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Here are the awards they should be presenting Sunday night

March 22, 2000

It was a great disappointment from the outside world, puncturing my Vermont-insulated life. I am referring to the fate of the Oscar statuettes.

Why did they have to be found? No, I was not alarmed to learn they had been stolen/misplaced. In fact, it gave me a slight sense of joy, born from the hope that perhaps the Academy would be forced to disband, not to reunite until they could agree to nominate films that actually deserve commendation.

cont. from lifestyle

Hence, the second annual Jasons, as they come closer to fruition with every Oscar lost - albeit found.

Best Performance By a Still Frame in a Motion Picture: "Election," which the Academy was astute enough to nominate for Best Adapted Screenplay.

Director Alexander Payne managed to skewer American culture and politics within the context of a campaign for high school class president election.


But what gave the film its great richness was its explorations of time loops - whether it was the lesbian sister lying under power lines contemplating mortality or Reese Witherspoon's face frozen, lips akimbo, as we find out more about her character than some of us would like to know.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Rather Still Motion Picture: Terrence Stamp for "The Limey." Steven Soderbergh (before making the worst decision of his career by directing "Erin Brockovich") demonstrates his mastery of directing material that otherwise would tend to be thin or glossy. Another player with time, he uses footage from Stamp's early years to describe a man, half lunatic/half grief-stricken father. Stamp could not have given a more understated performance - and therefore a most effective and touching one - had he been sleeping during the film. From the opening frame, with his dreadful, inciting whisper, "Tell me about Jenny," until the end, when we've finally been told about Jenny, the magnets in his cool blue eyes never let your attention wane. Better, they make your heart drop and your lips turn up (my fancy way of saying the movie's a knockout).

Man I Would Most Like to Be: Al Pacino. Well, yes, his performance in "The Insider" is the hollandaise sauce on Russel Crowe's poached eggs, but I just want to BE him. Great acting is only a secondary concern.

Woman I Would Most Like to Marry: Samantha Morton uses an actress' most convincing trait in "Sweet and Lowdown" - her face. And what a face. It beams with childlike splendor and awe. Yet it is her final scene in the film that made me want to kneel down in the theater's aisle and propose.

Easily pleased, easily flustered Hattie throughout, she is forced to tell - or rather, since she can't speak, write - Emmet Ray (Sean Penn, who I want to win Best Actor, if only because he deserved it four years ago for "Dead Man Walking"), her former and likely only true love, that she has married.

The extent of her anguish is suggested with a wistful smile. I can only wish to have my heart broken with such grace.

Movie I Would Most Like to Live In: "Topsy Turvy" was nominated for Best Original Screenplay, which is doubly surprising. First, it was done by Mike Leigh, who is not American and therefore an Academy outsider, and secondly, Leigh's notorious method is to work with his actors in such a long and thorough manner, developing scenario and character, that no script is required. All the more astounding, then, that such articulation reaches the screen. The cast transforms itself into a Victorian England bas relief, and then sets in motion a story brimming with theatrical hilarity and human gravity. I would stay in the Savoy theater long after the lights have been turned off, just to rest in those bright blue velvet seats. But then I would miss all the activity and passion, carefully expressed as it may be, which occurs in the bedrooms of Gilbert and Sullivan.

Best Film Too Daring and Intelligent to Be Nominated: David O. Russell's "Three Kings" easily was last year's best film, even with many great contenders. But it said so many things, and in ways so innovative and often subtle (but sometimes not), whereas the Academy prefers films that declare and then declare again a single message. George Clooney leads a group of delinquent Persian Gulf soldiers toward gold and moral enlargement and does so with the humor and guile of Odysseus taking his men home, albeit the long way.

And finally, the most distinguished Jason of the year:

Director in Whose Films I Would Most Like to Be Involved: Since Steven Soderbergh recently has tarnished his impeccable oeuvre, I must opt for Kimberly Pierce, who has not yet had the opportunity to make a mistake. Her debut, "Boys Don't Cry," burns like coal becoming diamonds. It takes a subject - transexuality - which any Hollywood director would treat crudely and sentimentally, and sharpens it into a spare elegy on the meanings of love and identity. Her ability to deal honestly and earnestly - though never less than adamantly - with provocative issue deserves its own recognition.

But it is the narrative litheness she fastens to the story of Teena Brandon - if Hilary Swank does not win for her portrayal, I'm moving to Spain - which gives me the most anticipation to await her future works.

Jason Myers, a Hagerstown native, is a sophomore at Bennington College in Bennington, Vt.

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