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Overrating 'The Emperor'

April 16, 1988

In Woody Allen's "Manhattan," Michael Murphy and Diane Keaton speak of their Academy of the Overrated for such notables as Gustav Mahler and Isak Dinesen.

After Monday night's Oscars, one might also add "The Last Emperor" to that academy. Indeed, it probably belongs there much more than Mahler and Dinesen.

Without a doubt, Bernardo Bertolucci's "Emperor" is a visual wonder to behold, and it would be difficult to question its worthiness of the cinematography and costume design Oscars that it won.

However, to assert that it was worthy of nine Oscars is utterly absurd, especially when one considers some of the also-rans.

Do the Academy members really feel that Bertolucci's screenplay was superior to (those for) John Huston's "The Dead," or Stanley Kubrick's "Full Metal Jacket"?

Was its score really better than Ennio Morricone's riveting music from "The Untouchables"? Was the sound editing really superior to that of "RoboCop"?

And for that matter, was "The Last Emperor" really the best picture of 1988? The Academy apparently thought so on all counts.

More's the pity.

STEPHEN V. LEM

Los Angeles

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