Weekly Wire
Weekly Alibi Fall Movie Preview

By Devin D. O'Leary

OCTOBER 20, 1997:  OK, now that all the grubs out in Hollywood are done raking all their summer box-office cash into tidy piles, it's time for them to grab a little respect. And how do you spell respect in Hollywood? In all deference to Aretha Franklin (and Oscar Meyer), it's O-S-C-A-R. Yup, the only way to heal the guilt of a $100-million blockbuster is to get an Oscar nomination for some weepy wintertime drama with a bunch of British actors. So, every studio exec on the West Coast is juggling the fall release schedule and calculating the odds of nabbing one of those precious golden statuettes. In the interest of helping both the casual viewer and the nervous studio executive, I have decided to include in this year's "Fall Movie Preview" a handy synopsis of each film plus the carefully calculated odds of each film winning an Oscar. Remember: All release dates (especially in this crowded holiday season) are subject to change.

A Life Less Ordinary (Oct. 24)

THE PLOT: The Trainspotting team is back with this quirky romantic comedy about a janitor (Ewan McGregor) who kidnaps his boss' daughter (Cameron Diaz) and goes on the lam, only to be pursued by two Heaven-sent angels (Holly Hunter and Delroy Lindo) who conspire to turn the pair into lovers.

THE OSCAR ODDS: 1 in 25. McGregor is hot; Trainspotting was the shit, but the whole "romantic comedy" thing could turn off Academy voters.

The House of Yes (Oct. 24)

THE PLOT: A young man brings his fiancee home to meet his crazy, JFK-obsessed family (including sister Parker Posey) at Thanksgiving.

THE OSCAR ODDS: 1 in 25. It's certainly quirky enough for Oscar, but the decidedly dark humor may not find a home with Academy types.

Gattaca (Oct. 24)

THE PLOT: In the genetically engineered future, a "natural birth" (Ethan Hawke) fakes his way into privileged society by stealing the identity of one of the DNA elite.

THE OSCAR ODDS: 1 in 30. This sci-fi flick is low on the SPFX, so its only hope lies in costumes or set-design, both of which seem pretty low-key.

Switchback (Oct. 31)

THE PLOT: Things get personal for an FBI agent (Dennis Quaid) hunting down a serial killer when said serial killer kidnaps said FBI agent's son.

THE OSCAR ODDS: 1 in 90. Steven Seagal was originally considered for the lead role. 'Nuff said.

Mad City (Nov. 7)

THE PLOT: A depressed security guard (John Travolta) goes on a shooting spree, takes some co-workers hostage and is exploited by a manipulative TV reporter (Dustin Hoffman).

THE OSCAR ODDS: 1 in 10. It's based on an obscure Billy Wilder film (The Big Carnival aka Ace in the Hole) plus it stars Travolta and Hoffman. Odds are good!

Oscar & Lucinda (Nov. 7)

THE PLOT: A priest (Ralph Fiennes) falls for an heiress (Cate Blanchett).

THE OSCAR ODDS: 1 in 25. The highbrow cast, highbrow source material (Peter Carey's 1988 novel won the Booker Prize) and highbrow director (Aussie lass Gillian Armstrong last gave us 1994's Little Women) just scream "Oscar Film."

Starship Troopers (Nov. 7)

THE PLOT: $90 million worth of space men going to war with giant bugs.

THE OSCAR ODDS: 1 in 5. That kinda money can buy some awfully Oscar-worthy effects.

The Truman Show (Nov. 14)

THE PLOT: Jim Carrey goes dramatic again with this strange tale of an ordinary guy who goes about his daily routine, blissfully unaware that his entire life is the subject of the world's most popular TV show and that everyone around him is merely an actor.

THE OSCAR ODDS: 1 in 17. Putting Peter Wier (Dead Poets Society, Witness) behind the camera could be just the thing that Carrey needs to score some street cred in Hollywood.

One Night Stand (Nov. 14)

THE PLOT: Wesley Snipes commits adultery with Nastassja Kinski.

THE OSCAR ODDS: 1 in 70. It's directed by Mike Figgis who kicked ass on Leaving Las Vegas, but it's written by Joe Eszterhas who will never (thankfully) live down Showgirls.

The Jackal (Nov. 14)

THE PLOT: Bruce Willis is a mysterious hitman out to assassinate an unknown American. In order to catch him, an FBI agent turns to a jailed IRA terrorist (Richard Gere), the only man alive to ever see the killer's face.

THE OSCAR ODDS: 1 in 18. The pedigree on this one is pretty good (directed by the man who did Rob Roy and based on 1973's The Day of the Jackal). It could have a shot at editing or sound effects or something.

