'Forrest Gump' has a chance to show that nice-guy film can finish first The Run For Oscar

March 26, 1995|By Stephen Hunter | Stephen Hunter,Sun Film Critic

Can nice guys finish first? Or will nastiness, hostility, cynicism, blasphemous language and illogical plot progressions rule the day?

Yes, it's "Forrest Gump" vs. O. J.'s defense team.

No, no, we're talking Oscars here: It's really "Forrest Gump" vs. the much-loved and much-reviled "Pulp Fiction" for Best Picture and a slew of other awards.

Many critics have insisted on over-symbolizing the race, but then that's what critics are paid to do, isn't it? Still, to represent it as powers of light vs. powers of darkness -- or the old, square, decent, honest, wunnerful Ammurica of "Forrest Gump" vs. the new, snide, hip, self-adoring America of Quentin Tarantino -- goes a bit far.

Leave us take a reality check, thank you, and remember that purely in terms of film craft, "Forrest Gump" was by far the most sophisticated film, replete with more special effects than any of the "Star Wars" films. Remember, second, that it is supported by the most powerful and sophisticated picture-making entity known to man: that is, Paramount Pictures. It ain't no hick just in from the farm, and if it's sucking on a stalk of straw, that's because marketing has told it to suck on a stalk of straw for the image.

"Pulp Fiction," on the other hand, is much more in the "hey-kids-lets-make-a-movie" tradition. Written by Tarantino from stories by himself and Roger Avary, it was rejected by mainstream Hollywood when TriStar put it in turnaround and non-major Miramax picked it up for not very much. It ultimately cost a mere $12 million, with most of the stars taking cuts to take part in the project. Zero special effects, except of course for the guy who splashes the blood when Travolta accidentally shoots the squealer in the face. (Trivia note: In the recently published screenplay, Travolta shoots him in the throat first. He gurgles, he spits, he moans. Not knowing what to do, Travolta then shoots him in the face. It's a mercy killing, see, not an accident!)

Anyway, here's our annual prognostication for key races of the 67th annual Academy Awards, to be announced tomorrow (9 p.m. on WMAR, Channel 2). The envelopes please, and hold your applause until the end.

Best Supporting Actor

Let's start with an easier one and one in which, I believe, the "Gump"/"Pulp" heads-up will go largely unfulfilled. Both Samuel L. Jackson in "Pulp" and Gary Sinise in "Forrest" are terrific, and it might help Jackson that he's concurrently terrific in "Losing Isaiah," which Academy voters may be seeing in their local Bijoux. Chazz Palminteri has only an outside chance for "Bullets Over Broadway" because he's a New York kind of guy and this is only his second film. Paul Scofield was brilliant in "Quiz Show," but that film's surprising box-office failure and its equally surprising lack of Oscar clout (only four nominations) will certainly work against it. But the one universally adored supporting performance of the year was Martin Landau's turn as drug-addicted but still dignified Bela Lugosi in Tim Burton's otherwise unsurprising "Ed Wood." Landau will win what Lugosi never did.

Best Supporting Actress

I cull immediately four possibilities by dispensing with the braying, irritating Jennifer Tilly in "Bullets Over Broadway." It's a good thing she's so awful, because she won't split the "Bullets" backers who have Dianne Wiest to invest in. The two Brits will cancel each other out: Helen Mirren as the concerned queen in "The Madness of King George" and Rosemary Harris in the still unseen-in-Baltimore "Tom and Viv." Another thing working against Harris is the well-known fact that no movie about or by or concerning T. S. Eliot has ever won an Oscar. That leaves the real contest between the aforementioned Wiest in "Bullets" and Uma Thurman as the gangster moll who twists the night away with Travolta, then ODs on smack, in "Pulp Fiction." It's a tough call, and if you asked me who deserved it, I'd say Thurman, for hers is a wicked, nasty, compelling portrait of a character who could have become a cartoon. But you didn't ask me who deserved it, you asked me who was going to win it. Dianne Wiest will win it.

Best Original Screenplay

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