Weekly Wire
Weekly Alibi Statue of Limitations

By Devin D. O'Leary

MARCH 23, 1998:  For a gold-skinned dude, Oscar can be surprisingly bigoted. This year's Academy Awards were obviously bad for African Americans even before Spike Lee began his now-annual carping (this guy even complains when he does get nominated). Not a single person of color was nominated in any of the major categories (although Spike has a chance of walking home with a statue for his documentary, 4 Little Girls). So who got the golden shaft this year? Some industry observers were surprised that Djimon Hounsou didn't get a nod for his portrayal of Cinque in Amistad. Considering he didn't speak English the entire time and Mr. Spielberg didn't bother translating his dialogue half the time, it's hardly surprising that the former male model slipped under Oscar's radar. It's also not surprising that the film got shut out of every major category. What most people have forgotten is that the film was a PC snoozer and didn't deserve more nominations. More surprising is the shut out of Pam Grier and Samuel L. Jackson for their excellent work in Jackie Brown. Speaking of Samuel L. Jackson--this year's most notable snub came for a film he helped produce, Eve's Bayou. This dark family drama had almost every element needed for Oscar success; one really has to wonder why it got the cold shoulder. At bare minimum, Debbi Morgan's unshakable portrayal of Aunt Mozelle should have had Supporting Actress consideration.

Of the films that did make the cut, few were surprises. Titanic's 14 nominations did tie the record (with 1950's All About Eve), but the nods were hardly unexpected, considering its mammoth success. Few viewers will be at all surprised to see Titanic sailing home with a boatload of golden boys--except, that is, for Best Actor. Leonardo DiCaprio missed the boat, so to speak, when he failed to capture the nomination. "Was Leonardo Robbed?" cried the cover of Entertainment Weekly. Critics Siskel and Ebert, meanwhile, joined several thousand teenage girls in being "utterly shocked" that Leo didn't make the grade. Jack Nicholson? Robert Duvall? What are those hacks compared with the tousled locks of Leonardo DiCaprio?

Of the films joining Titanic in the Best Film category, only L.A. Confidential is likely to provide serious competition (British oddsmakers have booked their homegrown hit The Full Monty as a 100-1 longshot). Although L.A. Confidential was arguably the best film of the lot, I'd bet the farm on Titanic sailing away with an easy victory. In fact, expect Titanic to grab nearly every other piece of gold it's nominated for. For what it's worth (not much), a People Magazine/Entertainment Weekly poll has those magazines' readers choosing Titanic in every category by a margin of about 80 percent. The only iceberg it could hit all evening is in the Best Director category. If Academy voters are offended by James Cameron's "I guess size does matter" victory speech at the Golden Globes, then this is the most likely place to snub him personally in favor of L.A. Confidential helmer Curtis Hanson. Some 95 percent of the People/EW pollees chose Cameron over Hanson (who came in second with a whopping 2.31 percent of the vote). As far as I'm concerned, though, Best Director is a toss-up. L.A. Confidential was pitch-perfect filmmaking, but Cameron should probably be rewarded for captaining such a massive undertaking as Titanic.

Confidential, which did gangbusters in nearly every critics poll (and is running a close Oscar second with nine noms) should have an easy time nabbing the Best Adapted Screenplay award for its masterful condensation of James Elroy's epic novel (though how that film's acting trifecta of Kevin Spacey, Russell Crowe and Guy Pearce escaped a single nomination is a bigger mystery than anything in the film). For Best Original Screenplay, I'm sticking by my original prediction of Boogie Nights, but there's a very good chance that Ben Affleck and Matt Damon could go home with the gold. The Best Screenplay categories have become the most comfortable place for Oscar to congratulate new talent, and Academy voters may not be able to resist putting both of these young hunks up on stage at the same time (they've got TV ratings to think about, you know). Boogie Nights deserves it, though.

That leaves the Acting categories to provide the only fireworks of the night. Best Actor and Best Actress are total craps shoots. My gut tells me that all the old timers (Robert Duvall, Peter Fonda, Dustin Hoffman and Jack Nicholson) will just end up canceling each other out in the Best Actor division. When the dust settles, it could be hunk-of-the-month Matt Damon who walks away with the statue in his hand. If Damon wins for Best Screenplay earlier in the night, though, don't expect to see him back (only one statue per newcomer). In that case, it's Duvall who's got the best (and most deserving) shot. In Best Actress, Helena Bonham Carter is the most seriously deserving nominee among her fellow Brits, but a surprise upset could come in the form of sole Yankee nominee Helen Hunt, who would look mighty hot giving her speech in a low-cut Vera Wang (again, ratings). Supporting Actor and Actress, though, are some of the easiest calls of the night. Burt Reynolds has got his statue lock, stock and barrel for his career reviving performance in Boogie Nights. Meanwhile over in Supporting Actress, every Academy member wants to see 87-year-old nominee Gloria Stuart give a touching acceptance speech. She will, and you'll see it on the cover of USA Today the very next morning.

All in all, there's one sure thing you can bet on come Monday the 23rd--that the 70th annual Academy Awards won't exactly be a surprise-filled evening. Our only hope for the unexpected lies in Cher's shocking wardrobe, Spike Lee's angry acceptance speech and the off chance that "Soy Bomb" has wrangled himself a ticket.

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