"Kramer vs. Kramer," a melodrama about an abandoned husband struggling to retain custody of his little boy, and "All That Jazz," Bob Fosse's thinly disguised self-portrait, lead all contenders for the 1979 Academy Awards with nine nominations each. Finalists for the 52nd annual Oscars, the ultimate professional accolade of the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences, were announced yesterday in Los Angeles.
"Kramer vs. Kramer," the odds-on favorite, and "All That Jazz" were joined by "Apocalypse Now," "Breaking Away" and "Norma Rae" as nominees for the best film. "Apocalypse Now," Francis Ford Coppola's controversial allegorical adventure set during the war in Vietnam, was the runner-up in total nominations with eight. "Breaking Away" trailed with five, while a trio of films -- "Norma Rae," "The China Syndrome" and "The Rose" -- collected four nominations each.
Sally Field's performance in "Norma Rae" as a Southern textile worker who becomes a union activist has won every significant acting award from last year's Cannes Festival through a recently inaugurated poll of American moviegoes. Field appears likely to complete a phenomenal sweep on Oscar night, Monday, April 14.
Her competition for the best actress award will consist of Jane Fonda in "The China Syndrome" (Fonda won in this category last year for "Coming Home"), Jill Clayburgh in "Starting Over," Marsha Mason in "Chapter Two" and Bette Midler in "The Rose."
Dustin Hoffman looms as the favorite as best actor for his performance in "Kramer vs. Kramer." The other nominees are two-time Oscar winner Jack Lemmon in "The China Syndrome," Al Pacino in ". . . And Justice for All," Roy Scheider in "All That Jazz" and Peter Sellers in "Being There."
Meryl Streep may have a lock on the supporting actress category for her performance as the runaway Mrs. Kramer in "Kramer vs. Kramer." She had also been considered a strong contender for "The Seduction of Joe Tynan." The other four nominees are Jane Alexander in "Kramer vs. Kramer," Barbara Barrie in "Breaking Away," Candice Bergen in "Starting Over" and teen-ager Mariel Hemingway in the Woody Allen comedy "Manhattan."
Melvyn Douglas, a two-time winner in the category, should be the favorite as best supporting actor for his performance in "Being There." However, he may face strong competition from Mickey Rooney in "The Black Stallion," Robert Duvall in "Apocalypse Now," Frederic Forrest in "The Rose" and juvenile Justin Henry in "Kramer vs. Kramer."
Robert Benton, who directed "Kramer vs. Kramer" from his own screenplay, heads the list of contenders for best direction. The other finalists include Coppola for "Apocalypse Now," Fosse for "All That Jazz" and Peter Yates for "Breaking Away" -- and one stunning surprise, French director Edouard Molinaro for the hit comedy import "La Cage aux Folles."
Benton's adaption of "Kramer" could bring a second Oscar for best screenplay. The competition consists of Coppola and John Milius for "Apocalypse Now," Allan Burns for "A Little Romance," the veteran husband-and-wife team of Irving Ravetch and Harriet Franak Jr. for "Norma Rae" and the foreign quartet of Molinaro, Francis Verber, Marcello Danon and Jean Poiret for "La Cage aux Folles."
In the second writing category, best original screenplay, Steve Tesich has a slight edge for "Breaking Away." The other nominees are Fosse and the late Robert Alan Aurthur for "All That Jazz," Valerie Curtin and Barry Levinson for ". . . And Justice for All," Woody Allen and Marshall Brickman for "Manhattan" and Mike Gray, T. S. Cook and James Bridges for "The China Syndrome."
The candidates for best original song are "It Goes Like It Goes" from "Norma Rae," music by David Shire and lyrics by Norman Gimbel; "The Rainbow Connection" from "The Muppet Movie," music and lyrics by Paul Williams and Kenny Ascher; "It's Easy to Say" from "10," music by Henry Mancini and lyrics by Robert Wells; "Through the Eyes of Love" from "Ice Castles," music by Marvin Hamlisch and lyrics by Carole Bayer Sager; and "I'll Never Say Goodbye" from "The Promise," music by Shire and lyrics by Alan and Marilyn Bergman.
Nestor Almendros, last year's winner for "Days of Heaven," is the leading nominee in the cinematography category with his lighting of "Kramer vs. Kramer." The others are Guiseppe Rotunno for "All That Jazz," Vittorio Storaro for "Apocalypse Now," Frank Phillips for "The Black Hole" and William A. Fraker for "1941."