The Wings of the Dove (Nov. 21)

THE PLOT: This Miramax release is based on Henry James' steamy novel about a well-bred Britishwoman (Helena Bonham Carter) who has an affair with an American reporter (Linus Roache).

THE OSCAR ODDS: 1 in 7. Sex and literature? That's a great combo come Oscar night.

The Rainmaker (Nov. 21)

THE PLOT: Naive young lawyer battles evil insurance conglomerate.

THE OSCAR ODDS: 1 in 15. With heavyweight Francis Ford Coppola calling the shots, this could be the best adaptation of a John Grisham novel yet.

Anastasia (Nov. 21)

THE PLOT: Well, the infamous Russian princess obviously doesn't get gunned down in a palace basement by Bolsheviks in this animated musical version from Twentieth Century Fox.

THE OSCAR ODDS: 1 in 30. Could nab a nod for Best Song, but Disney's animated efforts usually own the boat on that category.

Sliding Doors (Nov. 21)

THE PLOT: Gwyneth Paltrow plays a British ad exec who gets on the London tube one day and takes an enlightening journey into two possible futures.

THE OSCAR ODDS: 1 in 25. Oscar seems infatuated with Ms. Paltrow. This romantic It's a Wonderful Life take-off could be the vehicle she's been looking for.

Mortal Kombat: Annihilation (Nov. 21)

THE PLOT: It's a sequel to Mortal Kombat so it's got a bunch of video game characters kicking each other in the face, what else.

THE OSCAR ODDS: Not on my shift, pal.

Flubber (Nov. 26)

THE PLOT: Robin Williams takes over for Fred MacMurray in this remake of the Disney classic about an absent-minded prof who invents "flying rubber."

THE OSCAR ODDS: 1 in 60. C'mon, can you really see Jessica Lange announcing, "And the winner is ... Flubber!?"

Alien: Resurrection (Nov. 26)

THE PLOT: Evil corporate types clone poor, dead Sigourney Weaver to get at the alien queen growing inside her body at the end of the last film.

THE OSCAR ODDS: 1 in 7. Here's your special effects awards. With groovy new director Jean-Pierre Jeunet (City of Lost Children) on board, there could be even more statues to come.

Red Corner (Nov. 26)

THE PLOT: Richard Gere is an entertainment lawyer framed for murder while in China on business.

THE OSCAR ODDS: 1 in 40. Sounds intriguing, but director Jon Avnet (Fried Green Tomatoes) seems to be going the "thriller" route on this one.

Welcome to Sarajevo (Dec. 12)

THE PLOT: Woody Harrelson is a war correspondent in blood-ravaged Bosnia.

THE OSCAR ODDS: 1 in 12. Oscar loves politics, and he screwed over Woody on last year's The People vs. Larry Flynt.

The Horse Whisperer (Dec. 12)

THE PLOT: Nicholas Evan's best-selling romance novel about a single mother and a hunky horse trainer comes to the big screen courtesy of Robert Redford.

THE OSCAR ODDS: 1 in 2. Romance and literature? That's even better than sex and literature. Add Robert Redford into that mix and you've got a lock, baby.

The Sequel to Scream (Dec. 12)

THE PLOT: Neve Campbell goes to Hollywood to make a movie about what happened to her in the first movie.

THE OSCAR ODDS: 1 in 60. I still think they got lucky as hell making all that money on the first one. Let's not push it by talking Academy Award.

Sphere (Dec. 12)

THE PLOT: Based on Michael Crichton's best-seller, this sci-fi thriller tells about a team of scientists (among them Dustin Hoffman and Sharon Stone) who investigate a mysterious alien structure on the bottom of the sea.

THE OSCAR ODDS: 1 in 40. Effects and set designs could be impressive, but the budget was cut during preproduction, so maybe not.

Deconstructing Harry (Dec. 12)

THE PLOT: How should I know? It's a Woody Allen movie.

THE OSCAR ODDS: 1 in 25. Allen used to seem like such a shoe-in. But ever since Everybody Says I Love You ...

The Sweet Hereafter (Dec. 12)

THE PLOT: A slick attorney travels to a small town to drum up a lawsuit after a bus full of kids crashes into an icy lake, killing most of the children in the area.

THE OSCAR ODDS: 1 in 5. This depresso flick from Atom Egoyan did snag a whole lot of awards on the festival circuit. An Oscar could be icing on the cake.

