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EW's Oscar predictions

EW’s Oscar predictions — Why we think ”Silence of the Lambs”, Mercedes Ruehl, and Nick Nolte will win.

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Everyone into the Oscar pool! This year, as an aid to Oscar handicappers everywhere, Entertainment Weekly again provides the ultimate, inside-Hollywood line on the six major awards. Here’s how it works: The pluses and minuses each nominee brings to the race are carefully ranked on a scale of -50 to +50. We add up the positives, subtract the negatives, and voila: the most precise accounting for Academy taste this side of Price Waterhouse.

Best Actor

WARREN BEATTY Bugsy
PLUSES: Good comportment (wild man becomes doting dad and even marries the mom) +30; showy role in Best Picture nominee +30; sentiment (has never won for acting) +20; sex appeal +20; National Board of Review winner +15; could be part of Bugsy sweep +10; Happy Birthday (turns 55 on Oscar day) +5.
MINUSES: Didn’t win L.A. Film Critics award, though film won big -20; success, sex appeal (Envy Factor) -20; will split crazed-killer vote with De Niro and Hopkins -15; no longer hot at box office -15.
TOTAL: 60 points

ROBERT DE NIRO Cape Fear
PLUSES: Scary part very different from other 1991 performances (Guilty by Suspicion, Backdraft) +45; lifted weights for role +10; revered actor +10.
MINUSES: Hopkins’ psycho had more impact -25; vehicle not well liked in Hollywood -20; has won twice already (share the wealth) -20; has played psychos before (enough already) -10.
TOTAL: -10 points

ANTHONY HOPKINS The Silence of the Lambs
PLUSES: New York Film Critics and National Board of Review winner +40; showy part in crowd-pleasing Best Picture nominee +35; Hannibal Lecter now part of popular culture +25; could be part of a Silence sweep +25; British roots (Prestige Factor) +15.
MINUSES: Smallish role for a lead Oscar (would have had Supporting Oscar all sewn up) -35; will split the crazed-killer vote with Beatty and De Niro -25.
TOTAL: 80 points

NICK NOLTE The Prince of Tides
PLUSES: Golden Globe and L.A. Film Critics winner +50; sex appeal +25; Acceptance Speech Factor (will praise non-nominated director Barbra Streisand) +25; prominent in Best Picture nominee +20; helped by change-of-pace part in Cape Fear +15.
MINUSES: Hollywood loner -30; sex appeal (Envy Factor) -20.
TOTAL: 85 points

ROBIN WILLIAMS The Fisher King
PLUSES: Golden Globe winner +30; appreciated for charity work +25; Acceptance Speech Factor (he’ll be a hoot) +20; two previous nominations with no win +10.
MINUSES: Part seems lightweight compared with other nominees’ -20; performance is that same old Robin Williams shtick -15.
TOTAL: 50 points

BEST ACTRESS

GEENA DAVIS Thelma & Louise
PLUSES: Accent (Southern hick) +30; feminist support +25; sex appeal +20; Davis’ kooky Thelma is more flamboyant part than Louise +20; National Board of Review cowinner +15.
MINUSES: Same constituency as costar Susan Sarandon (Split Vote Factor) -35; no votes from insecure males -20; already has Oscar (share the wealth) -15.
TOTAL: 40 points

LAURA DERN Rambling Rose
PLUSES: Accent (Southern) +30; bright young talent on the verge of stardom +20; opportunity for mother-daughter winners may be irresistible +20; sex appeal +20; good genes (Bruce Dern and Diane Ladd) +5.
MINUSES: Actors in films from nonmajor studios rarely win -25; slight box office -20.
TOTAL: 50 points

JODIE FOSTER The Silence of the Lambs
PLUSES: Golden Globe and New York Film Critics winner +50; could be part of a Silence sweep +25; respected within the industry and on this year’s top-10- box-office list +20; category’s only nominee in Best Picture contender +20.
MINUSES: Part seems subdued next to scenery-chewing Hopkins’ -30; won Best Actress three years ago (share the wealth) -25.
TOTAL: 60 points

BETTE MIDLER For the Boys
PLUSES: Appreciated for charity work +20; Golden Globe winner +20; ages on screen in spanning-the-decades part +20; Acceptance Speech Factor (Divine Miss M at the podium) +15; sympathy vote because nobody saw her dream project +10.
MINUSES: Poor box office -35; picture got no other nominations -25.
TOTAL: 25 points

