Rated R for blunt honesty and sarcastic humor
Release Date: March 22, 1999
Oscar Special 1999
"A Bug's Life. Wasn't that the Linda Tripp story?"
-Whoopi Goldberg at the 71st Academy Awards
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SPECIAL FEATURE . . .
Oh, the humanity. Oscar '99 took place on a Sunday this year and the only difference is that the traffic on the way to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion was just a little bit lighter. Along with the Academy's new "Sunday at the Oscars" promotional campaign came along a little insider intro program called Countdown to Oscar which was pretty much unbearable to watch, but I'll get to that in a moment. Like every Oscar night there is only one place to begin...
When I heard this year's lineup for the Barbara Walters Special I just shook my head. I can't stand Celine Dion, Susan Sarandon is great, but not nominated this year and Elizabeth Taylor, well, I would much rather have seen Roberto Begnini or Gwyneth Paltrow interviewed. Anyway, I thought that I might skip Babs this year because of the lackluster star power, but then I realize that I detest Joan Rivers and pretty much the whole E! Channel cast, so I sat down with Walters once again. Celine rattled off her fairy tale story interweaved with that Titanic song and images of her playing golf with her husband, who I believe was actually on the Titanic in his mid-twenties. Sarandon is always a pleasure, but how many times can someone ask her why she isn't legally married to Tim Robbins? Who cares. Oh, and Elizabeth Taylor was there, but while I certainly respect all she's done for charity... I really wasn't all that interested. On to the Countdown.
This year the Academy had this half-hour program preceding the actual event and it was hosted by Geena Davis and Jim Moret and I couldn't have been more bored out of my skull. The entire 30 minutes had a numbing effect on me and I soon found myself wandering about my apartment looking for things to do; the dishes, laundry, I even pulled out my guitar for heaven's sake. Needless to say I knew the whole idea was a washout when Celine Dion showed up wearing a bizarro cowboy hat... that was just too much. On with the show.
This year's hosting duties fell on the shoulders of the sharp and affable Whoopi Goldberg and just as I'd figured, she did a satisfactory, but unmemorable job. I did find it amusing that the Academy director felt the need to constantly show Frank Langella every time Whoopi came out in a new funny garb. She opened the show dressed as Queen Elizabeth and it was then that a constant barrage of Clinton related jokes began. Yes, excitement indeed.
The first award handed out was the BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR award and this is always my favorite category. It is usually the most competitive and unpredictable. I had my heart set on Billy Bob Thornton pulling it out for A Simple Plan, but in the end JAMES COBURN took home the gold for his gristled performance in Affliction. Despite his rambling speech, you can't argue with the Academy's choice on that one.
Next up was BEST ART DIRECTION and if you are a
casual fan this is just a filler award, but for those like me obsessed with
detail, these are often my favorite awards. The statue went to MARTIN CHILDS
and JILL QUERTIER for their work on SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE. They did tremendous
work creating the look of that picture and they deserved the victory.
The ever-delightful Mike Myers was up next to present the award for BEST MAKE UP. Sometimes this category ends up ass-backwards, like the year Forrest Gump won over some much more deserving pictures. However, this year the award went to JENNY SHIRCORE for her beautiful work in ELIZABETH. It isn't easy making the lovely Cate Blanchett look like a ghost.
The first of the nominated songs were to be played next. I felt ill when I heard the announcement. Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey were going to sing that song from The Prince of Egypt. While Whitney was in good form, Mariah not only sounded bad, it looks like she's strapped on a pair of birthing hips.
Maybe she needs to lay off the jelly donuts for a while. (Hey, if she's going to use her body to forward her career, I'm going to comment about it) Another question I have: Why is there always a hidden choir that gets revealed midway through these kind of songs?
The two awards that the general public couldn't
care less about came up next.
BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT FILM and BEST ANIMATED SHORT FILM. The live action statue went to ELECTION NIGHT and the cartoon statue went to BUNNY.
