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'Banquet,' 'Ruby' Lead '93 Spirit Nominees : Movies: Both win spots in the best feature and five other categories in the 'alternative Oscars' for independent films.

January 14, 1994|DAVID J. FOX | TIMES STAFF WRITER

With six nods each, "Ruby in Paradise" and "The Wedding Banquet" lead with the most nominations for the 1993 Independent Spirit Awards--frequently dubbed "the alternative Oscars."

They are among the five nominees for best feature film--the others are "Equinox," "Much Ado About Nothing" and "Short Cuts." To qualify, movies must be produced with financing from outside the Hollywood studios.

In the category of best feature film by a first-time director is "American Heart," which had four other nominations, including best actor to Jeff Bridges, who portrays an ex-con. Other first feature nominees are "Combination Platter," "El Mariachi," "Mac" and "Menace II Society."

The announcement of this year's nominations--made by a committee of the governing body, the Independent Features Project West--was postponed from earlier this week due to a controversy over the eligibility of Gramercy Pictures' drama "A Dangerous Woman," starring Debra Winger. The IFPW board determined that the film, which initially had received two nominations, had been partially funded by Universal Pictures and thus was not eligible, according to IFPW President Cathy Main. Gramercy is jointly owned by Universal Pictures and Polygram.

In response, Gramercy President Russell Schwartz said the IFPW's rules "make no sense. They are as archaic as the (Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences') foreign language rules." Schwartz said that Universal's only involvement was to guarantee a bank loan to the filmmaker. Its money was not used, he added.

The Spirit Awards show, which will be held (but not televised) on March 19 at the Hollywood Palladium, is intentionally more offbeat and informal than the black-tie Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' Oscar show, which follows two days later.

The nominations for best feature film are:

"Equinox," from I.R.S. Media. The film noir fairy tale about good and evil twins stars best actor nominee Matthew Modine. Director Alan Rudolph was not nominated.

"Much Ado About Nothing," from the Samuel Goldwyn Co., is director Kenneth Branagh's adaptation of the Shakespeare comedy, although he was not nominated for best director. The film also brought a best actress nomination for Emma Thompson.

"Ruby in Paradise," from October Films, earned six nominations including two for Victor Nunez for direction and screenplay and for Ashley Judd as best actress for her portrayal of a woman who leaves her rough life in the mountains of Tennessee.

"Short Cuts," a weaving of stories about 22 people in Los Angeles, is from Fine Line Features. It was also nominated for Robert Altman's direction and for his screenplay, co-written with Frank Barhydt.

"The Wedding Banquet," from the Samuel Goldwyn Co., received six nominations, including nods for director Ang Lee and actors Mitchell Lichtenstein and May Chin. The comedy, set in New York's Chinese American community, is about a refugee who needs a green card and a man who feels the need to hide his homosexuality from his Old World parents.

The Spirit Award nominees:

* Best feature: "Equinox," I.R.S. Media; "Much Ado About Nothing," Samuel Goldwyn Co.; "Ruby in Paradise," October Films; "Short Cuts," Fine Line Features; "The Wedding Banquet," Samuel Goldwyn Co.

* First feature (award goes to the director): "American Heart," Martin Bell; "Combination Platter," Tony Chan; "El Mariachi," Robert Rodriguez; "Mac," John Turturro; "Menace II Society," Allen and Albert Hughes.

* Director: Robert Altman, "Short Cuts"; Ang Lee, "The Wedding Banquet"; Victor Nunez, "Ruby in Paradise"; Robert Rodriguez, "El Mariachi"; John Turturro, "Mac."

* Screenplay: Ang Lee, Neil Peng and James Schamnus, "The Wedding Banquet"; Robert Altman and Frank Barhydt, "Short Cuts"; Edwin Baker and Tony Chan, "Combination Platter"; Nancy Savoca and Richard Guay, "Household Saints"; Victor Nunez, "Ruby in Paradise."

* Foreign film: "Like Water for Chocolate," Alfonso Arau (Mexico); "The Piano," Jane Campion (New Zealand); "Orlando," Sally Potter (Britain); "The Story of Qiu Ju," Zhang Yimou (China); "Naked," Mike Leigh (Britain).

* Actor: Jeff Bridges, "American Heart"; Vincent D'Onofrio, "Household Saints"; Mitchell Lichtenstein, "The Wedding Banquet"; Matthew Modine, "Equinox"; Tyrin Turner, "Menace II Society."

* Actress: Suzy Amis, "The Ballad of Little Jo"; May Chin, "The Wedding Banquet"; Ariyan Johnson, "Just Another Girl on the IRT"; Ashley Judd, "Ruby in Paradise"; Emma Thompson, "Much Ado About Nothing.

* Supporting actor: David Chung, "The Ballad of Little Jo"; Tate Donovan, "Inside Monkey Zetterland"; Todd Field, "Ruby in Paradise"; Edward Furlong, "American Heart"; Christopher Lloyd, "Twenty Bucks."

* Supporting actress: Lara Flynn Boyle, "Equinox"; Lucinda Jenny, "American Heart"; Ah-Leh Gua, "The Wedding Banquet"; Julianne Moore, "Short Cuts"; Lili Taylor, "Household Saints."

* Cinematography: Elliot Davis, "Equinox"; James B. Bagdonas, "American Heart"; Nancy Schreiber, "Chain of Desire"; Lisa Rinzler, "Menace II Society"; Alex Vlacos, "Ruby in Paradise."

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