'Tis the Season for Oscars

'Tis the season of the sequels: Robocop 3, Beethoven's 2nd, Sister Act 2, and Wayne's World 2. Stocking stuffers all. But the big list this Christmas comes from director Spielberg, whose black-and-white Holocaust drama Schindler's List marks his return to historical storytelling after the disappointing Empire of the Sun. Meanwhile, Oliver Stone returns to Vietnam for Heaven and Earth, a Vietnam movie from a Vietnamese woman's perspective. Look for a big push for Tommy Lee Jones for best actor if his performance here is even remotely credible.

Philadelphia stars Tom Hanks as a gay lawyer fired from his job when it's discovered he has AIDS; Wrestling Ernest Hemingway, with Robert Duvall, Richard Harris, and Shirley MacLaine, is set in South Florida and written by a local boy; Richard Attenborough's Shadowlands casts Anthony Hopkins and Debra Winger as author C.S. Lewis and his admirer-turned-spouse, Joy Gresham; Robin Williams dons drag to pose as an English nanny in Mrs. Doubtfire. The cinematic treatment of Isabel Allende's magical realist novel, The House of the Spirits, bears the curse of great expectations. How could it not, with a cast that includes Meryl Streep, Glenn Close, Jeremy Irons, Winona Ryder, Antonio Banderas, and Vanessa Redgrave?

Still, I predict the big guns this Christmas will be:
The Pelican Brief, Mrs. Lyle Lovett's return to the screen after a two-year hiatus. Denzel Washington (this could be Washington's Oscar time; he also costarred in Much Ado About Nothing and in Philadelphia) is a sympathetic journalist.

Six Degrees of Separation, based on John Guare's play which was in turn drawn from a true story about an audacious con artist (played by TV's Fresh Prince, Will Smith) posing as Sidney Poitier's son. The film's success or failure hinges largely on Smith's dramatic skills; if he pulls it off the kid could rocket right to the top.

A Perfect World teams two of Middle America's favorite male leads, Kevin Costner (as an escaped convict/kidnapper) and Clint Eastwood (as the cop on his trail). Eastwood also directs; the last time he directed himself he took home a fistful of Academy Awards for Unforgiven. After his wizened, surehanded performance in In the Line of Fire, it will be hard to deny him some sort of award if this film is even tolerable. After all, would you begrudge Clint a little statuette if he really had his heart set on it? Well, would you, punk?

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