SUSAN SARANDON Thelma & Louise
PLUSES: Accent (Southern hick) +30; appreciated for charity work and political activism +30; feminist support +25; Mea Culpa Factor (has never won) +20; sex appeal +20; National Board of Review cowinner +15; pregnant winners always fun (Meryl Streep, Eva Marie Saint) +5; was in cult classic The Rocky Horror Picture Show (seminal growing-up experience for younger members) +5.
MINUSES: Same constituency as costar Geena Davis (Split Vote Factor) -35; Sarandon’s sensible Louise not as flamboyant as Thelma -20; no votes from insecure males -20; lives in New York -10.
TOTAL: 65 points

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

TOMMY LEE JONES JFK
PLUSES: Tough guy goes gay in change-of-pace role +40; could be part of JFK sweep +25; comeback (no hit theatrical film for a while) +15; Mea Culpa Factor (never nominated before) +10.
MINUSES: Villains and gay characters rarely win (he plays a gay villain) -30; understated performance -15.
TOTAL: 45 points

HARVEY KEITEL Bugsy
PLUSES: Also prominent in sympathetic role in Thelma & Louise +20; veteran character actor never nominated +15; National Society of Film Critics winner +15; could be part of a Bugsy sweep +10; member of Scorsese-De Niro in- crowd +10; goes bald for role A la Oscar winners Dean Jagger and Yul Brynner +5.
MINUSES: Costar Ben Kingsley also nominated (Split Vote Factor) -35; Joe Pesci won this category last year as another crude, vicious gangster (enough already) -10.
TOTAL: 30 points

BEN KINGSLEY Bugsy
PLUSES: Gandhi goes gangster in change of pace +30; accent (Lower East Side) +30; British (Prestige Factor) +10; could be part of Bugsy sweep +10.
MINUSES: Costar Keitel also nominated (Split Vote Factor) -35; only one in this category to have won before (share the wealth) -20.
TOTAL: 25 points

MICHAEL LERNER Barton Fink
PLUSES: Cinderella Factor (journeyman character actor finally hits it big) +35; L.A. Film Critics winner +25; voting for his sleazy movie mogul enables industryites to tweak their bosses +25.
MINUSES: Arty, nihilistic film with minimal audience -25; little screen time -25.
TOTAL: 35 points

JACK PALANCE City Slickers
PLUSES: Sentimental choice with third nomination (he tried to murder Joan Crawford in Sudden Fear in 1952 and dueled Alan Ladd in Shane in 1953) +35; Golden Globe winner +35; endearing role in film that made more money than all his competitors’ combined +25; only nomination for City Slickers +15.
MINUSES: Comedy performances perennially undervalued by Academy -25; self- parody not much of a stretch -20; wore a business suit to black-tie Golden Globes -5.
TOTAL: 60 points

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

DIANE LADD Rambling Rose
PLUSES: Opportunity for mother-daughter winners may be irresistible +25; career award for going from drive-in movies (The Wild Angels) to A-list parties (Liz Taylor’s birthday) +20; nominated twice before +20; shows virtuosity by playing nurturing mother after loony mom last year in Wild at Heart +20; will use clout to do her dream film on Watergate-era oddity Martha Mitchell +10.
MINUSES: Actors in films made by nonmajor studios rarely win -25; slight box office -20.
TOTAL: 50 points

JULIETTE LEWIS Cape Fear
PLUSES: Able to hold her own with De Niro +35; exciting newcomer (love interest in upcoming Woody Allen film) +20; plans to bring beau Brad Pitt (Thelma & Louise) to ceremonies, adding to show’s glamour quotient +5.
MINUSES: Offended Academy by saying her nomination “doesn’t change the condition of the world” -45; Hollywood finds film unpleasant -25; young enough to win in the future -10.
TOTAL: -20 points

KATE NELLIGAN The Prince of Tides
PLUSES: Ages on screen from young beauty to bitter matron +15; shows moxie for becoming character actress after stab at leading lady didn’t work out +10; only one in category in a Best Picture nominee +10; Acceptance Speech Factor (will praise Streisand) +10; good breeding (New York and London stage) +10; National Board of Review Award (albeit for Frankie & Johnny) +5.
MINUSES: Little screen time -20; lives in New York -10.
TOTAL: 30 points

MERCEDES RUEHL The Fisher King
PLUSES: L.A. Film Critics winner (as Lead Actress) and Golden Globe +50; The Fisher King unlikely to win any other Oscars +20; good breeding (New York stage) +10; won the Tony last spring for role she’ll re-create in Lost in Yonkers movie +5.
MINUSES: Performance goes over the top -20; lives in New York -10.
TOTAL: 55 points