Robin Williams came out to present BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS and he was quite funny. I always thought he'd make a great Oscar host, although with his tendency to go off on tangents, we'd be looking at a six hour broadcast. Anyway, this category was pretty much up in the air from the get-go so it wasn't too much of a surprise to see it go to JUDI DENCH for her small role in Shakespeare In Love.
Chris Rock was on stage to present the award for BEST SOUND EFFECTS EDITING and he had the crowd laughing until he made a joke about Elia Kazan and that was it for him. He never recovered. He did manage to give the golden boy to SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, which so clearly deserved it.
Liv Tyler was on hand to introduce daddy's band as they gave a flat performance of that awful song "I Don't Want To Miss a Thing". There were fireworks and Steven Tyler screams... but all in all, it was crappy.
Angelica Huston, who seemingly hasn't worked since
Prizzi's Honor, was on hand to give the award for BEST SOUND. SAVING PRIVATE
RYAN gobbled up that one too.
Tom Hanks introduced Senator and Astronaut John Glenn and he in turn introduced a film-clip retrospective on the biopic. Sure. I guess. Noticeably absent was all those movies made about Elvis.
Sophia Loren, still looking fabulous, strode on stage to present the Oscar for BEST FOREIGN PICTURE. There was no doubt in my mind what was going to win. Despite Central Station being a great film, it just couldn't compete with Roberto Begnini's LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL. But the best thing about the Italian film's victory was to see Roberto climbing over seats and such. And when he finally made it to the microphone his acceptance speech was filled with all this funny vernacular. Almost like broken English, only more poetic. It really was a sight.
Andie MacDowell and Andy "Dressed like a waiter" Garcia were up to present the award for BEST MUSICAL OR COMEDY SCORE. There was virtually no competition here and STEVEN WARBECK won for SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE.
Then there was a dance number done to the Dramatic Scores of the Nominated films. Oh boy was this bad. Tap dancing is nice, in fact, I love it. But this whole thing about having to include a dance number is ludicrous. It really was annoyingly bad.
However, Geena Davis managed to hand out the award
for the BEST DRAMATIC SCORE to NICOLA PIOVANI for his wonderful score to
LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL.
John Travolta made an appearance, not only representing the Scientologist Movement, but also to present a Frank Sinatra retrospective. It was nice.
Anne Heche turned up to speak about the SCIENTIFIC and TECHNICAL awards that were handed out earlier. She had trouble with her microphone and I'm not sure if that was planned or not. If it wasn't, no doubt it was Hollywood's way of protesting her lesbian love affair with a sitcom star. (That's a joke, my politically correct friends)
Jim Carrey came out to present the award for BEST EDITING and was very funny as he phony-sobbed in a self-depricating manner regarding his non-nomination for his work in The Truman Show. However, there was no contest in this category either: SAVING PRIVATE RYAN's editor MICHAEL KAHN took home the bald paper weight.
Allison Moorer, a country singer, came out and sang this song. Excitement.
Nicolas Cage, fresh from severing his ties with Sean Penn, presented the IRVING THALBERG LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT Award to NORMAN JEWISON for all his social commentary. I say hey, the guy made Rollerball... rock on.
Liam Neeson, soon to be Jedi hero, presented the BEST VISUAL EFFECTS Oscar to the crew from WHAT DREAMS MAY COME. Which just goes to show you that sometimes putting a little cash into your picture just might pay off.
Val Kilmer and a feisty horse introduced a retrospective on the Cowboy Element. I was never much of a fan of westerns, so you'll excuse me if I was yawning at the time.
The always delicate and demur Helen Hunt graced the stage to hand out the BEST ACTOR award and I was happy to see ROBERTO BEGNINI win for the second time in the evening. His acceptance speech was again filled with poetic incoherence and praises of love. It was great, especially when he thanks his parents for poverty.
The next song was Randy Newman's "That'll Do" from Babe: Pig In the City. At first I thought the song was being sung by Nosferatu, then maybe the Smashing Pumpkins singer, then I realized it was Peter Gabriel. Nice look, Pete. Really. Honest.
Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, whose stars have risen ten fold since their appearance at last year's ceremony, handed out the documentary awards. BEST SHORT SUBJECT DOCUMENTARY went to THE PERSONALS: IMPROVISATIONS ON ROMANCE IN THE GOLDEN YEARS, an amusing piece on old people. BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE was no surprise, going to the terrific Spielberg backed holocaust remembrance THE LAST DAYS.
Next up was one of the event's biggest hypes: The
ELIA KAZAN HONORARY OSCAR.
Presented by Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro the crowd response was truly interesting. Most people stood up and clapped, though a significant number of big names did not (Nolte, Spielberg). But even those who stood up, many looked as if they were doing so to be polite. For those who are interested, Kazan's speech was brief and didn't include an apology or anything of the sort.
Whoopi, after spending certain moments throughout the night dressed in the garb of the BEST COSTUME DESIGN nominees finally handed out the prize. SANDY POWELL won for her delicious designs in SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE. She was also nominated for her work in Velvet Goldmine.
The final song of the evening was Celine Dion and Andrea Bocelli's rendition of "The Prayer" from Quest For Camelot and it was just as you'd expect... a yawner
My future wife, Jennifer Lopez, then presented the
Oscar for BEST SONG and it went to WHEN YOU BELIEVE that Mariah-Whitney
debacle from THE PRINCE OF EGYPT.
Just when I thought that they must have forgotten about the dead people memoriam, Annette Benning introduces the piece to my delight. The reason I am happy is because this is the one time when character actors like Norman Fell and Phil Hartman get recognition. It was nice, but two names were suspiciously absent: Gene Siskel and Stanley Kubrick.
Whoopi then mentions Siskel, which made me happy. Along with Ebert, Gene Siskel is the only film critic I respected on television. I can't stand Maltin, I can't stand Medved, I can't stand the CNN duo, really, it was always Siskel & Ebert.
Uma Thurman, looking radiant as ever, stepped on stage to give away another award that was no contest. BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY went to JANUSZ KAMINSKI for his brilliant and amazing work on SAVING PRIVATE RYAN. Sure, John Toll's lush imagery in The Thin Red Line was something to behold, but Kaminski's work in Ryan was just on another level.
Jack Nicholson came out to present BEST ACTRESS and while I always knew it was going to be GWYNETH PALTROW for SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE, I was still happy when her name was read aloud. And allow me to be a bit revealing for a moment, but her emotional acceptance speech made my eyes a bit watery. It really was beautiful.
Just when I thought the Academy had forgotten about Stanley Kubrick, Steven Spielberg came out to introduce a film clip retrospective on the man's phenomenal career.
Steve Martin and Goldie Hawn then rattled off the writer's awards. BEST SCREENPLAY - ADAPTATION went to GODS & MONSTERS scribe BILL CONDON for his faithful take on the book, Father of Frankenstein. BEST SCREENPLAY - ORIGINAL went to MARC NORMAN & TOM STOPPARD which I was happy to see. I think Life Is Beautiful might have deserved it more, but SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE is just so well written, it deserves all the praise it gets.
Kevin Costner, a shameful winner of the Best Director Oscar, presented the BEST DIRECTOR to the one guy every knew was going to get it: STEVEN SPIELBERG for his masterful hand behind the camera of SAVING PRIVATE RYAN. If there is one thing about Spielberg I never could understand it is the fact that his speeches always lack passion.
BEST PICTURE closed out the night and to my surprise it went to SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE. While my personal favorite was Life Is Beautiful, I fell in love with Shakespeare In love in the first moments of the film and was very happy to see it win.
All in all, it was an okay night with a few surprises
and a few laughs. Sure, no opening number involving the Best Picture Nominees
and no Cuba bouncing and yelling, but then again, there is always next year.
As for me, I'm going to bed, since it is very late here on the east coast.
