Check out ''Ben Hur,'' ''Like Water For Chocolate,'' and more on video, says Rebecca Ascher-Walsh

By Rebecca Ascher-Walsh
Updated March 09, 2001 at 05:00 AM EST
Ben Hur: Everett Collection


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Seen ”Gladiator” and other Oscar favorites?

Right about now is when everybody who writes about movies begins wishing the Oscars were, oh, this afternoon. True, it’s the event we spend the most time anticipating, arguing over, and reveling in. The problem is that between the day the nominations are announced and the red carpet march begins, there’s just not a lot to talk about.

Which doesn’t stop all of our friends from endlessly wanting to discuss the merits of one movie, or bemoan how another was robbed. At a certain point (that would be last week), our smiles become frozen as we listen to yet more praise for something mistakenly called ”Hidden Tiger, Crouching Dragon” or hear another person say, for the 40th time, ”Should I REALLY go see it?” (Yes, it’s amazing. Yes, you must go see it). So, for all of you who loved the movies that have been honored with a nomination, we offer the titles of a few other movies that offer up a similar tone or feeling — and are available on video.

If you grooved on ”Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” check out ”The Matrix” (again). Certainly, ”Tiger” takes action scenes to a new balletic level, but ”The Matrix” is also breathtaking. Fast forward to the now infamous scene of Keanu Reeves bending backwards as he dodges bullets, and you’ll be reminded of a modern Fred Astaire. Or for a real taste of Hong Kong cinema, try renting ”A Chinese Ghost Story,” (1987) a sensual, otherworldly tale set in the ancient East — that also features some fierce aerial fighting.

”Chocolat” make you hungry for more? ”Like Water For Chocolate” has a lot in common with this this year’s confectionary nominee. This 1993 Mexican romance offers up an equally appealing (I would even argue a more appealing) love story, takes on the issue of ”tolerance” with a steadier hand, and will also have you running for the kitchen.

”Gladiator” resonates as an epic Hollywood adventure with larger than life characters and action. It owes a lot to predecessors like ”Spartacus,” ”Ben-Hur,” ”The Fall of the Roman Empire,” and ”The Ten Commandments.” And Charlton Heston parting the Red Sea — or winning the chariot race — is no less dramatic than any scene in ”Gladiator.”

”Erin Brockovich” is a funny, terse, and clever depiction of a brassy, ballsy, working girl…as is ”Working Girl.” If you haven’t seen it lately, go back to the 1987 comedy that justly made Melanie Griffith a star — at least for a moment.

”Traffic”’s interwoven tales of characters involved with the drug trade is an ambitious work by Soderbergh, who also directed ”Erin.” But if it’s the nitty gritty drug world you want to see depicted, rent ”The French Connection.” The actors and plot hold up as strongly this many years later as anything we see in ”Traffic.” Another hot video: ”Traffik,” the 1990 British / PBS miniseries that became the basis for the Oscar nominated film. ”Traffik” is extremely hard to find in video stores, but you may get lucky if you check with your local college or university library.

Now, as for who we think is going to win this year’s awards…. Well, for that, you’ll just have to wait.

But you can read All About Oscar 2001 for’s comprehensive Academy Awards coverage.

Or see photos from the nominated movies at

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