August 21, 1998 at 04:00 AM EDT

Some pics have early speed, but the race isn’t over.

First things first: Contrary to anything you may have heard, no, next year’s Oscar race is not over. It’s clear that one lane in the Best Picture derby will be reserved for Saving Private Ryan. What’s less clear is the rest of the field. Peter Weir’s The Truman Show has a good chance for a nomination, but since Hollywood received its mass-media-is-destroying-our-souls message less warmly than we in the self-hating press did, it’s not a lock. Chief among the films vying to nudge it aside: Beloved (prestigious book, important subject, Oprah factor); A Civil Action (prestigious book, important subject, Travolta factor); and the animated Prince of Egypt (no Oprah or Travolta, but a really prestigious book). Now factor in Miramax, which has won Best Picture nominations six years running and will try for seven with anything from Woody Allen’s Celebrity to the Cannes-lauded Italian import Life Is Beautiful. Add the indie buzz-bin contenders Dancing at Lughnasa, Hurlyburly, and Waking Ned Devine to the lineup. Leave room for another World War II movie, Terrence Malick’s The Thin Red Line. And throw in something we haven’t heard of yet. That’s 12. So far. Sounds like a pretty good race to us.

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