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BetteBack January 19, 1980: Exciting field of Oscar candidates

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Winnipeg Free Press
January 19, 1980


HOLLYWOOD — The only point to the otherwise forlorn exercise of choosing a Best 10 or attempting to forecast the Academy Awards nominations is that it becomes a chance to tip the hat to some of the year’s best work by a number of
good men, women and children.

Over the years I have calculated that Academy voters surprise you about one time in five. If what follows proves less on target than that, it will be either very surprising, or inadequate homework on somebody’s part.

Best Picture

People seemed to like it or hate it but I suspect Bob Posse’s daring, unsparing All That Jazz will be nominated. So, for its own daring of size and content, will Francis Coppola‘s Apocalypse Now. Robert Benton‘s Kramer vs. Kramer must be as certain a bet as the Oscar race offers. The Peter Yates-Steve Tesich Breaking Away has been the year’s Rocky — that is, a warm-hearted underdog.

Woody Allen’s Manhattan could well be the fifth nomination, although the competition is fierce. The likeliest alternatives are The China Syndrome and its all-too-prophetic nuclear near miss; Blake Edwards’ dark comedy of male midlife crisis, “10,” and a dark horse appropriately named Black Stallion, Carroll Ballard’s beautifully crafted story of a shipwrecked boy saved by a steed, and Being There.

An even darker horse but not to be overlooked is La Cage aux Folles, said to be the most successful foreign-language film ever and certainly one of the most enjoyed and admired films of the year in Hollywood. Also much admired has been Martin Ritt‘s union drama, Norma Rae, likely to be recognized in the voting although it’s a long shot in this category, as are Hair, The Rose and Yanks.

Best Director

It’s almost always yoked with Best Picture. Only once in the last decade were the honors split: in 1972, when Bob Fosse got Best Director for Cabaret while Coppola’s Godfather took Best Picture.

The two will be at it again this year: Fosse a likely nominee for All That Jazz, Coppola for Apocalypse Now. Robert Benton would seem a strong bet with Kramer vs. Kramer. Woody Allen could make it three years in a row, with a nomination for Manhattan (following Annie Hall and Interiors).

Competition for the fifth spot will be fierce here too. Veteran Martin Ritt could well have it for Norma Rae.

The closest alternatives are probably Peter Yates for Breaking Away, Blake Edwards for “10,- ” Milos Forman (a previous winner for Cuckoo’s Nest) for Hair, Mark Rydell for The Rose, John Schlesinger (also a previous wwinner, for Midnight Cowboy) for Yanks and Hal Ashby for Being There. A somewhat darker horse than his movie would be Carroll Ballard for Black Stallion.

Best Actress

Surest bet for nomination is Sally Field, for her superb portrayal of a rural southern woman caught up in a union-organizing drive in Norma Rae. Another highly probable nominee is Bette Midler for her dynamic role as a rock singer in The Rose. Jane Fonda could well be a fifth-time nominee for her TV reporter in China Syndrome. Marsha Mason is a strong candidate for her role as a new wife in Chapter Two. (I assume that Meryl Streep will be nominated for support, rather than in this category, for Kramer vs. Kramer.) Other strong contenders here are Jill Clayburgh, for either Luna or, more probably, Starting Over, Lee Remick for The Europeans and Diane Keaton for Manhattan.

Best Actor

A well-populated category this yeaar, topped, I’d have thought, by Dustin Hoffman as the father in Kramer vs. Kramer. Roy Scheider’s portrait of a death-obsessed director in All That Jazz seems another certain nomination. Peter Sellers’ best work in years, as a sweet innocent nurtured only by television, in Being There, could well be nominated. Jack Lemmon’s work as a nuclear engineer in China Syndrome may well extend his Academy laurels. Displacements for any of the above would probably be the likes of Nick Nolte for North Dallas Forty, Martin Sheen for Apocalypse Now, Woody Allen for Manhattan, Dudley Moore for “10” and Al Pacino for “… And Justice for All. The longer odds would be on Jon Voight, excellent in The Champ, Malcolm McDowell from Time After Time, Alan Alda for Joe Tynan. Fearless long-shot pickers might flip a coin between Michel Serrault and Ugo Tognazzi from La Cage aux Folles. A peck for George Hamilton for Love at First Bite?

Best Supporting Actress

The supporting categories are the hardest of all to predict be cause they’re the most heavily populated with fine work. For me, and for most of the voting critics this year, the category is dominated by Meryl Streep as the mother in Kramer vs. Kramer, although she was also smashing in The Seduction of Joe Tynan and Manhattan. (She was nominated last year for The Deer Hunter.) Barbara Harris, as the wife in Joe Tynan, is another possible nominee here. Jane Alexander, firstrate as Hoffman’s neighbor in Kramer vs. Kramer, might well be a nominee here, as could Barbara Barrie, wonderful as the sympathetic mother in Breaking Away. Shirley MacLaine from Being There could complete the choices.

But also strongly in the competition are Rachel Roberts for Yanks; Kathleen Seller, the dying teenager from Promises in the Dark; Leland Palmer and Ann Reinking from All That Jazz; Candice Bergen from Starting Over, Season Hubley from Hard Core and Valerie Harper, for Chapter Two.

Best Supporting Actor

An impossible richness this time. Most frequently honored by other groups is the veteran Melvyn Douglas, principally for his work in Being There, although he was also outstanding in The Seduction of Joe Tynan. Frederic Forrest, Bette Midler’s love in The Rose, is an important contender here. Mickey Rooney as the trainer in Black Stallion is a very possible nominee. Paul Dooley as the harassed father in Breaking Away could receive a nomination, as could Robert Duvall as the, surfcrazy CO in Apocalypse Now. And what of Marlon Brando, dying so violently amid T. S. Eliot quotations in the same film.? George Burns, Art Carney and Lee Strasberg supported each other in Going in Style.

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