CRIES & WHISPERS : ARTS

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The Independent Culture
4 THE ACADEMY of Motion Pictures, Arts and Sciences: crazy name, crazy guys. It is one thing to enjoy a film such as Forrest Gump. (Let's be unguarded for a moment: I did, quite. It was a Friday night and you know how it is.) It is quite another to write it down on a form that is supposed to represent your choice of the best films and film-making of the year.

Of course, it was too much to expect that the fourth-most lucrative film in history would not figure somewhere in the nominations. It's a well-known rule of Hollywood that if you cast a popular leading person as a character with some kind of disability, preferably mental, then they will be nominated for Best Actor or Actress (this time it's happened to Jodie Foster for Nell as well as Tom Hanks). But 12 other nominations? Ladies and gentlemen of the Academy, come off it. It's true that it was a thin year. But why has the exciting and mostly excellent Speed picked up only two nominations (for editing and sound)? Too intellectual for you, perhaps?

The voters didn't get everything wrong. They showed admirable gentleness towards Woody Allen, whose career was confidently reported to be over when he was in the throes of that messy custody case: Bullets over Broadway landed seven nominations, second only to Gump, including a Best Supporting for Chazz Palminteri, who (my New York sources assure me) is a clear case of crazy name, tremendous actor.

Two other cheers: Paul Newman, now a septuagenarian, is tipped for Best Actor for a role (in Nobody's Fool) in which he confronts a Hollywood demon and actually plays old; and no sign of Hugh Grant. Nothing against Grant, hugh did well enough in Four Weddings; but at least it means that the big night on 27 March will not be dominated by what Elizabeth Hurley is wearing, or not.

4 A COUPLE of weeks ago we aired the theory that theatre critics, as a rule, are on the short side. All the examples given were male, as a crisp letter from a reader was quick to point out. This was because most theatre critics, regrettably, are male. But not all are. And one of the female ones, Louise Doughty of the Mail on Sunday, has also been in touch, to point out that female theatre critics, as a rule, are on the tall side.

Doughty herself is 5 ft 8. By her estimation, Maureen Paton of the Daily Express is 5 ft 10, and so is Claire Armitstead of the Guardian. (This I can confirm. I once had to meet her for a drink to discuss a job. We hadn't met before. I was late, and arrived to find her deep in perplexed conversation with a man who shared my first name, and who happened to have arranged a blind date with a woman called Clare. But that's another story.) Tallest of them all, at a reputed 5 ft 11, is Jane Edwardes of Time Out. "If there was a theatre critics' basketball match, men against women," Louise Doughty notes, "we'd win hands down." Somebody ought to arrange one. An umpire will be needed, and the obvious person, given his height and his remarks about the critics in last Sunday's IoS, is Stephen Fry.

4 DREADFUL thing, blood. And too much for a whole row of punters at the MGM Tottenham Court Road, London, last week. They were there to see Tom Cruise ham his heart out as Lestat in Interview with the Vampire. But it all got too much very soon. At the first cliffhanging moment, a woman's desperate voice rang out from the back of the cinema. Her "Is there a doctor in here?" brought the audience to its feet. Her boyfriend had collapsed, and it wasn't just because of Cruise's week-old-bunch-of- daffodils hairdo.

Half an hour later, a second cry pierced the air: "Is that doctor around?" another woman shrieked. Boyfriend number two had bitten the dust - and this time he was carried out, slack and floppy, like one of Lestat's victims. By the end, through fear and what seemed like rather an odd show of collective solidarity, most of the row had hobbled out, bringing the total number of casualties to eight. Not bad for one evening's work and well up to the scoring rate of the vampires on screen.

The MGM's manager, Mr Pond, wasn't surprised by any of it. "It last happened at Pulp Fiction - husband and wife," he told me gravely. "But mostly it's the gentlemen. They don't know the extent of what they're coming to see."

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