Oscar '99: Shakespeare and WWII -- The Academy swooned for Gwyneth's new flick, but still saluted war epics ''Saving Private Ryan'' and ''The Thin Red Line''
Maybe Soy Bomb will show up. Or perhaps Gwyneth Paltrow will ask Sacheen Littlefeather to pick up her Oscar for her. Better yet, Lynn Redgrave could send sister Vanessa.
Wedged between the biggest movie that ever was (Titanic) and the biggest movie that ever will be (The Phantom Menace), Oscar ’99, with its hodgepodge of nominees, will have to work overtime if it expects one film or one star to stand out. And therein lies this Oscar’s allure. ”It’s not like last year,” says Miramax cochair Harvey Weinstein, ”where we might as well have stayed home and given James Cameron the keys to the kingdom.” With few shoo-ins and no single film sweeps in the offing, he says, ”it’s going to be a nail-biter to the end.”
True, but it’s still hard not to think about what might have been: Jim Carrey accepting through his butt cheeks for The Truman Show. Joan Allen picking up her award for Pleasantville — in black and white. And God only knows what the Farrellys would have done with a 12-inch statuette for There’s Something About Mary.
With such a kaleidoscopic cast of contenders, even some of the nominees expressed surprise. When a New Line executive informed Edward Norton he’d been nominated for Best Actor, Norton responded, ”For what?” Equally surprised was NBC’s Today show, which sent a camera crew to Michael Caine‘s New York hotel room to get a live reaction shot of the Golden Globe winner scoring a nom for Little Voice. One problem: He didn’t get it.
That’s not to say there weren’t promising choices. Roberto Benigni’s labor of love Life Is Beautiful made foreign-film history with its seven nominations (including Best Picture and Best Foreign Film). Miramax’s astounding 23 nods once and for all erase doubts about the power of independent film. And who among us won’t tune in to see if Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler, a potential best-song performer, dons a tux?
But what this 71st Academy Awards broadcast will need most is a bit of dramatic conflict. If it doesn’t find some, the night’s biggest winner might turn out to be Billy Crystal, who picked the right year to give up hosting. Herewith, some possible Oscar-night celebrity death matches:
Harvey vs. Harvey The Miramax machine will go head-to-head with…the Miramax machine. Shakespeare in Love and Life will slug it out for Best Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, and Editing, while other Miramax nominees will compete for Supporting Actress and Costume. Not that there isn’t enough gold to go around. ”There are no favorites,” says Weinstein. ”Both films are going to get equal shakes from us.”
GI vs. GI It’s fitting that WWII-obsessed directors Steven Spielberg and Terrence Malick were in Germany for the Berlin Film Festival when word came of the nominations. If anything, though, the two big soldier movies might split the vote, opening the way for another war flick, Life Is Beautiful. Though even Life can’t bear all the attention. ”If they give me seven,” says Benigni, ”I don’t have enough room!”
Elizabeth vs. Elizabeth Never before has a historical character been pitted against herself like the dueling queens of Shakespeare and Elizabeth. ”If you put the two films together,” says Judi Dench, ”you get the whole spectrum of her life.” Amazing, considering Dame Judi’s Shakespeare role is just nine minutes long — one of the briefest nominated appearances ever.
God vs. Men Ian McKellen, who plays eccentric gay filmmaker James Whale in Gods and Monsters, has his work cut out for him in the Best Actor category, facing more traditional turns by Nick Nolte and Tom Hanks. Still, he’s primed for a duel. ”Edward Norton once said to me that I was one of the reasons he became an actor,” laughs McKellen. ”Now I hope I’m one of the reasons he doesn’t get the Oscar.”
Oscar vs. The Uninvited And there’ll be real sizzle if the snubbed performers show up. Imagine Carrey’s visage taking over the Shrine Auditorium’s monitors. Or the grunts from Saving Private Ryan packing heat, and a grunting Alanis Morissette, overlooked for her City of Angels hit ”Uninvited.” For that matter, where was Bill Murray‘s nod for Rushmore, or Lisa Kudrow‘s selection for The Opposite of Sex? Apparently, right up there with Ingrid Bergman’s for Casablanca. ”There’s such a rich history of great performances being snubbed,” notes Rushmore producer Barry Mandel, who says he keeps a list. ”It’s almost cooler not to be nominated.” — Reporting by Jeff Jensen, Dave Karger, and Tricia Laine
THE NOMINEES ARE…
LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL
SAVING PRIVATE RYAN
SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE
THE THIN RED LINE
Roberto Benigni, LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL
Tom Hanks, SAVING PRIVATE RYAN
Ian McKellen, GODS AND MONSTERS
Nick Nolte, AFFLICTION
Edward Norton, AMERICAN HISTORY X
Cate Blanchett, ELIZABETH
Fernanda Montenegro, CENTRAL STATION
Gwyneth Paltrow, SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE
Meryl Streep, ONE TRUE THING
Emily Watson, HILARY AND JACKIE
Roberto Benigni, LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL
John Madden, SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE
Terrence Malick, THE THIN RED LINE
Steven Spielberg, SAVING PRIVATE RYAN
Peter Weir, THE TRUMAN SHOW
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
James Coburn, AFFLICTION
Robert Duvall, A CIVIL ACTION
Ed Harris, THE TRUMAN SHOW
Geoffrey Rush, SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE
Billy Bob Thornton, A SIMPLE PLAN
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Kathy Bates, PRIMARY COLORS
Brenda Blethyn, LITTLE VOICE
Judi Dench, SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE
Rachel Griffiths, HILARY AND JACKIE
Lynn Redgrave, GODS AND MONSTERS