JESSICA TANDY Fried Green Tomatoes
PLUSES: Beloved thespian has bumped Helen Hayes from the title of Grand Old Lady of American Acting (even though she was born in Britain) +30; warm role in popular film +20; only one of Tomatoes’ quartet of actresses nominated +20.
MINUSES: Won Best Actress just two years ago (share the wealth) -25.
TOTAL: 45 points

BEST DIRECTOR

JONATHAN DEMME The Silence of the Lambs
PLUSES: Directors Guild winner +50; New York Film Critics and National Board of Review winner +35; made crowd-pleasing thriller that critics loved too +25; has inventive, offbeat portfolio (Melvin and Howard, Stop Making Sense, etc.) +10.
MINUSES: Lurid nature of film -25; lives in New York -10.
TOTAL: 85 points

BARRY LEVINSON Bugsy
PLUSES: L.A. Film Critics winner +35; nominated for Directors Guild award +25; perceived as Hollywood player with an artistic vision +20.
MINUSES: Won for 1988’s Rain Man (share the wealth) -15; needed $40 million to tell a gangster story -10.
TOTAL: 55 points

RIDLEY SCOTT Thelma & Louise
PLUSES: Nominated for Directors Guild award +25; might get the feminist vote that would have gone to Streisand +15.
MINUSES: Film’s not up for Best Picture -45; insecure males might consider him a traitor to his gender -10.
TOTAL: -15 points

JOHN SINGLETON Boyz N the Hood
PLUSES: Could make history as the first black filmmaker and youngest director +35.
MINUSES: Film’s not up for Best Picture -45; no Directors Guild nomination -25; too young (Envy Factor) -15.
TOTAL: -50 points

OLIVER STONE JFK
PLUSES: Golden Globe winner +40; sympathy because of assaults he’s endured from high-minded journalists +35; seen by Hollywood as more than a filmmaker- he’s a crusader, too +30; nominated for Directors Guild award +25; tireless campaigner +20.
MINUSES: Tiresome campaigner -35; martyr complex -20; already has two Oscars for Best Director (share the wealth) -20.
TOTAL: 75 points

BEST PICTURE

Beauty and the Beast
PLUSES: Chance to make history by giving top Oscar to an animated film +45; only all-out “feel-good” movie nominated +45; last G-rated musical winner was Oliver!, 23 years ago (Family Values Factor) +35; Golden Globe winner +30; $100 million-grossers club +20; victory would be a tribute to late lyricist Howard Ashman +15.
MINUSES: Actors, making up biggest block of members, may be wary of voting for movie in which none of them appear -35; anti-Jeffrey Katzenberg sentiment -30; kid-oriented movies usually don’t win (Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark) -30; no director or screenplay nominations -20.
TOTAL: 75 points

BUGSY
PLUSES: L.A. Film Critics and Golden Globe (drama) winner +50; 10 nominations indicate wide support +30; period pieces have won 8 of the past 10 years +15; tribute to old-fashioned Hollywood glossiness +15.
MINUSES: Disappointing box office -35; Warren Beatty movies have never won Best Picture -15.
TOTAL: 60 points

JFK
PLUSES: Forced Congress to consider opening sealed assassination files (Hollywood affects history) +45; a vote for First Amendment +45; reflects the liberal politics of most members +35; technical tour de force +30; period piece +15; cassettes mailed to voters +10; voters have been fond of all-star epics in the past (Around the World in 80 Days, for example) +10.
MINUSES: Maybe too controversial -40; very mixed reviews -30; film plays loose with facts, even by Hollywood standards -25; Acceptance Speech Factor (Stone lecture: “What you’re saying is our government lied to us,” etc.) -20.
TOTAL: 75 points

THE PRINCE OF TIDES
PLUSES: Skillful condensation of massive novel +35; family drama a popular Academy genre +25; Acceptance Speech Factor (“Hello, gorgeous!”) +25; tribute to old-fashioned Hollywood glossiness +15; backlash victory for picture whose director was slighted (Driving Miss Daisy did it two years ago) +10; chance to give Streisand a picture Oscar to go along with her awards for actress (1968) and song (1976) +10.
MINUSES: Not nominated for Best Director -30; mixed reviews -25; Streisand’s distracting fingernails -20; hard-to-take love scenes -15.
TOTAL: 30 points

THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS
PLUSES: New York Film Critics, Producers Guild of America, National Board of Review winner +50; foundering studio Orion needs all the encouragement it can get +45; $100 million-grossers club +20; cassettes mailed to voters +10; film having second wind through cable showings +10.
MINUSES: Too lurid -35; genre is not an Oscar favorite (last thriller to win was The French Connection 20 years ago) -20.
TOTAL: 80 points