Oscar Nominees For Home Viewing

Posted: February 19, 1989

If you're one of those obsessive types who feel compelled to see every major Oscar-nominated film before the Academy Awards ceremony (March 29 - mark your calendars), some of your catching up can be done merely by trotting down to the corner video store.

There for the renting can be found The Unbearable Lightness of Being, nominated for cinematography and screenplay adaptation (decide for yourself whether Philip Kaufman's long, arty retelling of the Milan Kundera book got short shrift from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences). Also available for your consideration is Stand and Deliver, which landed one big Oscar nod: best actor for Edward James Olmos, in the role of a math teacher at an East L.A. barrio high school. (Stand and Deliver also makes its broadcast television debut before the Oscars - on March 16 as an American Playhouse presentation on PBS.)

On Thursday, two other top contenders will be released on home video: A Fish Called Wanda, nominated for three awards (including best director for Charles Crichton and best supporting actor for Kevin Kline) and Married to the Mob, which won a supporting-actor nomination for Dean Stockwell. (Jonathan Demme's rollicking mock-gangster pic also stars Michelle Pfeiffer, who landed a nomination for her supporting role in Dangerous Liaisons.)

And scheduled for home-video release in the week before the awards ceremony is Big, the body-switch comedy for which Tom Hanks glommed a justly deserved best-actor nodification.

THE AMERICANIZATION OF PEPA. While we're on the subject of Oscars, Pedro Almodovar's Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, Spain's entry in the foreign-language category (and a big art-house hit on these shores) has joined that questionable trend of Hollywood-remakes-of -foreign-films-with-big- American-stars-in-their-casts.

According to a report in Variety, Tri-Star Pictures, the perpetrator of this dubious project, has nabbed Jane Fonda for the part of Pepa, the frazzled actress played by Carmen Maura in the original. Herbert Ross, whose movies are as placid as Almodovar's are wild, has been signed to direct.

NEW SCORSESE. Martin Scorsese - whose Oscar nomination for direction of the controversial The Last Temptation of Christ came as a surprise after the film was passed over in the same category last month by the Directors Guild - is returning to his roots for his next project. To be shot on the mean streets of New York's Little Italy, the project is tentatively titled Wise Guy, based on journalist Nicholas Pileggi's book about a real-life mob family.

Ray Liotta (the creepoid ex-con in Something Wild, the Eugene in Dominick and Eugene) is set to star as Henry Hill, who rises from the lowest ranks of the "family" to a position that gives him access to high-ranking crime bosses. In a scenario straight out of TV's Wiseguy, Hill eventually turns

snitch, informing on his bosses and entering the Federal Witness Protection Program. Scorsese and Pileggi co-scripted.

Although Pileggi's 1986 book is titled Wise Guy, Scorsese and producer Irwin Winkler are contemplating a name change to avoid any confusion with Ken Wahl's television series.

Also coming from Scorsese is Life Lessons, one of three shorts being released together as New York Stories on March 10. (The other two: Woody Allen's Oedipus Wrecks and Francis Coppola's Life Without Zoe.)

OSCAR SHORTS. Comedian Steven Wright's The Appointments of Dennis Jennings, a deadpan 30-minute psycho-comedy that was nominated in the best live-action- short category for the 61st Academy Awards, will make its debut on HBO on March 6. Wright has the title role of a spaced-out New Yorker at the mercy of his therapist, played by English comic Rowan Atkinson. Actress Laurie Metcalf is also featured.

SHORT SHORTS. Neil Jordan, director of Mona Lisa and last year's erratic Peter O'Toole lark High Spirits, has a Borges-ish novella, The Dream of a Beast, out from Random House next week. . . . Cold Dog Soup, Stephen Dobyns' dark comic novel about a man trying to bury a dead canine, is heading to the big screen, with Frank Whaley as the man driven by his passion for a beautiful woman - and driven by a nut-case cabbie (Randy Quaid). Originally, wild thing Sam Kinison was set for this unusual undertaking. . . . Character actor Brian Dennehy is the first name to be announced for the screen version of Scott Turow's best-selling Presumed Innocent. Dennehy will play protagonist Rusty Sabich's cop friend Lipranzer. Sydney Pollack is producing and Alan Pakula (All the President's Men, Sophie's Choice) will direct.

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