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Review: Oscars - Best Director, Best Picture

March 17, 1998|By Jason Myers

Jason MyersReview: Oscars - Best Director, Best Picture

More on Oscar hopefuls, this time for Best Director, and finally, Best Picture.

Best Director

Peter Cataneo: British comedies are generally well received by American audiences for their cross of bawdy humor and sophisticated wit. Cataneo managed to complement the irreverence of "The Full Monty" - a set of working-class gents who strip - with endearing and observant social humor.

Gus Van Sant: A visionary of human psychopathology and peculiarity rivaled only by Tim Burton, Van Sant is perhaps the most unlikely director for "Good Will Hunting," a fairly normal fairy tale, so the result is all the more surprising. He has captured the script of stars Matt Damon and Ben Affleck with a skillful subversiveness, transforming a would-be melodrama into a wistful, ironic film about love and the role of genius in society.

Atom Egoyan: The complex, cerebral cool of Egoyan's film "The Sweet Hereafter" seems opposite to the simple sentiment of the Academy, which favors heroic, heartwarming stories. There are no heroes in Egoyan's film; that's the theme of this probing and powerful work, which would have been more so if it had not overdone the melodrama of its plot, which centers around the crash of a school bus.


James Cameron: Neptune himself could not have fashioned such a splendid seafaring spectacle as Cameron did with "Titanic." Indeed the hubris of the director is apparent in every frame of the film, each detail gilded with titanic grandeur. If only Cameron was as meticulous in his screenwriting as he was in production values, this overrated, overwrought epic might not seem so apt in comparison to "Gone With the Wind" - which, to Cameron's credit, was a thousand times more boring.

Curtis Hanson: After proving a reliable craftsman with adequate Hollywood thrillers, Hanson excavated a movie from James Ellroy's dense, difficult novel, "L.A. Confidential." Relying on the brilliant colors of Dante Spinotti's cinematography, Hanson caught Los Angeles in all its haunting illumination.

Should Win - Curtis Hanson, in spite of my own taste, I must concur with all the major critics' circles who honored Hanson.

Will Win - James Cameron, and I cannot wait to hear how arrogant his acceptance speech will be.

Best Picture

"Good Will Hunting": No mainstream film has depicted such as a dynamic protagonist as Will, artfully portrayed by Matt Damon. In every scene, the viewer is on the verge of loving and hating him. His smugness, his obsession with "roots" and his sarcasm are all plausible traits in someone so confused about his stroke of luck - to be gifted with prodigious intellect. But the beauty of this film is that all the characters are struggling with their own humanity, not just Will.

"As Good As It Gets": Schmaltz at its most endearing. If you are going to watch a two-and-a-half hour sitcom, it might as well feature such winning performers as Jack Nicholson, Helen Hunt, Greg Kinnear and Cuba Gooding Jr. What made this film seem essentially frivolous was a lack of originality. I've seen better episodes of "Frasier."

"The Full Monty": Consider a hybrid between the crass voyeurism of Joe Eszterhas and the visionary sass of Oscar Wilde (with more Wilde than Eszterhas) and you may imagine the joy of this British comedy.It featured a more substantial, smart storyline than its gimmick required, indeed, more than it would have gotten in Hollywood.

"Titanic": Three hours of being transfixed visually; three hours of maudlin abomination to hear. A preposterous, prosaic love story ruins an otherwise stunning cinematic feat.

"L.A. Confidential": Why are audiences so hesitant to see this film? A film this ambiguous about our sacred values (honest, courage, dignity) does not sit well with our black-white morality.

Will Win - "Good Will Hunting" has all the warm spirit and enchantment of "Titanic" with none of the backlash - I'm not the only one who wishes that ship would just sink.

Should Win - "L.A. Confidential explores humanity with insight no other film last year had. Yet what was so remarkable, redeeming and rewarding about the film was the way it allowed its true nature to emerge from the seamless story, acting and production. Honoring this film would vindicate the criminally neglected cast, none of whom were nominated.

Jason Myers is a senior at North Hagerstown High School.

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