So, I turned on the telly and Barbara Walters was interviewing Liz Taylor, The Actress Formerly Known as Elizabeth, now known just for being famous. Or a famous disaster. As if to prove that she's not a talking corpse, because she sure is looking like one, Barbara asked Liz to get up and walk around. But I noticed that we only saw her backside as she walked and that convinced me that it was actually a body double. How you go about hiring a body double with such wide hips, I don't know, but I guess you could just hire some fatty off the street. Before I could give it further thought, Liz told Barbara how she doesn't get any offers for acting jobs now on account of they're afraid to insure her. Well, if they were sure she's not a zombie, they'd probably be a bit less worried. Besides, isn't that what insurance is for, accidents like The Actress Formerly Known as Elizabeth?
By this point, I'm thinking at least I didn't put myself through the horror of watching Joan Rivers crappy commentary tonight. I learned my lesson after last year, you know. (Hey, didn't I ever tell you my theory about her daughter Missy secretly being the offspring of the alien Steve æmy eyes don't blink' Forbes?)
At 8:00 p.m., a half hour of pre-show something or other hosted by Geena Davis began. Oh joy, the excitement of watching yet another bad actress show her face on Oscar night! But the Academy loves Davis and even gave her an award all those years ago, so, that's all, no more ranting about her or they'll never hire me to sweep that red carpet.
The actual show started at 8:30 p.m., as I'm sure you're aware. But maybe you're in a foreign country and stayed up really late, or woke up really early, to watch this tripe.
Whoopi Goldberg, hostess-with-the-mostess-bizarre-career came out dressed as Elizabeth. Not The Actress Formerly Known as, but just as scary. I dug it though. Even thought it was Judi Dench for a few blinks of the monkey's eyes.
The great thing about Whoopi is she's a pretty free spirit. Doesn't look nervous up there at all, much less like she's growing a big head over it. And her jokes were great - jabs at Ovitz, George Michael and even the Oscar campaigns!
James Coburn finally got his due, winning Best Supporting Actor for Affliction. "I finally got one right, I guess," he said. The music cut in on him, telling him his time was up, just before he finally thanked his wife.
Shakespeare in Love won Best Art Direction. Was kind of weird that Gwyneth Paltrow presented the award, since she was in the film. I don't suspect foul play, so don't get me wrong. It was just weird seeing someone from the movie announce that it won something.
Elizabeth won Best Make Up. We knew one Elizabeth would win, didn't we? And was it any surprise that they picked the prettiest one? That's Hollywood for ya. Trust me, last time I was in L.A. some dude offered to give me a tail extension and I don't even think he was an actual doctor.
Her dress straps falling off her shoulders, lolita
Christina Ricci (anyone else notice how she smirked when she said that Moses
saved Egypt from, er, "bondage"?) introduced Mariah and Whitney,
who sang their song from that Moses cartoon. I was amazed to see that Mariah's
hips have grown larger than those of The Actress Formerly Known as Elizabeth!
And, ladies, even my mother was so freaked by this that she started yelling,
"Look how fat Mariah got!
Look how fat she is!"
Before talking about Pleasantville's nom for Best Costume, Whoopi said "beaver." She was talking about the TV show, Leave it to Beaver, but she quickly turned it into an X-rated joke by adding, "I didn't say whose." Funny stuff, but she was probably right when she then commented that this was probably her last time hosting the awards.
Next, Election won for Best Short. I wish they'd show the winner for Best Short on TV. Besides, if "The Academy" really gave a monkey's tail about short films they'd advocate for theatres to show one before every feature.
Robin Williams (Whoopi said, "He can't stop playing doctor - or with himself.") took the opportunity to plug the upcoming film GUNS N' MOSES, announcing that Charlton Heston will star. The joke over, Williams introduced the Best Supporting Actress noms and Judi Dench won the golden boy.
At this point, Whoopi warned the celebs to be responsible at the post-awards parties, cautioning them that, "Apparently last year a producer got so drunk he left with a woman his own age."
