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CRITIC'S NOTES

Oscars: They've Got To See It To Vote For It

February 09, 1986|SHEILA BENSON

"Shooting Party" is not alone, of course. "The Emerald Forest's" complete non-showing in the nominations is probably the greatest disappointment in terms of an entire film. There were no screenings on its behalf as a result of the distributor (Embassy) folding, as director John Boorman pointed out in the year's most plaintive ad. In it, tracing his path from Embassy to New Embassy to Classic Embassy to Diet Embassy, the director urged his fellow voters to see it, please, on cassette. What irony--a film of true cinema magic, which needed the full benefit of superior sound and projection, being seen for the first time on cassette (or in this case, clearly not being seen at all.)

The last in the grim reminder department is the case of Laura Dern's performance in "Smooth Talk." It (and her work in "Mask," which we'll come to shortly) won Dern the Los Angeles Film Critics' New Generation Award; the film itself just won as best dramatic feature at the United States Film Festival, the independents' own voice in the matter, at Park City, Utah. If even half the acting branch had seen the film, it might have made the difference for Dern, but "Smooth Talk" was poorly managed by its distributing company and remains one of the least-seen examples of brilliant acting and directing the year has produced.

Omissions in the acting category might begin with Dern's fellow-actor, Cher, for a heart-rending performance in "Mask." Her shared Golden Palm at Cannes this year may not have been distinction enough to soothe generally outraged feelings in the industry over director Peter Bogdanovich's ruckus with Universal, and the loser may have been Cher. Her co-winner at Cannes, Norma Aleandro from the Argentine-nominated film, "Official Story," was also a sadly missed nomination. It seems odd that voters could see William Hurt and pass up the sterling work of his cellmate, Raul Julia, except that Hurt's was the showier turn. The same applies to Kathleen Turner, passed by while Jack Nicholson, the gentleman in the other half of her on-screen bed, was picked. Or Gene Hackman, in "Twice in a Lifetime," whose teammate Amy Madigan made the cut. (Just wait until next year for Hackman's "Power"-ful performance, the sole redeemable feature of that unmemorable film.)

Even in the face of 8th-, 6th-, 4th- and 14th-time nominations, this doesn't seem to have been a cut-and-dried affair this year. There seem to be a few stirrings of life in what is considered a venerable and slightly constricted body; a willingness to let some new faces into the game, as witness the newcomers from "The Color Purple," Cannon Films, Island Alive (as it was called at the time of "Spider Woman"); or to give recognition to a few overdue ones (Don Ameche in "Cocoon," Robert Loggia in "Jagged Edge," William Hickey in "Prizzi's Honor"). An interesting slate, 1985's, and one that may be under discussion right up to the 24th of March.

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