Robin Williams: Good Will Hunting (Oscar winner)
Robert Forster: Jackie Brown
Anthony Hopkins: Amistad
Greg Kinnear: As Good as It Gets
BURT REYNOLDS: Boogie Nights (ReOscar winner)
Every once in a while an Oscar goes to a comedian playing a serious role. That's the only explanation for Williams' win here, as Matt Damon's sympathetic counselor. Hopkins lent his gravitas, but not much more to the role of John Quincy Adams in Steven Spielberg's slave-history movie. That should have cleared the way for an honorable three-man race. Kinnear was maybe the sharpest, certainly the sunniest, of the laurel trio in As Good As It Gets; but in this category, nice rarely closes the deal. Forster was tired, wary and just plain terrific as a grizzled P.I. who has what is, to me, one of the sagest declarations in all of movies ("I'm 56 years old I can't blame anybody else for something I did"). But Forster sank in the industry animosity toward Quentin Tarantino's first post-Pulp Fiction feature.
I go with Reynolds, another veteran of mediocre action pics of the '70s, who plays a porn producer in Paul Thomas Anderson's breakout epic. I give Reynolds, who for a decade made himself a gigantic movie star on sheer likability, extra points for trekking into unfamiliar indie territory, and for bringing plausibility to the idea that a man who earned money photographing people having sex could be any film's ethical anchor. Also, Reynolds deserves an award for his enduring popular appeal. Sometimes the Oscars should be the Golden Globes.
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