FILM : An Academy of dunces

Who will walk away with the Oscars next week? In Hollywood, the bets are on. Phil Reeves considers the odds

It's a shame that it's illegal to bet on the Oscars in Nevada. A short trip over the mountains that separate California from Las Vegas could have paid dividends this year. Though there is, of course, only one movie worth putting big money on before next week's awards ceremony: Forrest Gump.

Despite the popularity of Pulp Fiction, most people agree that Gump's 13 nominations (one short of the record), its glowing reviews, and its $350m worldwide revenues, amount to a convincing case that it will be chosen as Best Picture, and that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will finally recognise the work of its director, Robert Zemeckis.

But that's as far as one dares go. A sizeable bet on Tom Hanks as Best Actor might prove a little rash. Nigel Hawthorne is not without a chance for his stunning performance in the British movie The Madness of King George. Nor can Paul Newman or John Travolta be written off.

There are those in the LA film industry who privately concede that, in terms of pure acting, the performance by Hawthorne (who is little known in the US)is the classiest. "I think Nigel is a discovery. I think it's a performance of a lifetime and he deserves the Oscar," said Sam Goldwyn Jnr, whose company funded the $10m movie along with Channel 4. He points out that Hawthorne "got screwed" when the lead in Shadowlands was given to Anthony Hopkins, even though he had won a Tony for his stage performance in the part. Hollywood may feel like making amends.

Tom Hanks's chances are not helped by winning the Best Actor's Oscar last year for Philadelphia - it's rare for the Academy to give it to the same person in two consecutive years. But the awards ceremony is, at bottom, an international trade show; Forrest Gump is a blockbuster, and having the starring role gives Hanks a distinct edge over small-budget competition like Madness.

Paul Newman, who was 70 this year (the Academy can be sentimental about such details), is a contender, not least because of the Academy's residual guilt over nominating him six times over 28 years in the Best Actor's category before finally awarding him the Oscar in 1986 for The Color of Money. He has, however, received two honorary Oscars, including one last year. And, although Hollywood admired his work in Nobody's Fool, the reaction to the film has been warm rather than red-hot.

Just as Hawthorne has a chance, albeit slim, of victory, so too does Miranda Richardson as Best Actress for her performance as T S Eliot's horribly neglected first wife in Tom & Viv. At 37, she now has a body of work which the Academy may wish to recognise, having been nominated in 1992 for Damage, and greatly impressing critics with The Crying Game. The problem is the movie. Although first-rate, it may be a little stark, and too high-brow. As Entertainment Weekly says: "As far as Hollywood's concerned, Eliot's the guy who wrote that musical about the singin' kitties." The favourite is Jessica Lange, for Blue Sky.

As for the other British nominees, it would be unwise to deck the streets with bunting. The chances of Four Weddings and a Funeral winning Best Picture are slender. Annie Hall was the last comedy to win, in 1977. Rosemary Harris (Tom & Viv) and Helen Mirren (Madness) face stiff competition for the Best Supporting Actress's trophy in Dianne Wiest (Bullets over Broadway). So too does Paul Schofield (Quiz Show), who's up against Martin Landau, whose performance in Ed Wood is widely seen as a shoo-in as Best Supporting Actor.

And what of Pulp Fiction? It is probably too violent, too maverick, too grubby, too threatening to the Academy's values for its members to fully endorse it, despite its seven nominations. John Travolta stands a chance of capping his comeback. But the academy may feel that Tarantino needs to serve more time before he gets honoured.

Still, it'll be fun to watch them beeping out the expletives in the clips. And who knows? Hollywood's been wrong before.

Arts and Entertainment
Legendary blues and rock singer Joe Cocker has died of lung cancer, his management team as confirmed. He was 70
music The singer has died aged 70
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams looks concerned as Arya Stark
tv
Arts and Entertainment
photography Incredible images show London's skyline from its highest points
Arts and Entertainment
'Silent Night' last topped Classic FM's favourite Christmas carol poll in 2002
classical
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tv 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there