If the Academy Awards hold true to recent form, the ceremony itself won't contain many major surprises. But it's hard to make blanket assumptions this year, because Oscar unveiled far more than his usual share of surprises when the nominations were announced Wednesday morning.
As always, the initial buzz was about the nominations that weren't, from the omissions that were predicted (the Streisand snub) to the ones that mostly weren't (the Spielberg snub). But this year, an equally big surprise is just what was nominated: After a history of preferring big, serious movies to comedies or blockbusters, the Motion Picture Academy goes and nominates both "Fatal Attraction" and "Moonstruck" for the big award.
"I suppose somewhere in the back of my mind I thought perhaps I had a chance," said "Fatal Attraction" director Adrian Lyne the morning his movie won six nominations, including two -- Best Picture and Best Director -- that turned it into the surprise of the day. "I lay awake most of the night on Tuesday," he added, "and at 5 o'clock I was up, watching that dumb thing where they announce the nominations live on CNN."
That Lyne's directing nomination beat out Spielberg ("Empire of the Sun"), John Huston (a sentimental favorite for "The Dead"), Brian De Palma (a dark horse for "The Untouchables"), even James L. Brooks (the presumed front-runner for "Broadcast News"), is heady stuff for a British director whose track record has not, he admits, won him much respect. " 'Flashdance' followed by '9 1/2 Weeks' isn't mesmerizing stuff for a critic, you know?" he laughed, admitting that he is at a loss to predict the machinations at work within the directors' branch of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. "I'm not very visible here anyway, and everybody told me that the academy members are old and the voting is all political ... But if it's political, I would have thought that James Brooks was, like, the darling of the academy. So it's tough to generalize, I think."
Generalizations and conventional wisdom suggest that "Fatal Attraction" and "Moonstruck" don't have much of a chance to win Best Picture, that the race will be a three-film battle among the front-runner, "The Last Emperor," the widely liked "Hope and Glory" and the George Bush of the Oscar race, "Broadcast News," which once seemed clearly in the lead but now may be crippled by Brooks' failure to win a nomination for directing. (The last Best Picture winner whose director wasn't even nominated was 1932's "Grand Hotel.")
But then, it's an unpredictable year. Just ask Adrian Lyne. "I thought the Spielberg movie had a big shot," he said. "That shows how naive I am. I thought, well, he had a tough time last time, perhaps they really want to give him it this time. Now, I think it's an open race."
The Other Olympic Winners
The gold medal for best promotional stunt goes to "Cowboys Don't Cry," the silver for timeliest film to "Split Decision," and the bronze for biggest crowd to "Straight to Hell." Those movies, at least, were three of the winners at the Olympic Film Festival in Calgary, a week-long festival designed to tie in with that other event taking place there. The city's first-ever film festival opened when actor Zachary Ansley rode a 4,000-pound Brahman bull to the premiere of the feature "Cowboys Don't Cry"; last week's closing attraction was the world premiere of "Split Decision," a film about an Olympic boxer. And in between, crowds and critics were so infected with the Olympic spirit that they reportedly liked just about everything -- including the midnight showing of Alex Cox's "Straight to Hell," the mock spaghetti western that was roundly panned during its brief U.S. runbut drew the festival's biggest nonpremiere crowd: 400 moviegoers who braved freezing temperatures to attend the screening.