Almost entirely on the strength of "The Last Emperor" and "Hope and Glory," Columbia Pictures earned more Academy Award nominations than any other studio, but Columbia's video division won't reap any of the rewards. Although both films were distributed by Columbia (thanks to David Puttnam, whose good taste cost him his job), both will be marketed on tape by Nelson Entertainment, which produced the former and prepurchased the video rights to the latter from the production company, Hemdale. Counting "The Princess Bride" (on tape next month) and "The Whales of August" (scheduled for April), Nelson's videos earned more Oscar nominations than those of any other home video company, including the major studios. Nelson has scheduled "Hope and Glory" for release in May; "The Last Emperor" is expected in late summer.
The VCR may have played a role in at least one of last week's Oscar nominations. The producers of "Gaby -- A True Story" reportedly sent videocassettes of their movie to every member of the Motion Picture Academy, who came up with a Best Supporting Actress nomination for Norma Aleandro. But don't expect to find "Gaby" at your video store, because the tape's commercial release has not even been scheduled. In fact, VCR owners hoping to rent their way into some insight on the Academy's mysterious ways are out of luck this year: None of the Best Picture nominees is on tape yet, and the only nominated performance available for rental is Morgan Freeman's supporting turn in "Street Smart."
One of next month's releases will offer a look at one of the Academy's more glaring oversights: the astonishing debut of 16-year-old Emily Lloyd in "Wish You Were Here," a British film whose Oscar chances were probably hampered by the industry's general disdain for its U.S. distributor, the B-film specialist Atlantic Releasing Co. The Oscar fortunes for Sweden's "My Life as a Dog," meanwhile, will already be determined by the time Paramount Home Video releases the tape in late April. Purists (and Swedes) may prefer seeing the movie in theaters -- Paramount is releasing the video in a dubbed version only, although a subtitled tape may follow.
West Bank Rewind
The company that immortalized Oliver North and Bernhard Goetz on videocassette has gone overseas for its latest foray into video journalism, "Inside the West Bank." The tape is Volume 3 of MPI Home Video's MPI Video Magazine. While the first two efforts were created exclusively for video, this one, due in stores this week, comes to tape with some journalistic credentials of its own: The film was produced last year by Britain's Central Television, which broadcast it under the title "Courage Along the Divide," and it placed second in the 1987 American Film and Video Festival.
Victor Schonfeld, an American Orthodox Jew and self-described "ardent Zionist" who has lived in Israel, coproduced and directed the 78-minute film, which will sell for $19.95. MPI President Jaffer Ali promises that it will be the year's "most controversial" video release. "It is the first film to unveil the brutality, pain, sorrow, desperation and hope among both Palestinians and Israelis," he says.
Low Price Leaders
Embassy Home Entertainment's new line of $14.95 videos sets a new industrywide low price for non-public-domain movies on tape, with one hitch: All of the pictures were made for television. True to form, the first six releases (arriving this week) show TV moviemakers doing what they do best -- dramatizing issues too dicey for the big screen; showcasing the talents of TV stars; retailing the true stories of extraordinary lives; and knocking off the previous year's theatrical successes.
In the issues category comes one of the genre's shining moments, "The Day After," a controversial nuclear war "What if?" drama from 1983. Two more find drama behind prison walls: "Attica," from 1980, and "The Jericho Mile," the 1979 story of an Olympic-caliber runner (Peter Strauss, who won an Emmy) in Folsom Prison. John Ritter and Susan Dey team up for "The Comeback Kid," a 1980 romantic comedy, and the real life Rocky comes to docudrama life in "Marciano" (1979). Finally, a females-in-fatigues comedy, "She's in the Army Now" (1981), offers five times the frivolity of the previous year's "Private Benjamin" with five women in the titular Armed Services branch.
Beta owners to whom this all sounds like fun are advised to keep a close watch on their TV listings. These tapes are available on VHS only.
Something Old, Something Nova
More memorable television is due out next month when Vestron introduces the Nova Video Library, a new series of one-hour ($29.95) tapes from the popular PBS science series. Three programs make up the initial release: "Visions of the Deep," a video scrapbook from premier underwater photographer Al Giddings; "Einstein," which incorporates archival footage into its profile of the scientist; and "UFOs: Are We Alone?," a serious investigation of what may be a very serious question. Three more are due in May.