And the nominees are.... Predicting a few good men, and women, for the Oscars

February 15, 1993|By Stephen Hunter | Stephen Hunter,Film Critic

Three-hundred-sixty-four days a year, Hollywood's a late-night kind of place, with the after-hours clubs on the Strip wailing almost till dawn and the bright and beautiful young butterflies of the industry seeking pleasure in all its forms and costs.

But one day a year -- it falls on Wednesday this year -- the town gets up with the cows, like any hick burg -- at 5:30 a.m.

Groundhog Day?

No. It's something else. It's . . . Producerhog day!

That's because 5:30 a.m. Western Standard Time is 8:30 A.M. Eastern Standard Time, the last and most viewed half hour of New York morning talk-show frenzy, and that's when the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences hauls a few has-been stars out of the rehab centers to reel off the nominations for the 1992 Oscars.

Handicapping the nominations is a lot more difficult than handicapping the winners, because of course so much of it depends on industry promotion, which outsiders (such as moi) aren't privy to; and also, the possibility pool is so much larger. Only a fool would try.

Did I hear my name called?

Anyway, for the sheer masochistic hell of it, here's a fearless prognostication on the names Hollywood will get up early to hear on Wednesday. But if I'm wrong, please don't call: I'll still be in bed.

Generally, I'm betting that Spike Lee won't be a happy young man come Wednesday, but that it will be a very good day to be a pretend Englishman, a pretend Marine or a pretend woman. Hollywood loves pretending.

In Best Supporting Actor, the sure nomination and almost sure winner will be Jack Nicholson for his dynamic 10-day job as the demonic Marine Colonel Nathan Jessep in "A Few Good Men." It's probably pointless to mention others, but here goes anyway: Gene Hackman will get the nod for his violent and avuncular sheriff in "The Unforgiven." Anthony Hopkins will get a de rigueur inclusion for his powerhouse in "Howards End," everybody's favorite pretend-British movie (it was directed by an American, produced by an Indian and written by a German); Sidney Pollock should be nominated for his excellent performance in Woody Allen's "Husbands and Wives," because, after all, he is Sidney Pollock, powerful director; and the last one will be a real long shot, Wes Studi, who was so magnificent as Magua in Michael Mann's "Last of the Mohicans."

The Supporting Actress nominations will certainly include Joan Plowright for her acerbic turn in "Enchanted April," Judy Davis for her role as the wife half of the equation in "Husbands and Wives" (she was married to Pollack in that film). Geraldine Chaplin will probably be nominated as well for her wonderful turn as her own grandmother in the utter failure "Chaplin". Though it's a film that debuted last spring, I believe memories will linger long enough to secure a nomination for Marisa Tomei in "My Cousin Vinnie," a negligible item remarkable only in that it marked the first film role of a great actress. Last but not least, in another nod to solemn mock-Brit "classiness," Vanessa Redgrave will get a nomination for her role as the dotty and doomed mother in "Howards End."

I'm in big trouble in Best Actress because I can only come up with three possibilities. Certainly the leader is Emma Thompson, the absolute soul of "Howards End," a crisp no-nonsense woman who also has a core of feminity and sexuality too powerful to be denied. Susan Sarandon is a ferocious mother in "Lorenzo's Oil," and will get a nomination, though the movie's star seems to be setting under the weight of charges that most of its medicine is bogus. I believe Whoopi Goldberg will get nominated for the wondrous turn in the delightful though lightweight "Sister Act." From there on it's strictly a crap shoot. Michelle Pfeiffer in "Batman Returns"? An Oscar nomination for a meow? Possibly she'll get one for the more "actressy" "Love Field," which has been seen by at least six people, none of them in Baltimore. The John Sayles film "Passion Fish" is said to do great things for Mary MacDonnell and Alfre Woodard. What about Jaye Davidson for "The Crying Game"?

The Best Actor category is bursting out everywhere, on the other hand. Surely Robert Downey Jr. will get a nod for his astonishing impersonation of Chaplin in "Chaplin"; Jack Lemon really put himself back on the map with an astounding turn as the greedy yet pathetic Shelly Levine, the salesman's salesman, in "Glengarry Glen Ross." Who could deny glowering Clint Eastwood his nomination after his mean-spirited, back-shooting turn in his own brilliant film, "Unforgiven." Al Pacino, who might have gotten a nod as the silky Romano in "Glengarry Glen Ross", will certainly get one for his self-loathing show-offy blind Army officer in "Scent of a Woman," a movie which, among other things, appears to have Universal's powerful marketing department fully behind it. And Denzel Washington, on screen for close to 3 1/2 hours as Malcolm X in Spike Lee's epic biography, "Malcolm X" is a sure bet.

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