As expected, Steven Spielberg's "The Color Purple" and Sydney Pollack's "Out of Africa" dominated the 1985 Academy Awards nominations, announced Wednesday by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Each film received nominations in 11 categories, including that of best picture.
But in a list laced with modest surprises, there was one shocking omission: Spielberg himself was not nominated as best director.
Only one other time in Oscar history has a director not gotten a nomination for a film that received more than 10 other nominations (Sam Wood was overlooked for the 1942 "Pride of the Yankees," which also had 11 nominations).
The snub, if that's what it is, comes from Spielberg's director colleagues. The nominations are made in each category by the appropriate branch of the academy.
Spielberg, Pollack and 79-year-old John Huston, who directed the dark gangster comedy "Prizzi's Honor," were regarded as sure bets for director nominations, especially after being nominated last week, along with Peter Weir ("Witness") and Ron Howard ("Cocoon"), for the Directors Guild of America award.
The DGA membership is comprised largely of TV directors and production people. The directors branch of the academy, a fraction of the size of the 7,800-member DGA, is restricted to feature film directors. Though the academy nominations often mirror the DGA's, this year there were two departures.
The academy's directors excluded Howard, as well as Spielberg, from their final slate and instead selected Japan's 76-year-old Japanese master Akira Kurosawa ("Ran") and Brazil's Hector Babenco ("Kiss of the Spider Woman").
Besides "The Color Purple" and "Out of Africa," the best picture nominees were "Witness," "Kiss of the Spider Woman" and "Prizzi's Honor."
"Witness" and "Prizzi's Honor" each had eight nominations, "Kiss of the Spider Woman," four.
There were a few surprises in the acting categories, as well, notably the inclusion of James Garner ("Murphy's Romance"), for a performance that received very little Oscar support from its releasing studio, Columbia Pictures, and Jon Voight ("Runaway Train"), considered a long shot even though his performance was trumpeted almost daily in Hollywood trade-paper ads taken out by Cannon Films. Eric Roberts' nomination as best supporting actor for "Runaway Train" was an even bigger surprise than Voight's.
Jack Nicholson, who played the dim love-struck hit man in "Prizzi's Honor," was nominated as best actor, along with William Hurt, the transvestite who falls in love with his cell mate in "Kiss of the Spider Woman," and Harrison Ford, the Philadelphia cop who follows a murder witness into Amish country and finds romance in "Witness."
This is Nicholson's eighth Oscar nomination (he has won twice). It is Voight's third (he won once). The other best actor nominees are on their maiden voyage to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, where the winners will be announced March 24 in a show that will be broadcast live by ABC-TV beginning at 6 p.m., PST.
The best actress nominees announced were:
Meryl Streep (her sixth nomination; she's won twice), as the Dutch author Isak Dinesen who struggles through physical hardships and an ill-fated affair in "Out of Africa."
Whoopi Goldberg, for her debut film performance as a woman whose emotional growth is traced from her impoverished, brutalized childhood in the rural South in "The Color Purple."
Jessica Lange (her fourth nomination; she's won once), for her portrayal of country singing legend Patsy Cline in "Sweet Dreams."
Geraldine Page (her eighth nomination; she's never won), who reprised the role played by Lillian Gish in the original Horton Foote TV drama "The Trip to Bountiful," about an elderly woman's journey to her childhood home.
Anne Bancroft (her fifth nomination; she's won once), who plays the rigid Mother Superior of a convent in "Agnes of God."
The biggest surprise in the category was the omission of Cher, who was considered one of the favorites for her performance as the mother of a deformed son in "Mask." Eric Stoltz who played the deformed boy, Rocky Dennis, was also overlooked in the voting for best supporting actor.
In fact, "Mask," released early in 1985, received only one nomination, for makeup.
Other supporting actor nominees were Don Ameche, one of the old folks rejuvenated in the alien-enriched waters of a neighbor's pool in "Cocoon"; Klaus Maria Brandauer, Isak Dinesen's philandering husband in "Out of Africa"; William Hickey, the gnarly godfather in "Prizzi's Honor," and Robert Loggia, the foul-mouthed detective who aids lawyer Glenn Close in "Jagged Edge."
Anjelica Huston, who has won two previous critics awards for her role as Nicholson's vengeful ex-girlfriend in "Prizzi's Honor," and Meg Tilly, the troubled nun accused of murdering her baby in "Agnes of God," were expected nominees in the supporting actress category.