It’s Showtime for Oscar : And the Envelopes, Please. . .

Times Film Critic

All right, friends. Too late for office pools but just in time for Academy Awards parties, here are the Benson Oscar predictions, which come with the headstrong fearlessness of someone who has yet to win an office pool herself.

As usual, I’ll list the way I think academy members will vote first and if I disagree, my own immodest favorite. Reasons are given as much as practicable. Let’s tackle the acting categories first.

Best actor: Dustin Hoffman, because there seems to be a readable groundswell for him this year. My own choice would be Tom Hanks, who probably will suffer because academy members think it’s too early in his career. Nonsense. The nomination was certainly for two movies, not simply one and when you consider “Punchline” as well as “Big” in the same year, we seem to be dealing with a huge and many-faceted talent.

Best actress: Jodie Foster, from a hunch based on the affection I’ve seen her generate in appearances at various awards groups. She’s regarded as a real Hollywood product, as a veteran and even, as one friend suggested, as the prodigal daughter come home again. And it is a phenomenal performance. My own choice, in a far less-seen and deliberately astringent film, is Meryl Streep in “A Cry in the Dark,” who now seems to be able to throw away her formidable technique and come up with the pure essence of a character.


Supporting actor: Martin Landau in “Tucker: A Man and His Dream,” because it’s a nice, safe, sentimental performance by a warmly regarded veteran. I shall never give up on Alec Guinness’ performance in “Little Dorrit” myself, since it seems the distillation of a life’s experience, on stage and off.

Supporting actress: I think this is where the vote for Sigourney Weaver will go because I don’t think she’ll win in the best actress category. I guess, of the choices available, I’d go with Frances McDormand’s delicate shadings in the indelicate “Mississippi Burning,” although I wish enough of the academy nominators had seen Miriam Margolyes’ Flora Finching in “Little Dorrit.” Ah well.

Best picture: “Rain Man” is all we hear, so it seems a safe-enough bet. For me: “The Accidental Tourist,” whose humanity was a little less on display and thus a little more appealing, personally. And what a rainbow of performances it hid behind its quiet exterior.

Director: Barry Levinson, for the reasons cited above. Also for the reasons cited immediately above, it pains me to make a personal choice from what seems a foreshortened field. I want “The Accidental Tourist’s” Lawrence Kasdan to win, but he was not nominated. Deprived of that choice, I’ll say Charles Crichton because comic charm is far too rarely encouraged.


Art direction: “Dangerous Liaisons” feels like the solid, showy pick that the academy might make. My heart, in this case, belongs to the less staid and classic but equally difficult “Tucker.”

Cinematography: Peter Biziou’s work in “Mississippi Burning” seems to be the sort that academy members best remember. My own choice would be Sven Nyquist’s multifaceted contributions to “The Unbearable Lightness of Being.”

Costume design: The extremely showy costumes of “Dangerous Liaisons,” where you could practically picnic on those panniers and pluck every one of those diabolical roses, would seem to be aimed straight at academy members’ hearts. For me: the exquisite restraint and beauty of “A Handful of Dust.”

Documentary features: Nice to know that the handful who voted in this category actually saw the films (they had to, or they would not have been given a final ballot). And since that is the case, I would think that Marcel Ophuls’ “Hotel Terminus: the Life and Times of Klaus Barbie” would have made its singular impression on this thoughtful body. No quibble from me on that.

Documentary shorts: “You Don’t Have to Die,” adapted from a young cancer patient’s book addressed to children his own age would seem to be the winner here. The dark horse here would be “The Children’s Storefront.” I haven’t seen the entire category; this hunch comes from (relatively) trustworthy friends who have.

Film editing: You hear an awful lot of talk about “Die Hard” in this category, which may be the way the academy will swing. I think my own choice would be “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?”

Foreign language film: For a long while it seemed as though “Pelle the Conqueror” had a lock on this award. Now, one hears rumbles that supporters of “Pelle” and “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown” will cancel each other out and “The Music Teacher” will sneak through. Meanwhile, I’ll be rooting for “Salaam Bombay!”

Makeup: Let’s be lighthearted and go with a double vote for “Beetlejuice” here, just as though Rick Baker (“Coming to America”) didn’t seem to be attached to this award like Velcro.


Original score: John Williams is an even harder man to beat than Rick Baker, so this may be one place where “Accidental Tourist” wins. Two of the finest scores, Mark Isham’s magical work on “The Moderns” and Peter Gabriel’s superior, atmospheric music for “The Last Temptation of Christ,” didn’t even make the cut, so I feel vastly disinterested. If pushed, I guess I’d go with “Tourist” too.

Original song: Could the academy resist “Calling You” from “Bagdad Cafe”? No! And I certainly couldn’t either.

Short film, animation: “The Cat Came Back,” which is as lively as its old children’s song, and even more fun. A double vote here.

Short film, live action: Thin pickings this year.: “The Appointments of Dennis Jennings” might well be the academy pick, again on the hint of those who saw all three.

Sound: Certainly, this is one of the places where the many virtues of “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” is recognized, no? Yes. A double yes.

Sound effects editing: And again, I would imagine that “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” would make its paw print here too. For me, as well.

Visual effects: This gets down to imagination versus hard-core realism, but I think that “Roger Rabbit” may squeak by over “Die Hard.” That would be my own vote too.

Original screenplay: I think the voters will let poor old “Bull Durham” have its one chance in the sun here. But because I think its dialogue is more like great reading than great talking, my own vote slides over to “Big.”


Screenplay adaptation: Personally, this is the hardest one to psyche out. The Writers Guild went for “Dangerous Liaisons,” which makes me think that the academy might too. It’s hardly a secret that I am a great admirer of the work that Christine Edzard did in adapting “Little Dorrit” so, much as I love “The Accidental Tourist,” I would defect here to writer-director Edzard.

So there you have it, bets for what has certainly seemed like one of the most lethargic and least interesting Oscar races in years. Just think of the furor that might have been stirred up if a few of the notable non-nominees had been in the running: combinations of actors or behind-the-camera artists from “The Moderns,” “Dead Ringers,” “Clean and Sober,” “Clara’s Heart,” “Patty Hearst,” “Eight Men Out,” “Dominick and Eugene,” “The Thin Blue Line,” “Crossing Delancey,” “Hairspray,” “Punchline,” “Stormy Monday,” “Red Sorghum,” “A World Apart,” or even the great, ineligible “Wings of Desire.”