The Mighty (Dec. 19)

THE PLOT: An orphaned 13-year-old befriends a sickly kid with an overworked single mom (played by an unglamorous Sharon Stone). Gillian Anderson is in there somewhere as an alcoholic biker chick. It's based on, believe it or not, some kids' novel.

THE OSCAR ODDS: 1 in 15. Apparently Miramax is hot on this one, but it sounds like a hard sell to me.

Tomorrow Never Dies (Dec. 19)

THE PLOT: James Bond (Pierce Brosnan) teams up with a Chinese spy (Michelle Yeoh) to battle a media mogul (Jonathan Pryce) bent on starting WWIII.

THE OSCAR ODDS: 1 in 20. Seems like a longshot, but could sneak in under editing or sound effects.

Titanic (Dec. 19)

THE PLOT: Well, ya know, it sinks.

THE OSCAR ODDS: 1 in 3. While director James Cameron may have screwed his box-office potential by bumping the release to Christmas, he has exponentially increased his odds of getting an Oscar for special effects, costuming, score, directing, you name it.

Home Alone 3 (Dec. 19)

THE PLOT: No comment.

THE OSCAR ODDS: No comment.

Mouse Hunt (Dec. 25)

THE PLOT: Two guys inherit a house with a mouse in it. They spend two hours chasing the mouse.

THE OSCAR ODDS: 1 in 99. That's not even a juicy enough plot to fill a 10-minute sketch on Saturday Night Live.

Mr. Magoo (Dec. 25)

THE PLOT: A live-action version of the 1960s cartoon about a nearsighted old man (played here by Leslie Nielsen).

THE OSCAR ODDS: 1 in 100. Leslie Nielsen and Oscar aren't exactly synonymous.

The Postman (Dec. 25)

THE PLOT: Kevin Costner directs and stars in this tale of a post-apocalyptic survivor who decides to start delivering the mail out in the wasteland.

THE OSCAR ODDS: 1 in 70. Remember Costner's last post-apocalyptic outing?

Jackie Brown (Dec. 25)

THE PLOT: Long-lost Quentin Tarantino directs Elmore Leonard's book (entitled Rum Punch) about a flight attendant/call girl caught up with drug smugglers.

THE OSCAR ODDS: 1 in 20. It's been a long time since Pulp Fiction. Oscar has a notoriously short memory.

Old Friends (Dec. 25)

THE PLOT: A romance novelist (Jack Nicholson) falls in love with a waitress (Helen Hunt) in this film from James L. Brooks.

THE OSCAR ODDS: 1 in 12. Jack Nicholson and the director of Broadcast News? I like those odds.

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (Dec. 25)

THE PLOT: Clint Eastwood directs Kevin Spacey in this adaptation of the runaway best seller about a gay antiques dealer on trial for shooting his young lover.

THE OSCAR ODDS: 1 in 2. A Redford movie and an Eastwood movie in the same month. Man, I wouldn't want to be an Academy member this year.

The Big Lebowski (Dec. 25)

THE PLOT: A white trash nobody (Jeff Bridges) is mistaken for a millionaire and promptly kidnapped.

THE OSCAR ODDS: 1 in 10. The Coen brothers are Hollywood's darlings after last year's Fargo. Will lightning strike twice?

Kundun (Dec. 25)

THE PLOT: Martin Scorsese's latest follows the Dalai Lama from age two through his flight from Tibet in 1959 (whereupon he moved to New York, joined the mob and had to whack some guys).

THE OSCAR ODDS: 1 in 2. This could just be the one for PC Academy voters who want to do the right thing, but just couldn't swallow Brad Pitt in Seven Years in Tibet.

Good Will Hunting (Dec. 25)

THE PLOT: A no-nonsense psychiatrist (Robin Williams) tries to steer a brilliant math prodigy away from a life of crime.

THE OSCAR ODDS: 1 in 15. Robin Williams acting serious and Gus Van Sant (My Own Private Idaho) directing? Could be a tempting combo come Oscar night.

Amistad (Dec. 26)

THE PLOT: True story of a Spanish slave ship revolt in 1839.

THE OSCAR ODDS: 1 in 1. Steven Spielberg always follows up money-grubbing crap (The Lost World) with shameless Oscar-coveting material. He rarely screws up either, though, and Hollywood does so love to kiss his big white ass.

Great Expectations (Dec. 31)

THE PLOT: Hey, shouldn't you have read this in school? Yeah, neither did I. This modern adaptation takes a lot of liberties with Dickens' classic romance anyway.

THE OSCAR ODDS: 1 in 7. Well, the MTV thing worked for Romeo and Juliet.

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