The winners in all two dozen Oscar categories will be announced during the April 14 awards ceremony at the Los Angeles Music Center, to be telecast live by ABC and emceed by Johnny Carson.
Controversy has frequently erupted over preliminary balloting in the music and cinematography branches. This year the cinematographers came in for plenty of criticism when the young photographer Caleb Deschanel failed to appear on a list of 10 semifinalists despite his widely praised contributions to both "The Black Stallion" and "Being There."
Among other prominent contenders left out of the running by yesterday's announcements: "Manhattan" as best film; Burt Reynolds ("Starting Over") and Nick Nolte ("North Dallas Forty") as best actor; Barbara Harris ("The Seduction of Joe Tynan") and Shirley MacLaine ("Being There") as best actress; Paul Dooley ("Breaking Away") as best supporting actor. Oddest human interest nominees: While Roy Scheider in "All That Jazz" portrays a character based on director Bob Fosse, Marsha Mason in "Chapter Two" portrays a character based on herself.
Nominations in other categories include:
Foreign Language Film: "The Maids of Wilco," Poland; "Mama Turns 100," Spain; "A Simple Story," France; "The Tin Drum," West Germany; and "To Forget Venice," Italy.
Art Direction: "Alien," Michael Seymour, Les Dilley, Roger Christian art directors and Ian Whittaker set director; "All That Jazz," Philip Rosenberg and Tony Walton art directors and Edward Steart and Gary Brink set decorators; "Apocalypse Now," Dean Tavoularis and Angelo Grapham art directors and George R. Nelson set decorator; "The China Syndrome," George Jenkins art director and Arthur Jeph Parker set decorator; and "Star Trek -- The Motion Picture," Harold Michelson, Joe Jennings, Leon Harris and John Vallone art directors and Linda DeScenna set decorator.
Costume Design: "Agatha," Shirley Russell; "All That Jazz," Albert Wolsky; "Butch and Sundance: The Early Days," Wiliam Theiss; "The Europeans," Judy Moorcroft; and "La Cage aux Folles," Piero Tosi and Ambra Danon.
Film Editing: "All That Jazz," Alan Heim; "Apocalypse Now," Richard Marks, Walter Murch, Gerald B. Greenberg and Lisa Fruchtman; "The Black Stallion," Robert Dalva; "Kramer vs. Kramer," Jerry Greenberg; and "The Rose," Robert L. Wolfe and C. Timothy O'Meara.
Original Musical Score: "The Amityville Horror," Lalo Schifrin; "The Champ," Dave Grusin; "A Little Romance," Georges Delerue; "Star Trek -- The Motion Picture," Jerry Goldsmith; and "10," Henry Mancini.
Visual Effects: "Alien," H. R. Giger, Carlo Rambaldi, Brian Johnson, Nick Allder and Denys Ayling; "The Black Hole," Peter Ellenshaw, Art Ellenshaw and Joe Hale; "Moonraker," Derek Meddings, Paul Wilson and John Evans; "1941," William A. Fraker, A. D. Flowers and Gregory Jein; and "Star Trek -- the Motion Picture," Douglas Trumbull, John Dykstra, Richard Yuricich, Robert Swarthe, Dave Stewart and Grant McCune.
Documentary Feature: "Best Boy," produced by Ira Wohl; "Generation of the Wind," produced by David A. Vassar; "Going the Distance," produced by the National Film Board of Canada; "The Killing Ground," produced by Steve Singer and Tom Priestly for ABC News; and "The War at Home," produced by Glenn Silber and Barry Alexander Brown.
Musical Adaption or Song Score: "All That Jazz," Ralph Burns; "Breaking Away," Patrick Williams; and "The Muppet Movie," Paul Williams and Ken Ascher.
Sound: "Apocalypse Now," Walter Murch, Mark Berger, Richard Beggs and Nat Boxer; "The Electric Horseman," Arthur Piantadosi, Les Fresholtz, Michael Minkler and Al Overton; "Meteor," William McCaughey, Aaron Rochin, Michael J. Kohut and Jack Solomon; "1941," Robert Knudson, Robert J. Glass, Don MacDougall and Gene S. Cantamessa; and "The Rose," Theodore Soderberg, Douglas Williams, Paul Wells and Jim Webb.