Chris Rock introduced the award for Best Sound Effects Editing and was fucking hilarious, making quips about Kazan and Clinton. But I've got to wonder aloud about something: how the hell could Armageddon get nominated for best sound effects editing? All they did was turn up the fucking volume so loud that it blew your ass outta the multiplex! Thankfully, the Saving Private Ryan team won. After all, it's not easy to create bullet sounds.
Liv Tyler intro'd Aerosmith, who performed the single worst ballad of last summer. One which I recall Steven Tyler saying he regrets doing in a recent interview. "It was just too perfect," he said, if memory serves me correctly.
Anyway, their live performance sounded hideous anyway, Tyler out of key and the guitars way too scratchy. (Maybe they butchered it on purpose, trying to sound a bit less wussy?) And how æbout Joe Perry's new haircut?! He looks like he's ready to audition for the role of Hanson's manager!
Best Achievement in Sound . . . And again I wonder how the hell Armageddon was nominated. And again Saving Private Ryan wins. Deja vu.
A beared and bloated Tom Hanks got up and intro'd Senator John Glenn, who spoke about being enthralled in a darkened theatre.
Another costume segment with Whoopi, this time for
Beloved, probably the worst movie I saw last year. I'm sure it was very
difficult to dress that cast in all those rags though. There aren't many
rags to be found in Hollywood, you know.
Sophia Loren intro'd a clip from Life is Beautiful. Is that Roberto guy funny lookin' or what? Talented guy, sure, but . . . funny lookin'.
Loren also intro'd Best Foreign Language Film. No surprise there. Life is Beautiful won. Roberto got so excited that he climbed up on his chair, letting everyone in back get a good look at him before he took the stage.
Interestingly, Goldie Hawn was moved to tears by
this. Probably relieved to see there was someone in the audience funnier
lookin' than she.
Andie and Andy presented the award for Best Original Musical or Comedy Score.
Shakespeare in Love's composer, Stephen Warbeck, won. Good for him, right?
Gwyneth practically cried, probably fancying herself a shoe-in for best actress at that point.
Geena Davis returned and intro'd the Academy's orchestra, which performed a reasonably subtle medley. Meanwhile, some dancers pranced around like they were auditioning for MADONNA: LADY OF THE DANCE. At that point, I wondered why Natalie Imbruglia wasn't invited to perform "Torn" at the Academy Awards.
After all, it's been performed at every other freakin' award show during the past nine months and it's been used in TV spots advertising no less than a half dozen movies.
Eventually, Davis intro'd the noms for Best Score, the Oscar going to Life is Beautiful's Nicola Piovani.
Next up: professional Scientologist John Travolta, rambling about Sinatra. And introducing a "portrait" of old blue eye's films assembled by Marty Scorsese.
Nothing against Marty, but the segment provided this anti-fan of Sinatra with ample opportunity to go use the toilet. I mean, I can't even eat at Bertucci's restaurants anymore on account of all the Sinatra music they play giving me acid jazz reflux.
A bra-less Anne Heche came out and said something but the sound was screwed up, apparently on purpose, so I'm just gonna go out on a tail here and guess that it was about Ellen's show getting canceled. But she intro'd the AVID guys when she switched to a mic that worked right.
Jim Carrey intro'd the Best Film Editing noms. "That's all I'm here to do," he said. Then he started crying. And the winner for Best Editor? Michael Kahn for Saving Private Ryan, nabbing his third Oscar.
Renee Zellweger could hardly stop smiling - or squinting - as she intro'd some woman singing some ditty from some movie I hope I didn't see and don't see.
Former actor, now a lousy hack, Nic Cage intro'd a special award with a weird name that went to Norman Jewison. Jewison himself proclaimed that, "Films are the literature of this generation."
The Visual Effects award was presented by Liam Neeson, who will no doubt play second fiddle to the special FX in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. The winner? What Dreams May Come's team, one of which actually said, "Love is groovy. Be positive." A few years ago, during the infamous red ribbon era, some people would've thought he was talking about Aids.
