I'd like to thank the members of the Academy for setting my social calendar for the next few weeks. At least now I know which movies to go see. It's always better to wait until the Oscar nominations come out, as anyone who plunked down seven bucks for "Texasville" can tell you.
People look for trends in the nominations, and three pop out: For Best Picture, it helps to be dead. "Ghost," "GoodFellas" and "Godfather III" were dominated by dead people. (Clearly, it helps to have a "G" in the title too, which is why the omission of "Ghoulies Go to College" was so shocking.) "Awakenings" was about almost-dead people. "Dances With Wolves" wasn't about dead people, but it was set in the 1800s, so all those people are dead by now. Trend No. 2 was an ethnic ascendance. Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci are up for Oscars. Regrettably, once again, the Academy failed to recognize the charismatic Tony Danza. And there was the recurring anti-Marshall bias. Neither Penny Marshall ("Awakenings") nor her older brother Garry ("Pretty Woman") was nominated for Best Director; parenthetically, Wilbur Marshall failed to make the Pro Bowl.
Without further ado, let's hit the major categories. Best Picture: "Ghost" is the biggest surprise. How did this get in the top five? Was it because "Home Alone" was too cerebral? "Ghost" is a real estate movie, in which a man gets shot to death, but gets to keep his fabulous apartment in TriBeCa. My friend Hal, the critic, says, "It's about being dead and still being upwardly mobile." Demi Moore, a graduate of the Betsy-Wetsy Method Acting School, cries throughout the movie, leaving -- aggghhh! -- small puddles on the natural wood floors. Patrick Swayze's nine fans will be pleased to see he has his shirt off for the first 30 minutes, and has one last, dead dance with Demi. ("Ghost" lost out in the Best Costume category because Swayze gets killed after a half hour, and because he's dead, he has to wear the same clothes for the rest of the movie.) "Dances With Wolves" is three hours long. That's not a movie, it's a commitment. "Awakenings" is about people who got bitten by mosquitoes and were basically dead for 20 years, and they wake up to find George Steinbrenner has ruined the Yankees. "Godfather III" is overblown, derivative goop. I await "Godfather IV," where Michael Corleone fights the Russian. "GoodFellas" is terrific, and educational too, because it shows you how to get a great table at the Copa.
Best Actor: The trick here is to speak with an accent. Jeremy Irons plays the bloodless Dane, Claus Von Bulow, in "Reversal of Fortune." Richard Harris plays an Irishman. Gerard Depardieu is vulnerably French. Kevin Costner learns to speak Lakota Sioux. (De Niro was asleep for so long in "Awakenings," he didn't speak at all.) Women I know were overjoyed to see Costner butt-nekkid. Personally, I was disappointed he didn't get to throw a baseball. What's the point of him dancing with wolves? Wasn't it better bathing with Susan Sarandon? De Niro could have been nominated for "GoodFellas" as well as "Awakenings." Indeed, he could have played both roles simultaneously -- wake up after 20 years, and shoot the doctor. I was stunned to see Richard Harris in this field, I thought he was dead. What I didn't see was Richard Harris in "The Field." Nobody did. They were afraid he'd sing "MacArthur Park." Depardieu's got the big honker, so he can play "Cyrano de Bergerac" without makeup. And he's a fine actor, but why nominate someone for a foreign film? In French, when he looks soulfully into a woman's eyes, and you assume he's saying something desperately romantic, he's actually saying, "I can't believe this place doesn't validate parking." These are our Oscars. If they wanted to give one for Cyrano, they should have nominated Steve Martin.
Best Actress: No accents here, a shockeroo considering Meryl Streep's in the hunt. Joanne Woodward has that "sentimental favorite" look, doesn't she? And if she wins, there's free salad dressing for everyone. It's the law, you know, that they nominate Streep. If she hasn't done a movie this year, they simply send her up for something from last year. In "Postcards From the Edge" she sings. She probably was nominated for a Grammy too. Didn't see "Misery." Won't see scary movies, I'm still carrying the scars from "Wait Until Dark" when Miss Monica Krefsky dug her nails into my arm in 1968. So Kathy Bates is on her own. Julia Roberts is fresh and effervescent in "Pretty Woman," but do you really want to give the Oscar to a movie that says it's okay to be a hooker as long as you marry up? Anjelica Huston has great hair in "The Grifters"; Glenn Close should live so long. (I'm still bitter about last year when Michelle Pfeiffer didn't win. An hour after I saw "The Fabulous Baker Boys," I signed up for piano lessons.)
Best Supporting Actor: Top-heavy with gangsters. Joe Pesci played the classic short hood with the Napoleonic complex in "GoodFellas." Al Pacino, who made a living doing that in the "Godfather" movies was nominated this time as a comic short hood in "Dick Tracy," where the makeup did most of the work. Andy Garcia became the 37th actor to get an Oscar nomination from a "Godfather" movie. Danny DeVito, eat your heart out. Bruce Davison and Graham Greene are the other nominees. I saw Davison in a film with Barbara Hershey 20 years ago; time flies when you're having fun. Graham Greene, I think, is either a novelist or the galloping gourmet.
Best Supporting Actress: Who are these people? Really, who among us could pick Diane Ladd, Lorraine Bracco and Mary McDonnell out of a lineup? Whoopi Goldberg, the one familiar face, was funny in "Ghost," and Annette Bening, who's this year's Laura San Giacomo, who was last year's Melanie Griffith, was great in "The Grifters." At least I think she was great. I got distracted by the way she paid the rent. Run, don't walk.
Best Song: Oh, puh-leeze.
I'm running out of space here, so I'd like to make a final comment. One of the nominees for Best Documentary Short Subject is "Chimps: So Like Us." Does this mean that chimps are so like us? Or is it the chimps who are saying, hey, we're chimps, we're cute, so, please, like us? And if that's the case, is this just another buddy movie?