Academy Awards 1996 -- The nominations are in for this year's Oscars

By Jess Cagle
February 23, 1996 at 05:00 AM EST

That giant gasp you heard last week when producer Quincy Jones announced the nominations for the 68th Annual Academy Awards was Hollywood reacting en masse. The directors of two Best Picture nominees were snubbed, a foreign film invaded several categories, and a pig came out looking sweeter than Tom Cruise’s wife. Amid the confusion, however, there is wisdom, and here are the lessons nominee wannabes learned the hard way:

‘Tis wiser to direct a pig than Emma Thompson or Tom Hanks. Director Chris Noonan (Babe) was nominated, but Ang Lee, director of Best Picture nominee Sense and Sensibility, was ignored, a snub that even rival director Tim Robbins (Dead Man Walking) says is ”weird.” And Ron Howard, director of Best Picture nominee Apollo 13, was left on the launchpad. ”That,” says Apollo‘s Best Supporting Actress nominee, Kathleen Quinlan, ”is somewhat criminal.”

In your next life, come back as a woman. Defying conventional wisdom, the tight Best Actress race proved that there are good parts for women. ”To have a year where incredible actresses are left out shows there are better roles,” says Best Actress nominee Elisabeth Shue (Leaving Las Vegas). Neither Nicole Kidman’s praised turn in To Die For nor Jennifer Jason Leigh’s lauded performance in Georgia was nominated. Says nominee Susan Sarandon (Dead Man Walking), ”I’m just glad that Babe was a boy.”

Play a hooker. Faithful to a tradition that includes Jane Fonda in Klute and Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, the Academy once again proved its fondness for the oldest profession. Shue was rewarded for playing a hooker in Leaving Las Vegas, as was Mira Sorvino for Mighty Aphrodite. So was Sharon Stone, who sold herself as a good luck charm to high rollers in Casino and says she’s currently ”crying big fat tears of joy and gratitude.”

Wipe that smile off your face. While Nicolas Cage — the favorite in the Best Actor race — scored big as a suicidal drunk in Leaving Las Vegas, both John Travolta and Michael Douglas failed to get nominated for their comedic turns in, respectively, Get Shorty and The American President. (Then again, playing a brokenhearted photographer didn’t click for Clint Eastwood.)

Get a slash. If Emma Thompson doesn’t hear her name called for Best Actress, the performer/writer still has a chance, since her Sense and Sensibility screenplay is also in the running. ”I got so much flak for saying that I kept my [Howards End Best Actress] Oscar in the loo,” she says. ”If I win one this time, I’ll have them made into earrings.” And in the Best Live-Action Short category, listen for the names of actor/filmmakers Christine Lahti (Lieberman in Love), Jeff Goldblum (Little Surprises), and Griffin Dunne (Duke of Groove).

Don’t wear blue makeup or leather masks. Mel Gibson, who was tarted up in war paint in Braveheart, didn’t get a Best Actor nod, although his film received the most nominations — 10. Neither of Batman Forever‘s dynamic duo got nominated, even though the film is up for cinematography and sound prizes.

Keep down the cost (and body count). After sinking nearly $180 million, Waterworld surfaced with only one nomination (for Best Achievement in Sound), and big-budget body pileups such as Heat, Casino, and 12 Monkeys (save for Brad Pitt) also came up short. At $4 million, however, Leaving Las Vegas nabbed four nominations, while Dead Man Walking, which reportedly cost $12.5 million, also sauntered away with four nods. ”You do it on the good nature of people who will work for less,” says Best Director nominee Robbins.