Oscars ’98

Jeff: Okay, here we are, the 70th Annual Academy Awards. And to start with, it’s obvious that Titanic will be the big winner.

John: Which is questionable to me. Though Titanic was a super-impressive achievement by “Canada Jim” Cameron, L.A. Confidential was the most thoughtfully entertaining movie of the year, and the acting was far superior to Titanic’s.

Jeff: While I agree that L.A. Confidential is a very good movie, and while its screenplay is much tighter and the dialogue is better, I feel that Titanic’s overall impact is stronger, so I prefer it. And how about that Good Will Hunting?

John: Oh, don’t get me started. That was by far the most overrated movie of the year. Basically Matt Damon did the same thing with this story as Jodie Foster did with Little Man Tate. Overcompensating for never quite attaining genuis status.

Jeff: I thought Good Will Hunting was a well done movie, except for the fact that we’ve seen it before a dozen times, with Rain Man, and Shine, and so on.

John: To indulge, my favorite line in Good Will Hunting is when good Will Hunting is talking to Minnie Driver and explaining his gift, and he says, “You know, like Beethoven, and Mozart? Yeah, that’s me.” Gus Van Sant needs to do riskier things than this.

Jeff: Then there’s As Good As It Gets. I thought this was very, very entertaining, but not quite enough to win anything.

John: I agree, it was a very flatly directed movie, though it did get me to like some very unlikeable people.

Jeff: The Full Monty, on the other hand, doesn’t deserve to get nominated for best picture. It was fun but not nearly Oscar quality. People picked it because there’s nudity and it’s British.

John: I agree. It’s basically the exact same movie as Brassed Off, but without coal miners.

Jeff: Next, the nominees for best actor, which include Matt Damon, Robert Duvall, Peter Fonda, Jack Nicholson and Dustin Hoffmann. I think it’ll be a close race between Jack Nicholson, who everyone likes, and Peter Fonda, whose father everyone likes.

John: Just as long as that Commie Jane doesn’t meddle in things. No, seriously, it’s a fairly strong category, and Robert Duvall should probably win, if not just for his acting, then for achieving so much with a really difficult subject in The Apostle.

Jeff : I agree that Duvall probably does the best job in creating a character, but most likely not enough people will have seen his movie to vote for him.

John: Matt Damon was all right, but his accent was annoying. Hoffman was also all right, doing that Mamet thing he does so well. But, at this point, he’ll need to do something truly exceptional to win the Oscar. Like gnaw off his own leg, or something. Peter Fonda was very subtle in Ulee’s Gold, but I think it was more a case of a great story than a great performance.

Jeff: For best actress, neither of us have seen Judi Dench in Mrs. Brown or Julie Christie in Afterglow, but we have seen the other three nominees. And as boring as I thought The Wings of the Dove was, I suppose that Helena Bonham Carter did the best acting job.

John: Well, Jeff, I liked The Wings of the Dove, though it was somewhat simplistic, and I think Bonham Carter was surprisingly good in a quietly evil role. Helen Hunt was adequate at best.

Jeff: Yes, It seemed like she essentially did the same thing she does every week on “Mad About You”: put up with an extremely annoying guy in a sitcom manner. But people say that since she is the only American nominated here, she’ll win.

John: Also, Kate Winslet did well with “Canada Jim” Cameron’s dialogue.

Jeff: Yes, she was hampered with some pretty awkward lines, but she’s done better work. Then for best supporting actress, there’s Kim Basinger, Joan Cusack, Minnie Driver, Julianne Moore and Titanic’s Gloria Stuart, who’ll probably win on the old-person vote.

John: Yes, but Lauren Bacall was on that ticket last year and lost to Juliette Binoche. Besides, Stuart just wasn’t that good. I like Julianne Moore or Joan Cusack; Moore was great as a pathetic loser, and Cusack added a lot of goofiness to an already goofy movie in In & Out.

Jeff: This is a pretty weak category. Minnie Driver did a routine job.

John: I found her a little annoying. The whole love story seemed a bit forced. As for Kim Basinger, I really can’t remember anything she did in L.A. Confidential, so I guess that means her performance was lacking something. Or maybe I’m just getting old.

Jeff: For supporting actor, it’s a close race, I’d say, between Burt Reynolds and Robin Williams.

