Oscar field is cause for optimism
Film critic David Meyer on the Academys nominations
By HANS IBOLD
Express Staff Writer
Once Dustin Hoffman revealed the Oscar nominations last Tuesday morning
from Beverly Hills, film critics got grumpy for one reason or another: Jim Carrey was
spurned; The Green Mile was undeserving; Ripley was too dark for the Academy
and Magnolia too clever.
"How could the Academy do that?" seemed to be the critics
collective whine. Ketchums David Meyer, who writes about film for the New York
Times and teaches film classes at The New School in New York City, saw the nominations
in a different light.
Tobey Maguire and Charlize Theron, who
starred in The Cider House Rules, will be laughing their way to the Oscar ceremony on
March 26. Their film received seven nominations, including Best Picture. (Photo by Stephan
"I think its cause for optimism," he said in a telephone
interview from New York, where he lives half the year. "This was a year in which the
big films were not stupid. You cant say that for the past two years.
"While The Green Mile is a classic Hollywood cornball movie, American
Beauty attempts to be truly subversive. And The Insider is the most intelligent
movie from Hollywood Ive seen in years. It was a smart year for movies, and the
Academys choices reflect that."
American Beauty director Sam Mendes and stars
Annette Bening and Kevin Spacey have a lot to talk about. The film took eight nominations,
including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress and Best Actor. If you missed it on
its first run, you can catch American Beauty this week at the Magic Lantern in Ketchum.
(Photo by Lorey Sebastian)
Meyer quickly defended The Sixth Sense, which many critics claimed
pulled in six nominationsincluding for Best Picturebecause it pulled in $280
"The Sixth Sense, with all its dark aspects, is more profound
than just a horror movie," Meyer said. "That screenplay had been floating around
Hollywood and building interest. It sold for a high price and then nobody messed with it.
It was nice to see something that was intended to be smart and stayed smart.
"Im astonished that Bruce Willis was not nominated," Meyer
added. "He continues to branch out and expand as an actor. Its a very
restrained and intelligent performance, but he doesnt get the credit."
Jim Carrey could be left wondering why his
performance as Andy Kaufman in Milos Formans Man on the Moon received no Oscar
attention. (Photo by Francois Duhamel)
When it comes to Jim Carrey, who was the big story last week for not being
nominated for his performance as Andy Kaufman in Man on the Moon, Meyer was not
"Carreys performance was like a black hole," he said.
"It drew in energy and emotion. He played self-containment so well that we never got
a sense of the guy. For me, it was a real one-note show and in the end dull. I would have
been really amazed if he got nominated, but I know they'll hype this as the big shocker,
especially those who never went to see the film."
Now, Carrey is in what Meyer called the Robin Williams bind.
"Carrey must play a straight, dramatic rolelike Williams in Good
Will Huntingto have a chance at an Oscar. Since he's viewed now as antic and
eccentric, he must go mainstream."
The Academy was most astute in its choices of Supporting Actress
nominations, according to Meyer.
"These are choices that really attentive, cinephiles might have
made," he said. "While the Best Actress nominations are the big
namesexcept for Hilary Swankthe Supporting Actress nominations are the most
up-and-coming actresses. Its like looking at the major leagues and the top drafts in
the minor leagues."
Supporting Actress nominee Samantha Morton, who played beside Sean Penn in
Woody Allens Sweet and Lowdown, is "the most interesting young actress
in movies today," Meyer said.
Like other film critics, Meyer got riled by some Academy choices.
"Im astonished they nominated Jude Law [for Supporting Actor],
who can't act at all," he said. "He just goes around looking cool, in a certain
And the Academy left out Dreamlife of Angels, which Meyer called
the best foreign film of the year.
Also, he said, Phillip Seymour Hoffman was overlooked for his minor but
scene-stealing role in The Talented Mr. Ripley.
"His and Kate Blanchet's were the best performances in Ripley,"
Meyer said. "Hoffman did something new and unique in Ripley. He got hosed by
So is American Beauty going to clean up on Oscar night?
"Its a tough call in all categories, except for Tom Cruise as
Best Supporting Actor in Magnolia," Meyer said. "I think Spacey will win Best
Actor and Annette Bening will win Best Actress, but I want Richard Farnsworth and Hilary
Swank to win."
One thing audiences can count on, Meyer said, is a coming year of even
"Were starting to see that the American mass audience
doesnt have to have stupid movies anymore," he said. "Audiences are
becoming so sophisticated with all the well-directed commercials, with creative videos on
MTV and with the filtering up of independent films. Big audiences are ready for better
The Oscar Nominations
The Cider House Rules
The Green Mile
The Sixth Sense
Russel Crowe, The Insider
Richard Farnsworth, The Straight Story
Sean Penn, Sweet and Lowdown
Kevin Spacey, American Beauty
Denzel Washington, The Hurricane
Annette Bening, American Beauty
Janet McTeer, Tumbleweeds
Julianne Moore, The End of the Affair
Meryl Streep, Music of the Heart
Hilary Swank, Boys Dont Cry
Michael Caine, The Cider House Rules
Tom Cruise, Magnolia
Michael Clarke Duncan, The Green Mile
Jude Law, The Talented Mr. Ripley
Haley Joel Osment, The Sixth Sense
Toni Collette, The Sixth Sense
Angelina Jolie, Girl, Interrupted
Catherine Keener, Being John Malkovich
Samantha Morton, Sweet and Lowdown
Chloe Sevigny, Boys Dont Cry
Lasse Hallstrom, The Cider House Rules
Spike Jonze, Being John Malkovich
Michael Mann, The Insider
Sam Mendes, American Beauty
M. Night Shyamalan, The Sixth Sense
P.T. Anderson, Magnolia
Alan Ball, American Beauty
Charlie Kaufman, Being John Malkovich
Mike Leigh, Topsy-Turvy
M. Night Shyamalan, The Sixth Sense