Hollywood saves some of its best for last


After a disappointing summer where the only real standouts were "The Perfect Storm," which made a star of the weather, and Clint Eastwood's "Space Cowboys," about four geriatric astronauts, movie audiences are left with only one hope:

That Hollywood was holding back its best stuff for after Labor Day.

At least in recent years, that's been the pattern, as major studios wait until the last three months of the year to release any film with a remote chance of showing up on Oscar's radar screen. Apparently, voting members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences have such short memories that they can't be trusted to remember further back than three months.

Last year, for example, four of the five Best Picture nominees were released after Sept. 24 ("The Sixth Sense" being the sole exception). And so far this year, the only film being seriously talked about for Oscar consideration is Steven Soderbergh's "Erin Brockovich," which was released in March.

So those who have been lamenting the absence of any movies worth seeing should take heart. Between now and the end of 2000, area movie theaters will run films by such acclaimed directors as Cameron Crowe, Neil LaBute, Robert Redford, Barry Levinson, Gus Van Sant, Spike Lee, Robert Altman, Ron Howard and M. Night Shyamalan, as well as a second film from Soderbergh.

Their films will be about everything from World War II, Mars and the Moulin Rouge to the Grinch, the devil and the Marquis de Sade. Even Charlie's Angels will be show up at the local multiplex. (The film might not prove Oscar-worthy, but here's betting it'll look good.)

Among the stars you'll hear about: Tom Hanks, Cameron Diaz, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Kevin Spacey, Helen Hunt (in two different films), Denzel Washington, Robert De Niro (also twice), Gwyneth Paltrow, Jim Carrey, Mark Wahlberg and Samuel L. Jackson.

Sure, not all these movies will be critical or box-office successes. But with those pedigrees, here's betting that there are several films in here worth backing when the time comes for the Oscar office pool.

(Some fall movies don't yet have a firm release date, and are listed instead by the month they're expected to appear in area theaters. And remember: Dates are subject to change.)

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