Statues and limitations

Every year, the Academy Awards provide Orlandoans with unparalleled suspense and excitement.

I'm not talking about the ceremony itself; that thing always sucks wind. I mean the televised announcement of the major nominations. How many of the citations, we wonder, will go to films that haven't yet played here? It's sad but it's true: In the eyes of the motion-picture industry, we're less deserving of the title "major market" than that scary Winn-Dixie at Colonial and Bumby.

This year's scorecard? Not great, but not terrible, either. When the roster of nominees was revealed Feb. 13, there were two significant gaps in Orlando's viewing record. Both, however, are due to be rectified in the near future.

If current plans hold, Javier Bardem's qualifications for a Best Actor win will be revealed Friday, March 2, when the Cuban memoir "Before Night Falls" begins its run of showings at Maitland's Enzian Theater. "Pollock" -- the art-world docudrama that earned a Best Actor nod for Ed Harris and a Supporting Actress mention for Marcia Gay Harden -- is tentatively scheduled to arrive at the theater March 23, i.e., the Friday before Oscar Sunday. That gives us all a mere 48 hours to properly handicap the race. My bookie better stay close to his cell phone.

"I'm realistic," says Matt Curtis, director of programming at the Enzian. "We live in Orlando. We're not in the top 20 or 30 markets. All that stuff always takes a few months to trickle down."

"Before Night Falls" has already come within popcorn-throwing distance of the City Beautiful: It was screened during last January's Sarasota Film Festival. According to the SFF's executive director, Jody Kielbasa, "Night's" two sold-out showings at the Regal Cinemas Hollywood 20 Theatres engendered a "very, very positive response" from festivalgoers -- though they were notably remiss in honoring the picture with an audience award. Way to buck the Academy, Sarasota.

Thanks to our own Florida Film Festival, Orlando has more than a passing acquaintance with some of the more obscure categories. Two of the three nominees for Best Animated Short Film ("Rejected" and "The Periwig-Maker") were festival highlights last June, and Best Documentary Feature contender "Legacy" picked up jury and audience awards at the FFF's dinner gala. But the only non-fiction nominee currently playing on a local screen is -- surprise! -- Dolphins, the 40-minute IMAX short that will keep snacking on smelt at the Orlando Science Center until March 10.

Enzian is holding to its plans to screen Wong Kar-Wai's "In the Mood for Love" (probably in late April), even though Hong Kong's official entry in Oscar's Non-English-Language category wasn't rewarded with a nomination. One is hardly needed, given the mania for Asian cinema that currently has tigers crouching and dragons hiding all over the place.

And what of Enzian's Oscar-night party? In recent years, the bash has struck an uneasy, sometimes unpopular balance between big-screen viewing of the awards and live, deconstructive commentary supplied by such professional kibitzers as former Real Radio loudmouth Ed Tyll and camp clowns Michael Wanzie and Doug Ba'aser.

"We'll do the party," Curtis says. "But I think we've learned that people are not interested in an emcee. They just want to watch every single second."

Well, of course. Faced with a choice between Ed Tyll and Ben Affleck, who among us wouldn't opt for the sound of Good Wind Sucking?

Round and round

Been by the OVAL on Orange gallery recently? Then you've noticed that the city-subsidized, much-ballyhooed hotbed of creativity hasn't yet gotten around to doing certain things -- like existing. OK, doors have been added to the wood frames that passed for studio spaces when OVAL had its premature ribbon-cutting last December. But there's nary a still life nor clay pot to be seen on the premises.

According to OVAL's president, Terry Hummel, a renaissance is at hand. He predicts a wait of a few more weeks before the drywall is installed and the space is finally up and running. The hold-up, Hummel says, stemmed from a variety of factors, including the vagaries of volunteer labor and "the city wanting all kinds of permits and things we didn't think we needed. `But` things are moving along, and things are happening, and that's the good part."

Great news. Now no one has to go through with the contingency plan I had worked out in case of OVAL's continued dormancy: getting the Orlando Magic to play there. Sure, it would have solved two downtown dilemmas at once. But what would we have done with the players who tested positive for wine and cheese?

Running gags

When Sak Comedy Lab's Foolfest 2001 wraps up this Sunday, Feb. 25, two of its participating troupes will keep their funny fires burning with solo gigs. Lakeland's SteppenDwarf have a two-weekend engagement booked at the Studio Theatre; beginning Friday, March 2, they'll reprise their "Foolfest" entry, "Bachelor Holiday" (a playlet written by "American Beauty" scrivener Alan Ball), and augment it with "Hidden in This Picture" (a one-act from the pen of "The West Wing" guru Aaron Sorkin). Discount Comedy Outlet, however, has curtailed its planned two-week stand at Maitland's Zoë & Company `The Green Room, Feb. 1` into a one-night-only benefit Saturday, March 3. Just hope that the buffet spread is comparable to that at DCO's Roxy party of last September, which is still revered for its exquisitely catered grazing. ... Last month, the new SunStar Theatres firm bucked area trends by actually opening a movie multiplex -- or at least reopening one (the Lake Mary 8, which the General Cinemas chain had shuttered when it abandoned greater Orlando in October 2000). SunStar said that its Lazarus act would hopefully continue as the company pulled off more resuscitations of defunct film houses from here to Miami. Though SunStar still hasn't named its next candidate for a local wake-up call, the menu of available real estate may soon be augmented by a few more screens -- like those at an east-side cinema I hear may be on its last legs. ... I made a personal pilgrimage to the new Holy Land Experience theme park last weekend, and boy, does God need a better business coach. Smaller than you'd think, the attraction must be closed to further visitors whenever it reaches its puny capacity of about 1,500 guests. Apologetic parking attendants had to turn me away twice in a four-hour period before they could finally allow me entry. Hey, Moses never made it, right?