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'Driving Miss Daisy' Paces Academy Awards Race : 'Daisy' tops field with nine nominations followed by 'Fourth of July' with eight.


Driving Miss Daisy," a sentimental tale about a Southern white woman's friendship with her black chauffeur, edged out "Born on the Fourth of July" in the 62nd Academy Award race Wednesday with nine nominations. But the directors' ballot omissions of "Driving Miss Daisy's" Bruce Beresford and "Do the Right Thing's" Spike Lee--as well as the snub of Michael Moore's "Roger & Me" by the documentary film voters--promised to provoke the most debate.

Lee, whose uncompromising look at the roots of an inner-city race riot may have been the most critically acclaimed film of the year, received a nomination for his original screenplay, but he was snubbed by the directors branch of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and "Do the Right Thing" was not nominated for best picture.

The five best picture nominees are "Driving Miss Daisy," "Born on the Fourth of July," "Dead Poets Society," "Field of Dreams," and--one of the day's biggest surprises--the Irish film "My Left Foot."

All three of "Driving Miss Daisy's" lead actors--Morgan Freeman, Jessica Tandy and Dan Aykroyd--received nominations. The film also was nominated for best screenplay, art direction, costume design, film editing and makeup.

"Born on the Fourth of July," Oliver Stone's pounding look at the life story of disabled Vietnam veteran Ron Kovic, came in a close second to "Miss Daisy" with eight nominations, including those for best director (Stone), best actor (Tom Cruise), cinematography (Robert Richardson), plus film editing, original score and sound.

Stone, who won the best director Oscar for "Platoon" in 1986, was joined on this year's best director list by Peter Weir ("Dead Poets Society"), Woody Allen ("Crimes and Misdemeanors"), Jim Sheridan ("My Left Foot"), and Kenneth Branagh ("Henry V").

The Oscar winners will be chosen by the academy's 4,800 voting members and announced at the annual televised ceremony March 26 at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

Universal Pictures, which released two of the best picture nominees--"Born on the Fourth of July" and "Field of Dreams"--was the most recognized studio, with a total of 17 nominations. Fox and Warner Bros. tied for second with 11, Tri-Star had nine, while Disney and Paramount each drew eight.

Independent Miramax, distributor of "My Left Foot," "sex, lies and videotape" and foreign-language nominee "Cinema Paradiso," had seven nominations, beating out majors Columbia, Orion and MGM.

The academy voters, not untypically, ignored many of the year's most popular films and voted only one nomination--for art direction--for 1989's top-grossing "Batman." "Dead Poets Society," which logged four nominations, was the only film from the year's top 10 grossing movies (it was 10th) to received a best picture nomination. "Dead Poets Society," released last summer by Disney's Buena Vista, grossed about $96 million. Universal's sleeper spring hit, "Field of Dreams," ended up grossing $63 million.

"Born on the Fourth of July," with more than $48 million in ticket sales, and "Driving Miss Daisy," with nearly $33 million, are both in current wide national release and should get a big boost in ticket sales from the nominations.

"My Left Foot," an independent film in limited released from Miramax, has not been seen by many moviegoers: The film is playing in only 50 theaters and has grossed only $2.7 million. But it has drawn widespread praise from film critics. Its star, Daniel Day-Lewis, was nominated in the best actor category, and Brenda Fricker, who played Brown's mother, was nominated for best supporting actress.

The academy shut out "Glory," widely considered a front-runner, from the best picture and director races. But the film, which examines the fate of an all-black regiment during the Civil War, managed to capture nominations in five other categories: best supporting actor (Denzel Washington), art direction, cinematography, film editing and sound.

Spike Lee's omission from the best director list will have a lot of people questioning the voting directors' judgment. But it isn't the outspoken Lee's first snub. The film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival last May and, despite rave notices from critics there, won nothing. Lee dominated the L.A. film critics annual awards, winning for directing and writing while the film was named best picture, but he was overlooked by his peers for a Directors Guild of America nomination.

"Racism permeates everying in America," Lee said Wednesday. "I'm not going to say that was behind (the shut-out) . . . . The history of this film from Cannes--where we were robbed of that (award)--has been the same. But history will show that this is an important film, that it will have a great impact for years to come."

Lee attributed the academy's warmer reception to two other films dealing with American black history--"Glory" and "Driving Miss Daisy"--to the fact that these are "safe films . . . . The academy loves those kinds of films."

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