Bernardo Bertolucci won the Directors Guild of America's feature film award, apparently boosting the odds that his "The Last Emperor" will finish strong in next month's Oscar race.
With rare exception, the guild award winner has gone on to claim the Academy Award for directing; the film has often been selected as best picture of the year.
At the awards banquet Saturday at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, the Italian director argued for more sophisticated movie making. "Too many movies have been intimidated by television. Movies have tried to imitate the . . . language of television," Bertolucci said.
Runners-up included James L. Brooks, for "Broadcast News," Lasse Hallstrom for "My Life as a Dog," Adrian Lyne for "Fatal Attraction," and Steven Spielberg for "Empire of the Sun."
In the TV awards, Marshall Herkovitz took the nighttime drama prize for the pilot of ABC's "thirtysomething," while Will MacKenzie won the comedy prize for " 'A,' My Name Is Alex," an episode of NBC's "Family Ties."
All three daytime drama nominees were women who directed ABC specials. The winner was Victoria Hochberg, for "Just a Regular Kid: An AIDS Story."
Other than a few joking references by emcee Hal Kanter, DGA officials maintained silence regarding a strike by the Writers Guild of America, which is now entering its second week.
In presenting a lifetime DGA membership to Michael Franklin, who served successively as chief negotiator for the writers and directors guilds, director Arthur Hiller quoted Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers president Nicholas Counter's "warm feelings" for Franklin, whom Counter supposedly praised as "the dean of labor negotiators."
But neither Hiller nor Franklin made any expression of support for the writers' guild, although WGA officials Brian Walton and George Kirgo were present at the banquet. Walton declined to comment on the DGA's silence. During a brief strike last summer, the directors mustered vocal support from all of Hollywood's unions.
The guild's prestigious D. W. Griffith Award for lifetime achievement went to Robert Wise. Wise directed "The Sound of Music" and "West Side Story," and is currently president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Other award winners included:
Musical/variety: Dwight Hemion, for "Julie Andrews . . . Sound of Christmas" (ABC). Documentary: Elena Mannes, for "The Kingdom Divided (God and Politics)" (PBS). Dramatic specials: Jud Taylor, for "Foxfire" (CBS). Sports: Robert A. Fishman, for "Syracuse/Indiana" NCAA basketball championship (CBS). Commercials: Rick Levine, for "Trouble" (Arnott's Biscuits), "Bill Demby" (DuPont), and "Apt. 10G" (Pepsi Cola). Robert B. Aldrich Service Award: Sheldon Leonard, for service to the guild. Frank Capra Achievement Award: Alex Hapsas, for service to the industry and guild.