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The 65th ACADEMY AWARD NOMINATIONS : The Declaration of Independents : The nominations: 'Howards End' and 'Unforgiven' get nine apiece, 'The Crying Game' six. Non-studio and maverick filmmakers have a field day.

February 18, 1993|DAVID J. FOX | TIMES STAFF WRITER

In a strong showing by independent-minded filmmakers, longtime movie icon Clint Eastwood and two movies made outside the studio system--"Howards End" and "The Crying Game"--dominated the Oscar nominations announced Wednesday.

The independently produced Merchant Ivory production of the British drama "Howards End" and the Western "Unforgiven"--produced, directed and starring Eastwood--led all other films with nine nominations apiece.

"The Crying Game," distributed by the independent Miramax Films, received six nominations, including best picture--the third highest of any film.

Another movie initially considered a long-shot for the best picture of 1992, "Scent of a Woman" joined "The Crying Game" and the expected candidates "A Few Good Men," "Howards End," and "Unforgiven."

Eastwood, who operates within the studio system without seeming to be a part of it, had never been previously nominated for an Oscar. He will compete in the best actor and director categories. Eastwood joins such stars as Warren Beatty, nominated as actor-director-producer for the 1981 "Reds" and Kevin Costner for 1990's "Dances With Wolves." Both Beatty and Costner won as best director, but lost in the acting category. No best actor nominee who directed himself has ever won in both categories.

Eastwood spent the day skiing at Sun Valley, Ida. But Joe Hyams, a Warner Bros. executive vice president, said Eastwood and the studio are "totally ecstatic."

Nominated twice was actor Al Pacino, for his role as a blind retired military officer in "Scent of a Woman" and for his supporting role as a real estate salesman in "Glengarry Glen Ross." It's the first time since 1944, when Barry Fitzgerald was nominated for actor and supporting actor for the same role in the movie "Going My Way," that any actor has been nominated twice in acting categories in the same year. Although Pacino has been nominated six times previously, dating back to a supporting nomination for 1972's "The Godfather," he has never won.

Pacino, who learned of his nominations in New York, said in a statement: "An Oscar nomination is an enormous thing in an actor's life. To have two in one year, what can I say? It is very uplifting and wonderful."

For those who gathered at the Beverly Hills headquarters of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for the 65th annual nomination announcements, there were few surprises. The designated movies in key categories appeared to follow the early awards indicators. "Unforgiven" and "Howards End" had been the favorites of movie critics and had shown up among such other precursors as the Directors Guild nominations and the Golden Globe Awards that are voted by the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn.

Observers were surprised by Marisa Tomei's nomination as best supporting actress for her role in "My Cousin Vinny" and Catherine Deneuve's as best actress in "Indochine," and the omission of Jack Lemmon ("Glengarry Glen Ross") from the best actor field.

Others saw irony in the fact that "The Player," director Robert Altman's biting satire about the movie business, was not a best picture nominee, while Altman was nominated as best director. Altman also had been a critics' favorite and a Golden Globe winner.

The converse was the reality for "A Few Good Men" director Rob Reiner, whose situation parallels Barbra Streisand's experience from 1991's "The Prince of Tides." Reiner and Streisand received nominations from the Directors Guild and their films were nominated for best picture Oscars, but they were ignored in the best director category.

The nine nominations for Eastwood's "Unforgiven" also included nods for David Webb Peoples for his original screenplay and supporting actor Gene Hackman for his role as a genial but sadistic sheriff. The Warner Bros. release, which opened last summer, also was singled out for art direction, cinematography, film editing and sound.

Hackman, reached in Florida on his way to the Cayman Islands for filming of "The Firm," has been nominated five times. "I'm excited by it," said Hackman, who won a best actor Oscar for 1971's "The French Connection." "You think you are going to be above it, but it always gets to you."

The multitude of Oscar nominations for "Howards End" and the romantic suspense film "The Crying Game" represents a departure from the norm for the film academy. In most years, the best picture category is mostly--often exclusively--dominated by movies made by the major Hollywood studios. No film that has not been in some way a product of the major studios has ever won as best picture.

But this season's nine nominations for "Howards End," which was picked up for distribution by Sony Classics, is one of the highest ever for an independently produced film. In addition to "The Crying Game," Miramax also received four nominations for "Enchanted April" and two for "Passion Fish," bringing the company's total to 12--believed to be an Oscar record for any independent company in a single year.

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