Roberto Benigni for Life is Beautiful
PRO: Groveled at Cannes before Martin Scorsese; guaranteed great acceptance speech, if you can understand this freak.
CON: The Academy hates foreign films, freaks of nature, and Scorsese.
Steven Spielberg for Saving Private Ryan
PRO: Easy favorite has been coasting since the summer; also produced Documentary nominee The Last Days, reminding us he's king of all events tragic; Golden Boy scores again with a serious film; includes shots of a guy with a severed arm and half a body (violence cachet); no terrifying Reese's Pieces tie-ins.
CON: Ryan, mocked by critics as cliche-ridden, battle scenes notwithstanding, not quite as good or transcendent as Schindler; this may be the year for the happier-than-thou Shakespeare in Love; Spielberg also made 1941, and that movie sucked. So did Hook, for that matter.
John Madden for Shakespeare in Love
PRO: Best darn announcer in football branches into tasteful, yet romantic film direction.
CON: The Raiders really stink now, and he used to coach them. Wham!
Terrence Malick for The Thin Red Line
PRO: Existential piece is too weird to win Best Picture, but fellow directors love it when they don't understand what the heck is going on (cf. previous nominees Krystof Kiezlowski, David Lynch and Stanley Kubrick).
CON: Hermit might not show up. Not necessarily a bad thing - hearing this guy talk is like learning English taught by Jodie Foster's "Nell." Inspiration for images filmed cribbed from the Discovery Channel and the zoo.
Peter Weir for The Truman Show
PRO: Previous two-time nominee (Witness and Dead Poets Society} could cash in on third try; movie has subtle creepiness that has been Weir trademark since Picnic at Hanging Rock.
CON: Encouraging already-egotistical actors to go bananas probably not seen as good idea. In this category, no accompanying Best Picture nod knocks your chances down to about, oh, -50 or something.
Central Station (Brazil)
PRO: Kids are cute; foreign kids are cuter, since you can curse at them without any repercussions.
CON: Voters confused by presentation of Brazil as country without large metal ducts, Jonathan Pryce, or thong bikinis.
Children of Heaven (Iran)
PRO: Iran's had a spate of interesting movies lately (Taste of Cherry); Younger voters hoping pro wrestler The Iron Sheik comes to accept the award with Nikolai Volkoff, then beats Billy Crystal over the head.
CON: Filmmakers surely to defect, and we'll get into a big international incident, and have to bomb somebody, and you know the deal, Joel Silver would have to film it for $300 million...
The Grandfather (Spain)
PRO: Who doesn't love their grandfather? (Hi Joe! Great to see you and Kitty the other day . . .)
CON: Sounds like a bad horror film.
Life Is Beautiful (Italy)
PRO: Getting six other nominations means somebody actually noticed you besides the shut-ins forced to vote for this award.
CON: Possibly offends viewer's sensibilities in multiple countries; supporting Italian arts is an endorsement of that blind guy who's always annoying everybody on the radio with his faux opera crap.
PRO: The name of a good Japanese restaurant in New York; also, this country has raises of the best cattle for steaks. Sweeps the foodie vote.
CON: Nobody liked The Mambo Kings, Dance with Me, or Dancing at Lughnasa; the tango craze hasn't returned like swing did. So, it's no, daddy-o!
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