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'Unforgiven' Top Film; Pacino, Thompson Win : Academy Awards: Eastwood named best director. Oscars for supporting roles go to Hackman and Tomei.

March 30, 1993|DAVID J. FOX | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Hollywood honored international film legend Clint Eastwood and his movie "Unforgiven" with Oscars for best direction and best picture of 1992 during the 65th annual Academy Awards on Monday night.

But, in contrast to the last two Oscar shows, which were virtually overwhelmed by "Dances With Wolves" and "The Silence of the Lambs," no film dominated the ceremonies at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. "Unforgiven" won four awards, while "Howards End" and "Bram Stoker's Dracula" won three each.

"I feel lucky, especially when you are able to make a living in a field you enjoy," said the soft-spoken Eastwood as he accepted the director's prize. Critics said Eastwood's film in many ways attempted to demystify the image of the American West that he had helped to solidify in many of his earlier films. In "Unforgiven," Eastwood plays a retired gunslinger, still fighting the demons of his past, even as he had become a family man.

The key acting honors were awarded to Emma Thompson for "Howards End" and Al Pacino for "Scent of a Woman."

Thompson, a British actress who is married to actor-director Kenneth Branagh, received her Oscar for "Howards End" after having virtually swept the Los Angeles, New York and national critics prizes, and winning a Golden Globe prize handed out by the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn.

In accepting, Thompson acknowledged the Oscar show's theme, "The Year of the Woman," and the role she played of a strong-willed, unmarried elder sister in the adaptation of the E.M. Forster novel of two families in Edwardian England.

Pacino's Oscar came for his role as a blind and bitter retired Army officer in "Scent of a Woman."

It was the first time Pacino has won an Academy Award despite nominations six other years, dating back to 1972's "The Godfather." He also was nominated in the supporting actor category this year for his role as a ruthless real estate salesman in "Glengarry Glen Ross." Raising the Oscar in his hand, Pacino declared: "You broke my streak."

"This is a proud and hopeful moment," he said. "I want to thank the academy for this gift of encouragement."

Early in the evening, the Oscar for best actress in a supporting role went to Marisa Tomei for her performance as the tough-talking fiancee to Joe Pesci in the comedy "My Cousin Vinny." In February, when the nominations were announced, her nomination seemed to surprise many in the industry because she was a relative newcomer and the film had been all but forgotten--having opened in spring of 1992. As her name was read, there was a wave of shock.

Tomei, however, seemed unfazed and collected as she accepted. "This is such a great honor to receive this in this year when we recognize and celebrate and honor women," she said.

One of the evening's biggest question marks had been the supporting actor category in which a mysterious, unknown British actor, Jaye Davidson, 24, had been nominated. Davidson played a role in "The Crying Game" that is pivotal in the story about tolerance of human nature, set against a backdrop of Irish terrorism. The film's distributor, Miramax Films, turned aspects of Davidson's character into a secret, asking the press to cooperate and not give it away. And up until the last minute on Sunday, it was not known if Davidson would travel from London to the Oscar ceremonies.

In the end, Davidson did attend, but his presence seemed fleeting as the academy gave the award to veteran actor Gene Hackman, a previous Oscar-winning best actor for 1971's "The French Connection." Hackman won the supporting actor Oscar for his performance in "Unforgiven" as a congenial but sadistic sheriff.

The actor laughed with disbelief as he picked up the award, giving "thanks especially to Clint, who made it possible for me."

In all, "Unforgiven" picked up four Oscars.

Eastwood had been the sentimental favorite to win the movie industry's grand prizes after a 30-year career in film and TV. Although he had never before been nominated for an Oscar, in the last few months "Unforgiven" received endorsements from film critics nationwide who cited the drama set in the American West for its revisionist themes in which the myth of gun-toting outlaws and violence is rebuked. Eastwood won the Golden Globe as best director in January and the Directors Guild of America's prestigious award three weeks ago.

"Unforgiven" came armed with a few other advantages as well. It has been a big box office hit, having grossed about $83 million since its opening last summer. And it is distributed by one of the industry's giants, Warner Bros. No film has ever been named best picture by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences without some affiliation with a major Hollywood studio or to a mainstream Hollywood-based producer.

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