In the early handicapping for the Academy Awards Best Actress category, Whoopi Goldberg ("The Color Purple") was considered at least a slight favorite over the less visible Geraldine Page ("The Trip to Bountiful"). The academy, after all, loves dazzling debut performances, heartwarming movies and stories about independent women -- and Goldberg's performance qualified on all counts.

But she may have lost her edge last week. After she won a Grammy for the year's best comedy recording, Goldberg was besieged by reporters asking her about "The Color Purple" and Steven Spielberg's non-nomination. So she spoke her mind, describing the academy as "a small bunch of people with small minds who chose to ignore the obvious."

The question now is whether that remark will prompt some members to ignore Goldberg when it comes time to vote; since part of the quote made it into a photo caption on the front page of the Los Angeles Times' entertainment section, the buzz in Hollywood is that it may well hurt her, especially among more conservative voters who will find it easy to cast a vote for a veteran like Page.

De Laurentiis and the AFM

Producer Dino De Laurentiis didn't make many friends among the brass at the American Film Market, the shopping mart for independent films that ended a week ago in Beverly Hills.

De Laurentiis, it seems, staged a gala dinner and a screening of Roman Polanski's "Pirates" the same evening the AFM was holding its opening-night party, in the process convincing more than four dozen European film buyers to skip the AFM soiree. However, Daily Variety reports that one of the buses taking guests from De Laurentiis' dinner to the screening got caught in a traffic jam, causing its passengers to miss the start of the film and that even the folks who saw the whole thing weren't too impressed.

The most controversial movie of the AFM was "Salvador," a film directed, coproduced and cowritten by Oliver Stone, who also wrote "Scarface," "Midnight Express" and "Year of the Dragon." The movie deals with the adventures of an initially ne'er-do-well photojournalist (James Woods) who goes to El Salvador with pal Jim Belushi and winds up face-to-face with repression and injustice. While it doesn't show a traditional liberal bias, the film comes down so strongly against the Salvadoran death squads and the U.S. government's policy in the area that many foreign viewers were surprised it was made by Americans. But at least one Central American distributor predicted success in his area.

Say You, Say What?

Columbia Pictures has a somewhat enviable problem when it comes to the Academy Award nominations for "White Nights": It has to stand behind two nominees competing against each other in the Best Song category.

But you have to wonder if the people who are putting together those ads promoting the nominees have really listened to the tunes they're trying to hype. Late last week, Columbia ran a trade ad for the Phil Collins/Marilyn Martin duet "Separate Lives (Love Theme from 'White Nights')"; it did so with a photo of a solitary Mikhail Baryshnikov -- who is not part of the love story -- dancing as he schemed to get out of Russia. Early this week, Columbia followed with an ad for Lionel Richie's "Say You, Say Me," in which the singer tells of his fight to realize his dreams; this time, the accompanying photo showed the movie's two lovers, Gregory Hines and Isabella Rossellini. At least Columbia used appropriate photos in its ads for its Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor nominees, James Garner and Robert Loggia respectively.

Screen Gems

Barbra Streisand has bought the movie rights to Larry Kramer's play "The Normal Heart," and will play its only female role as a wheelchair-bound doctor who tries to help AIDS patients. Liz Smith reports that she'll probably direct, as well . . . installed speakers in the bathrooms so that patrons can listen to the film while there. What would one do for a multiplex theater: number stalls to correspond to each film?