John: Burt Reynolds, all the way, he’s the clearest choice of all the acting nominees. He commanded the screen in Boogie Nights. He exuded sleazy confidence. And he introduced me to the word “joy-juice.” I’m pretty confident he’ll win.

Jeff: I thought he did a good job, although it seemed a bit lacking in depth. Robin Williams also did a very good job, and I think the Academy likes him better.

John: Robert Forster, from Jackie Brown, gave a very mannered peformance which was respectable, but monotonous and boring, like the movie.

Jeff: I thought his performance was subtle and well-crafted, and I liked the movie. But he didn’t have much to do, so he won’t win.

John: Greg Kinnear gave a television quality performance as the gay neighbor, a new Hollywood standard. Personally, I liked Rupert Everett much better as the gay confidante in My Best Friend’s Wedding.

Jeff: For both Robert Forster and Greg Kinnear, just getting nominated is their reward.

John: Yes, they’re all winners. And so are we, really. Anthony Hopkins was good in a role that seemed to be specifically designed to win an Oscar, like all of Amistad.

Jeff: Yes. I thought Anthony Hopkins kind of overplayed the old man schtick. Hell, I can hunch over and rasp my voice.

John: But I have to give him credit, my eyes were welling up a bit.

Jeff: For best director, James L. Brooks’ place for As Good As It Gets was taken by Atom Egoyan for The Sweet Hereafter, which was a better movie. It was more complex and deeply emotional.

John: The most needless nomination here is Peter Cattaneo for The Full Monty. The film was cute but a trifle. There was nothing extraordinary about its direction. Cattaneo’s nomination should have gone to Paul Thomas Anderson for Boogie Nights.

Jeff: Boogie Nights was directed in a much more interesting way, although it was 75% Scorsese and 25% Tarantino.

John: But at least Anderson was trying to push the bounds. The winner for best director should be James Cameron: though his screenplay was sappy, the sinking of the Titanic will probably go down as one of the all-time classic film sequences.

Jeff: I agree, it took a lot of guts to make this movie, and to coordinate the action on such a huge scale, and have it come off so effectively. But it’s good that his screenplay wasn’t nominated, as it was probably the weakest aspect of the movie. On the other hand, it means that Good Will Hunting’s screenplay, which isn’t much better, will win instead.

John: Its screenplay is impressive considering the tender age of writers Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, but it’s basically a lot of formulae tossed together. And I don’t understand why they had to make Will Hunting into the Einstein of our time.

Jeff: Aye, of the fi
ve nominees for best original screenplay, the best one is probably Paul Thomas Anderson’s work on Boogie Nights. It was more clever and discerning than any of the other nominees.

John: Yes.

Jeff: For adapted screenplay, the obvious choice is L.A. Confidential, especially because of the difficulty of adapting that really long novel it’s based on.

John: The dialogue is absolutely saturated with detail. It’s a really juicy story. And so much fun.

Jeff: Now, every year, there are at least a few people who get the shaft from the Academy. Some think Steven Spielberg should have gotten the nod for Amistad. Hey, that rhymes. I do think it was a better movie than The Full Monty.

John: True, but I still don’t think it deserves a nomination. It’s basically a very good TV movie. Who else got shafted, Jeff?

Jeff: I would’ve liked Donnie Brasco to have gotten more nominations, especially Al Pacino for best actor. He did a very understated, but emotional, job.

John: And I think John Woo should’ve gotten a nomination for his kinetic direction of Face/Off. I thought it was by far the best action movie of the year.

Jeff: And then, of course, was Contact, which only got one nomination for sound.

John: I think this is the shaft of the year. The story was not only compelling, but truly thought-provoking. It is certainly worthy of a best picture nomination.

Jeff: And best actress. Jodie Foster did a very good job, much better than Helen Hunt or Kate Winslet. Contact should have been nominated for its special effects also.

John: I was absolutely mesmerized by the space sequences, though they were a bit self-indulgent.

Jeff: A lot of people are upset that Leonardo DiCaprio did not get a nomination for his job in Titanic. At the very least, he did a better job than Matt Damon.

John: I’m not sure about that. I think DiCaprio’s a good actor, and everyone knows what difficulties were encountered on the set of Titanic, but Damon’s performance simply had more depth.

Jeff: Oh yeah, and The Ice Storm should’ve gotten some nominations.

John: Yeah, like Film Most Likely to Induce Suicide.