Academy garners respect for Oscars

Maybe the Academy is changing. Maybe it’s going legitimate. Judging by Monday night’s Oscars, it’s on its way.

In the past, Oscars have gone to people because they’ve gotten old, they’ve had a hard year, they’re really influential in Hollywood or they always get one. Times have changed.

Robin Williams received his first Oscar, along with Helen Hunt and Kim Basinger. It is hard to imagine none of these talented actors have won before, but they were recognized this year even with the excitement about Titanic.

Though it is difficult to accept an obsessive-compulsive could leave his house, let alone eat in a restaurant, Jack Nicholson certainly did an Oscar-winning job with the role. Likewise, Helen Hunt’s portrayal of a single mother trying to find a life outside of her sick child deserved commendation. Her talent finally has been recognized on the big screen.

An especially good moment during the almost four-hour ceremony was when Ben Affleck and Matt Damon won Best Original Screenplay for Good Will Hunting. Tears and shouts mingled in the audience both at the awards and on couches across the nation. It was the pair’s first attempt at a screenplay, and it was an unparalleled success. Williams, who won Best Supporting Actor for his role as a therapist in the film, put up some of his own money for the film. And he earned his first Oscar for it over comeback Burt Reynolds. That’s a pretty good investment.

As for Titanic, the Academy’s decision not to recognize the film for its acting was a wise one. The organization may gain more respect in light of it. Titanic is beautifully-crafted in the technical sense, but it severely lacks in both acting and script.

Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio are both attractive people, but neither could showcase their talents in a film that barely developed the love between their characters. Arguably, the two young travelers had very little time to fall in love, but this is Hollywood. It could have been done more believably.

It is sad that Gloria Stuart did not win Best Supporting Actress for her role in Titanic, but she really did not deserve it. Even though her eyes were amazing and her task of narrating the story was difficult, she still came across too stiff and rehearsed. Basinger earned the award more than Stuart, though not by a big margin. It is still a success on the part of the Academy to toss aside its old habits of honoring people simply because they are nearing the end of their careers.

Titanic received 11 of the 14 Oscars for which it was nominated – tying the record with Ben Hur. Though not every one of the awards really was warranted, the Academy deserves praise for not going overboard. Titanic was a shoe-in for Best Picture, Best Director, Cinematography, Art Direction, Visual Effects, Editing and Sound.

While the costume design was decent, Titanic should not have gone home with that Oscar. Nor should it have taken home Sound Effects – which could have gone to any of the other nominees as easily. It was a hard call between Good Will Hunting and Titanic for dramatic score. Good Will Hunting introduced a few very talented musicians, such as Elliot Smith. But the lilting and hypnotic score of Titanic won out.

Remove the quality of the movie from consideration for Original Song, and it is a hard pick between “How Do I Live” from Con Air and “My Heart Will Go On” from Titanic. If it mattered who sang it, Con Air would have gotten an Oscar.

With so many decent smaller films this year, this week’s ceremony gives movie lovers more hope the Academy will recognize them at next year’s Awards. Because underdog films like The Full Monty, Afterglow, Ulee’s Gold, Mrs. Brown and Good Will Hunting were nominated, more people will be exposed to the kind of quality entertainment these films provide. Maybe the Academy is on its way to legitimacy away from nepotism.

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