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Still mutated after all these years: 1957's Pantagraphland-set "Beginning of the End."

With our direct links to the Oscars this year, one might assume there would be no need for this column's annual ritual, known around the GO! house as "The Six (or So) Degrees of Oscar Separation."

But, au contrere.

Those direct links have merely inspired us to dig deeper and further in our never-ending quest to demonstrate, once again, that nearly all entertainment roads lead either to, or from, Pantagraphland.

So what if two of the nominees took the fast track and are already there?

These fellow Oscar travelers need all the help they can get. So we're here for you, guys:

  • Frances McDormand, best actress nominee for "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri," was last seen accepting a gold statuette for her role as Marge Gunderson in 1996's "Fargo" ... which was directed by Joel and Ethan Cohen ... who, five years prior, had directed "Barton Fink," starring John Goodman ... co-star of 1988's tale of stand-up comics, "Punchline," opposite past Best Actress winner Sally Field ... who two years prior had teamed in the Oscar-nominated "Murphy's Romance" with James Garner ... who, in 1994, co-starred with Mel Gibson and Jodie Foster in the big-screen version of his old TV hit "Maverick" ... whose soundtrack was graced with the a crystal-clear rendition of "Amazing Grace" by former B-N club regular and frequent GO! cover girl Suzy Bogguss.
  • Gary Oldman, best actor nominee for "The Darkest Hour," preceded playing Winston Churchill 25 years ago by putting the bite on "Bram Stoker's Dracula" ... directed by Francis Ford Coppola, who got his start directing parts of Roger Corman's 1963's Boris Karloff cheapie, "The Terror" ... whose leading man was a very young and very miscast Jack Nicholson ... who, near the end of his acting career 44 years later, before he unofficially retired, headlined "The Bucket List" ... whose third-billed star was a former ISU music major, name of Sean Hayes.
  • Allison Janney, supporting actress nominee for "I, Tonya," had one of her first showy film roles in 1999's best picture winner, "American Beauty" ... whose leading lady was Annette Bening, recent star of hubby Warren Beatty's disastrous 1994 remake of "An Affair to Remember," called "Love Story" ... which featured the final role of screen legend Katharine Hepburn ... star of 1975's "Love Among the Ruins," opposite Laurence Olivier ... who'd played Marcus Crassus in 1960's "Spartacus," directed by Stanley Kubrick ... who four years later gave us "Dr. Strangelove" ... whose President Merkin Muffley (Peter Sellers), was modeled after B-N’s most revered native son, Adlai Stevenson II.
  • Christopher Plummer, supporting actor nominee for "All the Money in the World," was also pulling supporting duty in 1996's hit, "12 Monkeys" ... whose leading man was the still-bankable Bruce Willis ... who two years prior to that starred in the dark comedy "Death Becomes Her" ... whose leading ladies were past Oscar winners Goldie Hawn and Meryl Streep ... the latter of whom is up for another (in her record 21st nomination) for "The Post" ... whose supporting cast includes New York theater vet and B-N native David Aaron Baker (as law professor and Constitution scholar Alexander Bickel) and Illinois Shakespeare Festival alum PatHealy (as Washington Post editorial page editor Philip Geyelin).
  • Christopher Nolan, best director nominee for "Dunkirk," cast the film with British actor Mark Rylance ... who was star of Steven Spielberg's Oscar nominated film of two awards seasons ago, "Bridge of Spies" ... the cast of which was topped by Spielberg regular Tom Hanks ... who 10 years earlier starred in Mike Nichols' last film, "Charlie Wilson's War," opposite Julia Roberts ... star of 2017's sleeper hit, "Wonder" ... whose supporting cast includes Daveed Diggs, of "Hamilton" fame ... star and co-author of "Blindspotting," the recent Sundance Film Festival opener co-produced by B-N native and U High alum Chris Harding.
  • Finally, for much-needed closure, we offer our annual attempt to tie an Oscar winner to our favorite Pantagraphland connection to cinema heritage: 1957's giant-grasshopper classic, "Beginning of the End,” in which Paxton and most of Ford/Livingston counties are eaten by radiated bugs the size of Amtrak cars. So: The Post, best picture nominee, was directed by Steven Spielberg ... who, nearly 40 years ago, was in a more lighthearted mood, directing the no-awards-of-any-kind-winner, "1941" ... whose all-star cast featured veteran "Untouchables" actor Robert Stack ... who, the following year, would be part of the biggest comedy of all time, 1980's "Airplane!" ... opposite a fellow TV series alum, name of Peter Graves ... who, thank our lucky stars, played the scientist whose experiments in an ag lab located just outside of Paxton city limits triggered, oh, yes, the Beginning of the End!

Dan Craft is Pantagraph entertainment editor. He can be reached at 309-829-9000, Ext. 259 or via email at



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