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September 08, 1998 - Image 51

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1998-09-08

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The Michigan Daily - New Student Edition - September 8, 1998 - 5D

Minority actors simply
aren't Oscars priority

By Prashant Tamaskar
Daily Arts Writer
On the eve of the Academy Awards
ceremony celebrating the best films and
performances of 1995, Reverend Jesse
Jackson published an essay on the lack
of nominations received by people of
color. His protest of the Oscars and the
Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and
Sciences received widespread publicity
and brought to light a major problem
within the movie industry.
At the time of Jackson's article, only
nine of the nominees in the major cate-
gories in the 90s had been minorities.
The year of the protest, Ang Lee, the
director of "Sense and Sensibility," was
the lone non-white nominee. Much to
the chagrin of Jackson and many oth-
ers, talented performers such as Don
Cheadle (who won the National Society
of Film Critics' Best Supporting Actor
Award for his work in "Devil in a Blue
Dress") were ignored entirely.
Although the Academy's history of
overlooking minority actors, directors,
and writers was long, many felt that
Jackson's criticism would help improve
matters by addressing the issue and by
bringing negative publicity to the large-
ly white organization. So, how did the
Academy react? It nominated two peo-
ple of color for awards the next year.
The chosen pair were Cuba Gooding
Jr. for "Jerry Maguire" and Marianne
Jean-Baptiste for "Secrets and I ies"
While Gooding's eventual victory was
refreshing, it is important to note that
the two performers were in supporting
categories, while many stirring perfor-

mances in lead roles, like Denzel
Washington's exceptional work in
"(courage inder Fire" or Iddic
Murphy's hilarious turn as "Ihe Nutty
Professor" (which won him the
National Society of Film Critics Best
Actor Award), were not honored.
Last year, the Oscar ceremony was
free of color aside from Spike Lee,
whose documentary "Four Little Girls"
was nominated. Among those deemed
unworthy of recognition: Victor Nunez
of " lee's Gold," whose direction pro-
pelled Peter Fonda to a Best Actor nom-
ination; Pam Grier and Samuel 1..
Jackson for "Jackie Brown" the cast
and crew of the wonderful "Eve's
Bayou;" and I ee, director of critical
favorite "The Ice Storm"
But, perhaps the snub that best repre-
sents the state of afTairs in the Academy
and the movie industry was the failure
to nominate l)jimon Ilounsou for
"Amistad." While Hounsou's perfor-
mance was excellent, his ignoral would
not have been as noteworthy had Sir
. Anthony Hopkins been overlooked for
his acting in "Amistad." It is insulting
enough that in a story about a slave-ship
revolt the heroes turn out to be a couple
of white lawyers. But to top it offW
I lopkins is nearly laughable in the film,
while Ilounsou is the heart and soul of
the narrative. Moreover, the Academy
seems to love underdogs, as evidenced
by all the attention given to Matt
Damon and Ben Affeck, the well edu-
cated blue-bloods who had a bit of a
hard time selling their script for "Good
Will Hunting." Yet, Hounsou's life story

is remarkably compelling and lkatures
difficulties far greater than having
problems with a screenplay.
IJowever, the Academy should not be
singled out as the source of the prob-
lem. Granted, the organization is tairly
conservative, but in recent years it has
opened its heart to more creative, inno-
vative works, such as "Pulp Fiction"
and "Fargo," perhaps opening the doors
for minority filmmakers who tend to
have less conventional artistic visions.
Still, the failure to win awards is
insignificant in comparison to the fail-
ure to gain ground in the film industry.
When so few of the people producing,
directing or starring in movies are
minorities, can the Academy really be
expected to honor more than one or two
people of color a year?
Thus, the only way more non-white
individuals will be nominated each
year is if minorities somehow infil-
trate the system and increase their
prevalence within the industry.
Obviously, this is easier said than
done, and does not necessarily guar-
antee more recognition. After all, the
Academy is the organization that in
the past did not nominate films such
as "Do the Right Thing," "Boyz 'N'
the I lood" and "1 loop Dreams,"
which are considered by most to be
three of the most important movies of
the last If) years
The fact that recent works were not
recognized by the most prominent and
pervasive group in the movie world
suggests an enormous problem that is
nowhere near being fixed.