Val Kilmer came out on stage with a horsie, introducing a collage of clips from westerns, a category of films I've hated since I was climbing trees in Africa. Besides, Roy Rogers makes crappy hamburgers.
Helen Hunt, much in need of a haircut, intro'd the
Best Actor noms. Roberto Benigni won. He's got to be the funniest lookin'
guy to ever win that honor.
Let the record show that this monkey was rooting for Ed Norton. But I don't mind the funny lookin' guy. He's funny.
Another costume design segment with Whoopi, this
time for Velvet Goldmine. Blah.
Lisa Kudrow talked some nonsense about Babe the pig, introducing a song from Pig in the City, performed by Randy Newman and Peter Gabriel. They probably stopped broadcasting in India at that point. Lucky for them, if so, because the song was worse than a dozen rotten bananas.
Matt Damon and Ben Affleck intro'd the Documentary winners. The Short Subject winner was Keiko Ibi for The Personals. She cried and cried. The Documentary Feature winner was James Moll and Ken Lipper for The Last Days.
Marty Scorsese and Robert De Niro came out and shocked everyone with De Niro's mohawk-ish haircut. (Are they planning a Taxi Driver sequel?) They had the "honor" of introducing the Kazan collage. I went to the toilet again, uninterested in the work of a rat. (I prefer chimps.) When I came back, Kazan himself came out and received a standing ovation. You know, they were probably afraid he'd accuse them of being communists if they didn't. In all fairness though, he seemed like a sweet enough old timer.
Another costume segment; Shakespeare in Love. Finally the award is presented after this one and Shakespeare's Sandy Powell wins it for Best Costume.
Catherine Zeta Jones intro'd a song from The Quest for Camelot, "The Prayer," performed by Celine Dion and an Italian man whose name I didn't get, though I can say that he actually looked Amish. I wondered if Celine needed 12 bodyguards to protect her jewelry this year? I just wish she'd take that break she's been threatening to and go have those babies already. Anything to keep her out of the public eye.
Jennifer Lopez took the stage in a dress that did not accentuate her lovely figure, I'm disappointed to say. Anyway, she intro'd Best Song. The Oscar went to "When You Believe" from The Prince of Egypt's Stephen Schwartz, who was not at the gala.
Annette Benning intro'd a moment of silence followed by a memoriam to some deceased members of the film community, among them Phil Hartman and Richard Kiley.
Jack Valenti, CEO of the Academy, intro'd General Colin Powell, who rambled like a boring school teacher as he intro'd clips from the WWII duo of Saving Private Ryan and The Thin Red Line.
At this point, Whoopi praised Gene Siskel and gave him the thumbs up. Much applause.
Uma Thurman presented the award for Best Cinematography. And she looked delicious. I was so blinded by her beauty that I almost didn't hear her when she announced Saving Private Ryan's Janusz Kaminski as the winner. Glad I did though, because he sure deserved it.
Jack Nicholson came out and presented Best Actress. Gwyneth Paltrow won for Shakespeare in Love. And, yes, she cried. A lot. Almost moved me to tears with her speech, to be totally truthful with you all. (No, that's not true. She did make me cry. What a touching speech.)
Spielberg came out and gave praise to the late Stanley Kubrick. Nice. Now, if only they'd gotten a clip from Eyes Wide Shut to end their montage with, it would've been perfect.
Steve Martin and Goldie Hawn presented Best Screenplay Adaptation. Gods and Monsters screenwriter Bill Condon won, though I don't get it. Scott Frank should have won for Out of Sight. Or Scott B. Smith for A Simple Plan. Anyway, Best Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen went to Shakespeare in Love scribes Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard. They deserved it, but what a boring speech!
Kevin Costner presented the Best Director Oscar. The winner was Steven Spielberg for Saving Private Ryan. Bravo, I say. But Costner was a bore.
Finally, Harrison Ford presented the Best Picture
Oscar to Shakespeare in Love. Amen.
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