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'Rain Man' a Step Closer to Oscar?

March 13, 1989|NINA J. EASTON | Times Staff Writer

"Rain Man" continued its strong march toward the Academy Awards later this month when its director, Barry Levinson, collected the Directors Guild of America's top honor Saturday night.

The winner of the guild award typically goes on to receive an Academy Award for best director. Only three directors have ever been passed over by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences after receiving the guild's top award--Steven Spielberg in 1975, Bob Fosse in 1972 and Anthony Harvey in 1968. The historical odds are similarly high that the academy will tap Levinson's film for best picture.

In a brief acceptance speech, Levinson dwelt not on those odds, but on the twists of fortune that brought "Rain Man" to him after it passed through the hands of three other directors. "To have started out just reading the script and passing on advice to some of the people involved and suddenly ending up with the movie in my lap, and suddenly to be up here one year later," Levinson said, catching his breath. "Oh, my. . . ."

In the television categories, a critically acclaimed show with one of the lowest ratings in prime time--ABC's "thirtysomething"--collected the guild's award for best direction of a nighttime dramatic series. Marshall Herskovitz, a repeat winner, took home the award for his searing portrayal of a marital breakup between two of the show's main characters. He was chosen over his colleague, Edward Zwick, who had been nominated for another episode of "thirtysomething," and Mark C. Tinker, nominated for his direction of the last episode of NBC's "St. Elsewhere."

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday March 14, 1989 Home Edition Calendar Part 6 Page 8 Column 1 Entertainment Desk 2 inches; 49 words Type of Material: Correction
In Monday's report on the Directors Guild of American awards, the year when Steven Spielberg was passed over by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was incorrectly reported. It was for his 1985 film, "The Color Purple." Also, it was Francis Coppola who was passed over in 1972, when the award for best director went to Bob Fosse for "Cabaret."

Steve Miner received the top honor in the TV comedy series category for his direction of "The Wonder Years" pilot on ABC. The other nominees were Ellen Falcon for the "Roseanne" pilot on ABC and Barnet Kellman for the "Murphy Brown" pilot on CBS.

In the dramatic specials category, Lamont Johnson was honored for his direction of NBC's "Lincoln" over Dan Curtis ("War and Remembrance" on ABC) and Rod Holcomb (the "China Beach" pilot, also on ABC). "I received one of these (awards) for 'Profiles in Courage,' " Johnson said. "I'm sure glad you still remember the name."

Levinson's competitors in the DGA's feature film category were Charles Crichton for "A Fish Called Wanda," Mike Nichols for "Working Girl," Alan Parker for "Mississippi Burning," and Robert Zemeckis for "Who Framed Roger Rabbit."

The hit of the awards dinner at the Beverly Hilton was Crichton, 78-year-old director of "A Fish Called Wanda," whose nomination had been the guild's only surprise in the feature film category. When Levinson was introduced to the "Wanda" director, Crichton yelled at his competitor: "Stand back, or I'll hit you with my stick!"

At the podium, where each of the feature film nominees was honored, Crichton--cane in hand, his arms flying--cheerfully berated his "Wanda" colleagues. "The trouble with that comedy was trying to work with people like (writer-star) John Cleese, whose . . . tortuous cruelty is the total opposite of anything that's funny. Then, when you're trying to direct people like Kevin Kline, whose always wondering if the camera is in the right place, or Jamie Lee (Curtis) who's always changing the damn dialogue. . . .

"Michael Palin did do something rather marvelous actually," Crichton continued. "He created a new chapter in the history of drama in his performance with the chips up his nose. Honestly, it was astonishing."

In between one-liners and a Las Vegas-style performance by singer Rita Moreno, master of ceremonies Carl Reiner offered two serious reform suggestions for Oscar season, both of which received strong support from the audience. "I have in my house more color reproductions of Sigourney Weaver and a beautiful gorilla than I need," Reiner said. "I get one every day. At first I thought Sigourney thought I was attractive. We've got to tell the academy to stop this advertising. I'm getting turned off on the pictures I like."

Reiner also proposed that all award givers--including the academy--eliminate the practice of choosing one winner from a field of just five nominees. "Why not seven, nine, twelve, whatever pictures deserve it?" Reiner asked. "There are some pictures this year that should be up there. What happened to 'Dominick and Eugene'?"

Others honored by the directors guild Saturday night included:

--Sidney Lumet, who was named an honorary life member of the guild, joining the ranks of Hollywood figures like D. W. Griffith, Frank Capra, Walt Disney, Charles Chaplin and Elia Kazan.

--Jesus Salvador Trevino, who won in the daytime dramatic TV show category for his direction of "Gangs," a CBS Schoolbreak Special.

--Walter C. Miller, winner in the TV musical/variety category for his direction of the Irving Berlin 100th Birthday Celebration on CBS.

--Merrill Brockway, winner in the TV documentary/actuality category for PBS' "On the Move."

--Harry Coyle, winner in the sports category for his direction of last year's World Series.

--James Gartner, winner in the TV commercial category.

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