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Spielberg Upstages Oscar Race

February 07, 1986|JACK MATHEWS | Times Staff Writer

"If you're a nightclub entertainer, do you want to perform for three drunks or for a packed house?" Spielberg told The Times' Charles Champlin, in an interview in Sunday's Calendar. "Any artist wants the largest possible audience."

Disregarding the other arts, those are difficult concepts for fans of Bergman, Bertolucci, Kubrick or even Woody Allen to grasp.

"An artist by definition isn't facile, pandering to everybody," says Jaglom. "An artist tries to get people to understand something about the human condition and be true to himself in doing it. He hopes everybody will appreciate it. That's different from trying to calculate what everybody will appreciate."

Jaglom, who is a member of the directors' branch of the academy, says he's proud of the group for not succumbing to the wave of sentiment for "The Color Purple."

"The nominations for Babenco and (Akira) Kurosawa are great," he says. "The whole thing is a sign that the directors branch is growing up."

No matter what thinking went into the academy directors' vote, the 1985 Oscars are going to be remembered as the year of the Spielberg Snub (file it under Oscar Oddities, along with the Brando Boycott and Mary Poppins' Revenge), and it may not be over yet.

"The Color Purple," whatever Spielberg's peers think of it, is an enormously popular mass-entertainment film. And Spielberg, the closest Hollywood has come so far to breeding a successor to Walt Disney, is an enormously popular film maker.

Don't be surprised if on March 24, after all 4,000 members of the academy have been polled, "The Color Purple" ends up winning the Oscar for best picture. There is the scent of referendum in the air, and the idea that Spielberg, as one of the film's three co-producers, could end up on stage after all has the quaint appeal of a happy Hollywood ending.

Between now and then, there is the separate DGA voting for best director. Spielberg is one of the five nominees being considered by that 7,800-member body, composed largely of TV directors and production and stage managers. They may make a statement themselves when the winner is announced March 8.

In the meantime, Spielberg can take sustenance from his box-office mandate. To date, "The Color Purple" has grossed just under $40 million, and with 11 fresh nominations and a hot controversy to whip up even more interest, it may still be earning money by summer.

Spielberg is playing to a packed house all right. Now if he can get the three drunks.

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