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Oscar overdrive

Oscar overdrive — From ”A River Runs Through It” to ”Unforgiven,” early hopefuls for the 65th annual Academy Awards

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If it’s nearing Christmas, Hollywood must be thinking Oscar. And even though most of the big year-end pictures — which traditionally account for a large percentage of the Oscar nominations — are still under wraps, that doesn’t stop the guesswork about what will be revealed when the envelopes are opened March 29 at the 65th annual Academy Awards ceremony.

WE COULDA USED MORE CONTENDERS
Academy members are already bemoaning their dearth of choices. Of all the films released earlier in the year, only Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven and the art-house hits Howards End, Glengarry Glen Ross, and The Player have begun to acquire Oscar buzz. ”And when you consider some of the Streep and Streisand performances of the past, the women’s area seems to be particularly lacking,” laments one Academy voter. The pickings are so slim so far that amiable star turns like Whoopi Goldberg’s in Sister Act could get nominated, even though they don’t represent the Serious Acting! that the Academy usually honors.

ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL
In the coming weeks, studio executives will complete plans for their campaigns, at an average cost of $500,000 per film. Then the 5,000 members of the Academy can expect to be deluged with ads, promotional mailings, screening invitations, CDs, and videos — especially videos. ”Videocassettes are very important,” says one veteran Academy campaigner. ”But you have to be careful not to piss off Academy members. I’ve received cassettes with ads for theme parks before you get into the movie, and it’s real annoying.”

THE EARLY LINE
While year-end 10-best lists, critics’ awards, and Christmas box office returns will also shape the race, right now insiders are betting this way:
*Best Picture Front-runners: A Few Good Men, Unforgiven, Howards End, A River Runs Through It, Malcolm X. Hopefuls: Hoffa, Chaplin, A League of Their Own, The Player.
*Best Actor Front-runners: Jack Lemmon (Glengarry Glen Ross), Clint Eastwood (Unforgiven), Tom Cruise (A Few Good Men), Denzel Washington (Malcolm X), Jack Nicholson (Hoffa). Hopefuls: Al Pacino (Scent of a Woman), Nick Nolte (Lorenzo’s Oil), Robert Downey Jr. (Chaplin), Tim Robbins (The Player), Billy Crystal (Mr. Saturday Night), Jeremy Irons (Damage).
*Best Actress Front-runners: Emma Thompson (Howards End), Whoopi Goldberg (Sister Act), Shirley MacLaine (Used People). Hopefuls: Susan Sarandon (Lorenzo’s Oil), Catherine Deneuve (Indochine), Geena Davis (A League of Their Own), Jennifer Jason Leigh (Single White Female), Meryl Streep (Death Becomes Her), Mary McDonnell (Passion Fish). Supporting actresses who could be promoted to best actress: Judy Davis (Husbands and Wives), Michelle Pfeiffer (Batman Returns).