Creator of 'Summer Oscars' picks 'Thelma & Louise' as best picture

August 30, 1991|By Jay Boyar | Jay Boyar,Orlando Sentinel

At last week's meeting of the American Psychological Association in San Francisco, researchers presented the results of a new study conducted at St. Petersburg's Eckerd College. The report showed that movies that open near the end of the year stand a better chance of receiving Oscar nominations than movies released before September.

Like, tell me something I don't know!

If those eggheads had bothered to ask, I could have saved them a lot of time and energy by pointing out what has long been obvious to even the most casual Oscar-watchers. In fact, the motion-picture academy's traditional neglect of pre-September cinema is the reason I established the Summer Oscars several years ago.

The Summer Oscars are a protest against the academy's short attention span -- and also a protest against its practice of honoring "serious" films with "ambitious" themes at the expense of the unpretentious and, often, better movies that typically open during the hottest months.

Which brings us to this summer.

Any season that contains "Thelma & Louise," "City Slickers," "Pastime" and a revival of "101 Dalmatians" has to have something going for it. (Of course, it also had "Hudson Hawk," "Problem Child 2," "Return to the Blue Lagoon" and "Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man.")

The Summer Oscar rules are simple. Any movie that opened throughout most of the country from mid-May through the end of August is eligible. The decisions of the judges -- me, myself, and I -- are final.

And the winners are . . .

Best picture: "Thelma & Louise." No contest as far as I'm concerned. This wild and wonderful movie may have inspired some of the most annoying psychobabble since Harry met Sally, but that doesn't detract from its many merits.

A road picture in the proud tradition of "Bonnie and Clyde" and "Easy Rider," "Thelma & Louise" is the tough, funny, exhilarating chronicle of two women who travel from Arkansas to the Mexican border, trying to stay one step ahead of the law. There's a genuine sense of danger in this film, something like the freaky excitement you feel when you set out on the open road with no fixed itinerary and nothing much to lose.

Best actor: William Russ ("Pastime"). As Roy Dean Bream, the aging minor-league pitcher in "Pastime," William Russ gives a superb, detailed performance that's really the key to the movie. Russ gets everything exactly right: the peppy twang of Roy Dean's voice, his heads-up manner, the almost pathological nature of his devotion to the game. (Runners-up: Kevin Kline in "Soapdish," Billy Crystal in "City Slickers.")

Best actress (tie): Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon ("Thelma & Louise"). I couldn't chose between the stars of "Thelma & Louise," so I decided I didn't have to. (The decision of the judges is final, remember.) Sarandon's work is a clenched, tart masterpiece of understatement. By contrast, Davis is giddy and engaging -- her elongated body seems to quiver in anticipation of freedom. These terrific performances complement and complete each other.

Supporting actor (tie): Samuel L. Jackson ("Jungle Fever") and Jack Palance ("City Slickers"). Yes, another tie. Jackson's performance as Gator Purify, the conniving drug-addict brother of Jungle Fever's main male character (Wesley Snipes), stole the show. (Jackson's performance, incidentally, won the supporting-actor prize at this year's Cannes film festival.) Yet, I can't bring myself to overlook the richly comic (and iconic) performance of Palance as the hard-bitten trail boss in "City Slickers." (Runners-up: Alan Rickman in "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves," all the men in "Thelma & Louise.")

Supporting actress: Cathy Moriarty ("Soapdish"). As Montana Moorehead, second-string star of the daytime drama "The Sun Also Sets" in "Soapdish," Moriarty is a shifty-eyed, scheming terror. And for those of us outside the range of her plotting, she's also terribly funny. (Runner-up: Linda Hamilton in "Terminator 2: Judgment Day.")

Other awards:

Best direction: Ridley Scott ("Thelma & Louise").

Best screenplay: Callie Khouri ("Thelma & Louise").

Funniest movie of the summer: "City Slickers."

Best special effects: "Terminator 2." (Runners-up: "Backdraft," "The Rocketeer").

Best cartoon feature: "101 Dalmatians." (So what if it's a revival?)

Best song: "Jungle Fever," written and performed by Stevie Wonder ("Jungle Fever").

Best cinematography: Ernest Dickerson ("Jungle Fever"). (Runner-up: Donald Peterman for "Point Break").

2& Loudest belly-flop: "Hudson Hawk."

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