Q. Are there bets taken in Las Vegas for the Academy Awards, just as for the Super Bowl or other sports? I'm no a gambling man--I'm just curious. (Cullen Daley, Chicago). Best picture: "Sense and Sensibility," 5-1 odds; "Apollo 13," 3-1; "Babe," 8-1; "Braveheart" and "The Postman," even money. Best actor: Nicolas Cage, even money; Anthony Hopkins, 3-1; Sean Penn, 10-1; Massimo Troisi, 6-5; Richard Dreyfuss, 8-1. Best actress: Emma Thompson, 3-1; Sharon Stone, 5-1; Susan Sarandon, 6-5; Elisabeth Shue and Meryl Streep, even money.
A. Vegas makes odds on all the major categories, but doesn't accept wagers. However, you can place bets in Vegas. Here are some recent odds by Lenny Del Genio of Bally's in Las Vegas:
Q. At the end of "Dead Man Walking," the credits dedicated the movie to Lee Robbins and Thelma Bledsoe. Who are these people? Were they in any way involved with the real-life characters in the film? (G. E. Milkowski, Chicago)
A. Thelma Bledsoe is director Tim Robbins' maternal grandmother, and Lee Robbins is his paternal grandfather, who died during the filming of "The Shawshank Redemption." One of the reasons Robbins dedicated the film to them is that they helped put him through college.
Q. Just saw "Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls" movie last night. I'm a 32-year-old white male, and a number of things bothered me (besides the fact that it was not very funny, but it cost $1 so what the heck), including: - the black tribes worshipped a white bat - the black virgin sought sex with the white Ace Ventura - the white Brits manipulated the black tribesmen - the sole black figure in "official" power, the game warden, sold out to the white Brits Contrast this to the scenes with the Tibetan monks, who handled themselves with dignity and strove to rid themselves of Ace, even to the point of giving up the valuable medallion. Also, the monks were shown as having a "higher purpose," while the tribes simply worshipped a bat that had a name that sounded like another word for feces. This apparent belittling of the tribesmen bothered me. I'm not Mr. PC, but it seemed so ... needless. I wondered what your opinion is? (Scott McCarty, Muncie, Ind.)
A. It was the kind of imagery you'd expect in one of those wheezy 1930s comedies with cannibals dancing around a pot. "Needless" is a good word. I can think of another.
Q. In the "best visual effects" category, instead of having five nominees like other categories, this year's Academy nominations indicate that only two pictures, "Babe" and "Apollo 13," are even worthy of being nominated. This is just plain flat-out WRONG. (Jeff Levin, Rochester, N.Y.)
A. So it would seem. I learn from Jeffrey Graebner of the CompuServe Showbiz Forum that the way the nominees are chosen in this category is Byzantine, to say the least. He informs me: "The nomination process is rather goofy. There is now a visual effects branch of the category and they initially narrowed the list down to seven titles via submitted ballots. The titles that made the cut were "Babe," "Apollo 13," "Casper," "Jumanji," "Waterworld," "Batman Forever," and "The Indian In The Cupboard." The makers of each of the nominated films were then required to put together a demo reel showing off the best of their effects. A special screening of the demo reels was held and the final nominees were chosen by those in attendance. For each reel, the attendees were asked to give a rating from 1-10. To get a nomination, the average score had to be 8 or above. If no films had received a high enough score, the Best Visual Effects category would have been skipped. If only one film had received an 8 or above, then it would have won automatically (this has happened a few times, including with "Star Wars," "The Empire Strikes Back," and "Total Recall"). The implication seemed to be that there could have been anywhere from 0-7 nominated films in that category. Apparently, "City of Lost Children" was eliminated from the competition very early. My guess is that not enough people saw it (or had even heard of it) for it to make the first cut."