Samuel Jackson played gun dealer in Quentin Tarantino's 1997 film Jackie Brown. The Academy Awards have been
protested by such figurs as the Reverend Jesse Jackson for their consistent lack of minority nominees.
Truman hits it big as TV show

Titanic floats at Oscars

By Matthew Barrett
Daly arts Writer
No need for ID the man is legit.
Previously knownor his elastic face
nd crazy onseen antics, Jim
Carrey shines in Is first real attempt
Ait a serious ree. "The Truman
Show" is not th typical game of
oneupmanship tat has grown to be
thw norm for Carrey's movies.
instead it slowlybrings the audience
into a story that~uilds and progress-
es throughout it duration.
('arrey plays l'ruman Burbank, a
Ocharacter whos every move in life
the basis of th wildly popular and
live televisi o program, "The
Tirwan Show. Since birth, Truman
lists lived in aself-contained dome
that is known s Seahaven Island. As
5,00 camers capture his every
move, Trumpa i.s surrounded by
actors from th entertainment indus-
trywho playdifferent characters in
I ruman con-
stantly dreIms
about leaving the
The Trunn island but is
unable to for a
variety of rea-
sons. First, he has
a lear of driving
over water, and
second, the pur-
pose of all the
* others on the
island is to make
sure he stays put.
Pulling the strings
bind th operation is Hollywood
dir4Ntor (hristot, (Ed Harris) who
runs b thl the show and Truman's
Althoualh the premise of "The
Tnuman Show" may seem a little
illogical on paper, director Peter
Weir and the actors involved are able
to pull things together for an engag-
Carrey gives a career-altering per-
- 4mance and shows that he is more
than capable of handling big-time
dramntic roles. He is still very funny
_id tines in the movie, but instead of
constantly hitting the audience over
the head with his humor, he careful-
ly picks his spots.
Other than Carrey, the film's main
~ource of hlumor is the little oddities
about the television show and
attempts by people on the island to
kiep Truman there.
,Ejura Linney takes a turn from her
Lsual serious roles as Meryl,
Iumnan's over-the-top and sweeter-
than-sugar wife. Dressed in ridicu-
lWusly perky clothes, her main job is
to keep Truman in check and slip
*roduct placements into the show.
8o when she asks Truman if hie
wants coffee, she gives him the
whole lowdown on the particular
brand. Because "The Truman Show'
is tive and doesn't have any commer-
eials the product placement is one of
the show's main sources of funding.

end of the film Christol' urns into a
horrible human being, changing the
weather on a whim in a last ditch
attempt to keep Truman from escap-
Director Peter Weir does an excep-
tional job working his way through a
difficult subject matter. Ile is able to
hold Carrey's comic talents back,
instead focusing on the gradual pro-
gression c1' the story.
IHe also does a top-of-the-line job
in creating the town of Seahaven.
The houses and sets look like some-
thing straight out of early television,
making the television show seem
much more realistic.

"The Truman Show" is an exciting
movie that builds tension as Truman
comes closer and closer to discover-
ing the truth. It benefits from excep-
tional direction and stellar acting in
the three main roles.
The movie is also a little bit more
than the story of Truman Burbank's
journey, as it makes a biting com-
mentary on society's love affair with
By focusing on story and the evo-
lution of its main character, "The
Truman Show" is a much-needed
alternative to the typical summer
fare of explosions, aliens, and disap-

By Joshua Rich
Daily Arts Writer
The dreaded iceberg never emerged at this
years 70th Annual Academy Awards. That
meant smooth sailing for "Titanic," the epic
romance that can now add the words "Best
Picture" to its already golden resume.
In the annual ceremony honoring excel-
lence in motion pictures, director James
Cameron's film about the legendary 1912
ocean disaster received a total of 11 awards. It
took home statuettes in nearly every technical
category, and tied "Ben-IHur"'s 38-year-old
record for Oscar wins, a mark that hasn't been
neared in decades.
Also tying records was industry lavorite
Jack Nicholson's Best Actor award for his role
as an obsessive-compulsive writer in "As
Good as it Gets" his third Oscar. With the
nod, Nicholson joined the company of silver
screen legends Ingrid Bergman and Walter
Brennan as the most heralded actors in movie
Nicholson's co-star Helen hunt, who also

appears on NBC's "Mad About You," was
another one of the night's many anticipated
winners, snagging a trophy for Best Actr ss.
Also rising out of television fame wassup-
porting actor winner Robin Williams, who
became popular with his free-association
comedy rits and his role as a wacky alien on
the early 1980s TV comedy "Mork. and
Mindy." Williams took home his first-ever
Oscar for playing a tough therapist in "Good
Will Ihunting," a film that was also nominated
for Best Picture.
The popular independent movie's only other
Oscar went to original screenplay writers and
best friends Ben Afleck and Matt Damon,
who crafted "Good Will I Iunting" and waited
more than five years to see their script become
a motion picture.
In another one of the night's most antici-
pated moments, Curtis Hanson, who wrote
and directed the critically acclaimed crime
thriller "L.A. Confidential," collected an
Oscar for the screenplay he wrote with
Brian Helgeland.

Oscar stands on the
lookout for the good films.

- A

1 1±E iiIJ


Noah Emmerich and Jim Carrey star as Truman Burbank and MarIon in "The
Trwman Show". Carrey's held back his comic talents to pursue a more serious role.

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