Damien Bona

The Oscar campaign trail

Michael Lerner was working his way through the celebrity-studded crowd at Liz Taylor’s birthday bash at Disneyland last month when Shirley MacLaine rushed over and gave him a big, gushy hug. ”Actors I’ve never met before have been running up to me with nice things to say,” the 50-year-old character actor reports. ”I’ve been at it for 24 years, but now I’m an overnight success.”

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EW's Oscar predictions

Everyone into the Oscar pool! This year, as an aid to Oscar handicappers everywhere, Entertainment Weekly again provides the ultimate, inside-Hollywood line on the six major awards. Here’s how it works: The pluses and minuses each nominee brings to the race are carefully ranked on a scale of -50 to +50. We add up the positives, subtract the negatives, and voila: the most precise accounting for Academy taste this side of Price Waterhouse.

Best Actor

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Oscar Watch: Nominee rundown

The Academy’s Directors Branch maintained its ”No Girls Allowed” policy with this year’s nominations. Never mind that Barbra Streisand (whose Prince of Tides got seven nominations, including Best Picture) subjected herself to cross-examination on 60 Minutes and took calls from strangers on Larry King Live; she wound up overlooked for Best Director.

Nor did critics’ prizes help River Phoenix (My Own Private Idaho) or Judy Davis (Barton Fink).

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Oscar Watch 1992

As if fighting for close-ups during the making of a movie weren’t enough, a few potential nominees could face their costars on Oscar night:

For Best Actor: Robin Williams vs. Dustin Hoffman in Hook

For Best Actor: Robin Williams vs. Jeff Bridges in The Fisher King

For Best Actor: Nick Nolte vs. Robert De Niro in Cape Fear

For Best Actress: Susan Sarandon vs. Geena Davis in Thelma & Louise

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Odds on the 1991 Academy Awards

Why wait for Oscar night to find out who’ll be taking home an award when inside dope and higher math (not to mention the willingness to hang out on a limb) can predict the Academy’s choices right now? Mason Wiley and Damien Bona, authors of the unofficial history Inside Oscar, have called their years of Academy analysis to devise a complex, super-secret formula — not unlike the accounting procedures favored by movie studios — and applied it to the nominees in the major races.

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How movies become Academy Award nominees

You may never have heard of Dr. Douglas Dick, but in the peculiar formula that governs Academy Awards voting, the Los Angeles psychologist wields more clout than any studio mogul or superagent. A onetime actor who hasn’t appeared in a movie since Elvis Presley’s Flaming Star and John Wayne’s North to Alaska in 1960, Dick loyally pays his yearly $150 dues to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

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Oscar nominated connections

Yes, Hollywood’s a fishbowl, and old friends are always running into each other. Yesterday’s costars become fast foes vying for the same statuettes. This year’s include: · Best Actor nominees Robert De Niro and Jeremy Irons, costars in 1986’s The Mission · Best Actor nominees De Niro and Kevin Costner, costars in 1987’s The Untouchables · Best Supporting Actor nominees Al Pacino and Andy Garcia, costars in 1990’s The Godfather Part III

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Campaigning for an Oscar with the help of videos

You pray to God they go see the movie before they vote,” says surprise Best Supporting Actress nominee Diane Ladd, who put on an ”exhausting” Oscar campaign for her no-holds-barred turn in David Lynch’s Wild at Heart. ”No one would take an ad in the trades for Diane Ladd. I had to do it myself.” Although the studios long ago stopped serving lavish meals when screening films for voters, Ladd herself cooked a spaghetti dinner for 20 Academy members, including Esther Williams, Abe Vigoda, and Shelley Winters, with Wild at Heart as dessert.

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