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BetteBack February 9, 1992: The Oscar Nominations For 1991 Are Predicted

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European Stars And Stripes
February 9, 1992


If you listen carefully, you can hear it building, bit by bit, day by day. Yes, things are relatively quiet now, but soon the fuss will be considerable.

Because Feb.. 19, at some ungodly hour of the morning stateside (the better to accommodate the eager minions of the world’s press), the nominees for the 1991 Academy Awards will be somberly announced.

Leading to that day, a massive publicity apparatus has been at work, trying to persuade the members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to cast their ballot this way or that among the 238 eligible films.

Civilians may talk about what ought to win an Oscar, but those closer to the inside, like high-stakes gamblers everywhere, are concerned chiefly with figuring out who will end up with the brass ring, not who deserves it.

It is in that spirit, and after an informal poll of faithful Oscar watchers, that the following predictions are modestly offered.

Best picture Sure to be nominated are three pictures: The Prince of Tides, Bugsy and The Silence of the Lambs. With its glossy mainstream romanticism, Tides is the most academy-friendly picture around, and most observers consider it the early favorite to win the Oscar.

Bugsy, albeit somewhat colder in tone, has many of the same qualities. Lambs, though its violence would ordinarily make it suspect, has enough adherents to at least make the final five.

With strengths across the board, these three films should also be the leaders in total nominations.

The last two slots are more problematical. There is a great deal of sentiment for Beauty and the Beast, but it facets several hurdles, including the fact that the academy has never ever nominated an animated feature. Also, no one knows how much resistance actors, who form a major voting block, will have toward a film that does very well without them,
and there is also chafing at the perception that Disney is trying to stuff the film down the academy’s throat. Still, Beauty delivers so handsomely on so many traditional Hollywood virtues that, in a weak year, it is a good bet to make the grade.

The Fisher King is a possibility for the fifth slot, as are Grand Canyon and both Thclma & Louise and JFK, though the tinge of controversy that surrounded both will hurt more than help. More likely, though in some senses a long shot, is Boyz N the Hood. This is a picture very much in the traditional academy mold (in the way that Spike Lee‘s movies, for instance, never are), but it is hampered by having been released so early in the year.

Best director Following the best picture pattern, Barbra Streisand, Barry Levinson and Jonathan Demmc should be nominated for Tides, Bugsy and Lambs, though the academy’s
past indifference to Streisand makes her more of a question mark than she deserves to be.

The final two slots could go any number of ways. Oliver Stone (JFK) and Terry Gilliam (The Fisher King) are seen to have stronger shots as directors than their films do, and though Cape Fear is definitely not the academy’s cup of tea, a director of Martin Scorsese’s ability can never be counted out within his own branch. If Boyz N the Hood gets a nomination, and possibly even if it doesn’t, John Singleton’s name will come up.

Best actor Once again, the same three names occur: Nick Nolle for Tides, Warren Bcatty for Bugsy and Anthony Hopkins for his lip-smacking chores in The Silence of the Lambs.

Because Robin Williams is an actor the academy seems fond of (two nominations over the past four years), he should get picked for Fisher King but not Hook (whose nominations will be almost exclusively in the visual categories).

The last slot, once again, is wide open. Danny Glover is possible for Grand Canyon, as is William Hurt for The Doctor, though that film may have faded from voters’ memories.

River Phoenix was very strong in My Own Private Idaho, but it’s not clear whether enough voters saw the film. And Robert De Niro, though his work in Cape Fear had the quality of reprise, can’t be dismissed either.

Best actress Once you get past Jodie Foster for Silence of the Lambs and both Gccna Davis and Susan Sarandon for Thclma & Louise, this category appears to be the most amorphous of the lot, with voters likely to go with familiar names and faces in the absence of any other guidelines.

In this spirit, and because the film probably appealed to academy types more than the general public, Bctte Midler (who was in fact fine once the latex was removed) should get nominated for For the Boys, and even Michelle Pfeiffer has a chance for Frankie & Johnny.

Laura Dern in Rambling Rose and Mary Stuart Masterson’s excellent work in Fried Green Tomatoes depend for their chances on how many members saw their films.

Best supporting actress Mercedes Ruchl as Jeff Bridges’ long-suffering partner in Fisher King, Juliette Lewis as the abused innocent in Cape Fear and Kate Nelligan as the mother from hell in Prince of Tides head everyone’s list of nominees. Because the studio has placed Fried Green Tomatoes’ Jessica Tandy in the supporting category, a nomination for her seems likely. Rounding out the group could very well be Maggie Smith, well-liked (five nominations so far) and truly luminous in Hook.

Best supportlng actor The richest selection in any of the categories, with so many potential names that picking them blindfolded out of a hat seems as good a way as any of determining the nominees.

Surest selection looks like canny veteran Jack Palance, twice nominated but never a winner, who stole City Slickers right out from under his no doubt better-paid co-stars. Right behind him should be the not-quite-as-amusing Alan Rickman, whose Sheriff of Nottingham was easily the best thing about Robin Hood. Also promising are Robert Duvall’s muchput-upon father in Rambling Rose and Ned Bcatty’s cameo in Hear My Song.

Best original screenplay The writers’ branch of the academy is traditionally the most adventurous, opting for choices that would give the rest of the membership a coronary. This year, the surest nominees include James Toback for Bugsy and Gallic Khouri for Thclma & Louise.

Best adapted screenplay After you get past Silence of the Lambs, it’s anybody’s guess.

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