BEST PICTURE The Piano This is one of those rare and thrilling years when at least two Best Picture nominees seem destined to become classics. Though Schindler’s List is a staggering achievement that deserves any awards it gets, Jane Campion’s neo-gothic romance attains a rapturous emotional intimacy that Steven Spielberg’s docudrama, for all its dark dazzle and sweep, doesn’t even aim for.
BEST DIRECTOR Jane Campion On a roster of inspired artist-conjurers (Robert Altman doing his peerless narrative juggling act, Steven Spielberg wielding his hand-held camera like a historical action painter), Campion stands apart for taking a fearless plunge into the turbulent waters of her own imagination.
BEST ACTOR Anthony Hopkins Another embarrassment of riches. I remain awed by Daniel Day-Lewis’ feverish ability to transform himself, by Laurence Fishburne’s scary humanity in the role of Ike Turner. Yet only one performance here seems blessed by something like magic: Anthony Hopkins’ as Stevens, the butler in The Remains of the Day, whose inscrutable, tragic reserve is also a peculiar state of grace.
BEST ACTRESS Holly Hunter In the greatest gift to an actress since Vivien Leigh won the role of Scarlett O’Hara, Hunter, as the mute Victorian heroine of The Piano, was denied her speaking voice — that chipmunk twang. The result? A performance of such lyrical passion it can stand with the greatest work of Lillian Gish.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR Tommy Lee Jones The Fugitive is such an accessible, meat-and-potatoes entertainment that it’s easy to overlook the sidewinder imagination that went into Jones’ performance. As Harrison Ford’s relentless pursuer, he turns the very act of law enforcement into a witty existential game.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS Anna Paquin Good performances from child actors are rare, great ones rarer still. But in the role of Holly Hunter’s wild fawn of a daughter in The Piano, Paquin forms one half of a love affair as mysterious and telling as the one between Hunter and Harvey Keitel. More than anyone else in the movie, it’s Paquin, with her delicate, questioning stare, who reflects back the intricate feelings Hunter can’t speak aloud.