Scene One: Hollywood. April 3, 1978. The Big Night. Tension builds as Bob Hope, official quipster for the 50th annual Academy Awards, buys time with the usual banter. Film clips are shown, the nominations for Best Actress read. Anne Bancroft in "The Turning Point." Jane Fonda in "Julia." Diane Keaton in "Annie Hall." Shirley MacLaine in "The Turning Point." Marsha Mason in "The Goodbye Girl."
A sequined hostess slithers forth with the magic envelope. Silence. She rips.
"The winner for Best Actress is . . ."
Scene Two: "YA BUM!" At home, you curse the TV. "How could they pick her ?" You raise your voice. You stomp your feet. One small squeak amid the chorus of 70 million Americans Out There who, at this very instant, join in to praise or vilify the judgment of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. "Aaaaaaaaaaargh!"
Just a minute. How can you righteously kick and scream when Shirley MacLaine gets the nod if you haven't seen Jane Fonda in "Julia?" How can you twist and squirm as "Star Wars" loses out to "Annie Hall" for Best Picture if you haven't seen the Woody Allen movie? How can you cry for Richard Burton, seven times nominated for an Oscar, as he misses going the distance as Best Actor ("Equus"), if you haven't warmed to Richard Dreyfus in "The Goodbye Girl?"
You must prepare for indignation. Strong opinion requires homework. And you have four short weeks to do your homework at the movies.
"Close Encounters of the Third Kind," Steven Spielberg's UFO sensation, can go at the low end of your must-see list. Even though it picked up eight Oscar nominations, the judges passed it by for the Best Picture category. "Star Wars" (10 Oscar nominations) now goes into the Best Picture ring against "Julia," "Annie Hall," "The Goodbye Girl" and "The Turning Point."
"Star Wars" and "Close Encounters," whose advocates continue to grapple in debate, go head-to-head in only four Oscar categories: Best Director, Best Art Director, Best Original Music Score and Best Achievement in Visual Effects.
Two of the biggest films that dealt with friendships between women -- "Julia" and "The Turning Point" -- reaped 11 nominations each. And, ironically, Shirley MacLaine and Anne Bancroft, who play rivals in "The Turning Point," face off again for Best Actress.
There is so much to ponder before the big night.
How will Woody Allen fare out of his three nominations (actor, director, screenwriter) for "Annie Hall"?
Does sprightly child star Quinn Cummings ("The Goodbye Girl") stand a chance against a salty veteran like Vanessa Redgrave ("Julia")?
Does the fancy dancing of John Travolta ("Saturday Night Fever") stand a chance in his first Oscar nomination (Best Actor) against the likes of Woody Allen, Richard Burton, Marcello Mastroianni and Richard Dreyfus?
You'd best get out and see the movies you've missed to truly savor the gloat of victory and the agony of defeat.