whoopi Goldberg make another fart joke? We hope so.