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Tuesday, 24 March, 1998, 13:01 GMT
How will the tides turn at the Oscars?
Everyone wants to know Oscar
Love it or loathe it, the Oscar race is on again and the big question is whether the Titanic movie will sink everyone else?

Whether judged on performance or hype, winners of the Academy Awards get the honour of receiving the most coveted prizes in the film industry.

When the Los Angeles ceremony turns 70-years-old on Thursday (March 23) more than 30 lucky recipients will get to pick up their prizes in front of one billion television viewers, and the most powerful people in Hollywood.

Titanic stars
Titanic box office success
Titanic dominates this year's ceremony with 14 nominations.

The last time a film had as many nominations was in 1951 with All About Eve starring Bette Davis. The most Oscar wins for a single film is held by Ben-Hur, with 11 in 1959.

Titanic, the most expensive movie ever to be made, has been nominated for the key categories of best director (James Cameron), best actress (Kate Winslet), best supporting actress (Gloria Stuart) and best cinematography by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

But the Hollywood blockbuster should not assume all plain sailing because there have been some great disappointments on Oscar nights. The films Turning Point (1977) and The Color Purple (1986) both won 11 nominations but neither won a single award.

Full Monty
The British offering may suffer because of a plagiarism allegation
In stark contrast is the British movie The Full Monty. The film, which tells the story of a group of Sheffield men who turn to stripping, was made for 1.8m - a fraction of the 125m it cost to make the blockbuster reprise of the 1912 disaster.

Comedies traditionally fare badly at the Oscars, but this year The Full Monty has been something of a phenomenon by getting four nominations, including best film and best director.

But recently two playwrights filed a suit against the makers of the British hit movie for alleged plagiarism, which could put the film's Oscar race at stake.

Also in the running for best picture are As Good As It Gets, Good Will Hunting, and LA Confidential.

Bonham Carter
Helena Bonham Carter is favourite to win
British actresses will headline on Oscars' night after receiving all but one best actress nomination. Helena Bonham Carter, Julie Christie, Judi Dench and Kate Winslet are all up for the award for their films. The outsider is American actress Helen Hunt.

But the Americans dominate in the best actor category. Those competing are Matt Damon, Robert Duvall, Peter Fonda, Dustin Hoffman and Jack Nicholson.

For the directing Oscar, James Cameron for Titanic is up against Peter Cattaneo for The Full Monty, Gus Van Sant for Good Will Hunting, Curtis Hanson for LA Confidential and Atom Egoyan for The Sweet Hereafter.

A love-hate tradition

The Academy Awards started in 1929 after the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was formed to provide an industry-wide association.

Although set up to honour the achievements of those in the film industry, some believe the criteria for an Oscar win these days is about money and hype.

Actor Pete Postlethwaite, who was in the running for best supporting actor for In The Name Of The Father in 1993, said: "It's a financial market isn't it? That's what they're looking at. It is a comment on what's making money."

Those who seem to share Mr Postlethwaite's sentiments include Woody Allen, who has never attended the Oscars ceremony despite more than 12 nominations, and Marlon Brando, who did not turn up to collect his award for The Godfather.

But for many, being invited to the Oscars is one of the biggest moments in their lives. Helena Bonham Carter, tipped to win Best Actress for her role in The Wings Of The Dove, said it was "a dream come true" to be nominated.

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10 Feb 98 | Americas
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