Lavish, spectacular, epic-style filmmaking -- that's what the Oscar people have always loved, and they proved true to form yesterday by handing "The Last Emperor," Bernardo Bertolucci's epic story about the life of the Chinese emperor Pu Yi, nine nominations for the 60th annual Academy Awards.
Following "The Last Emperor," which counted among its honors nominations for Best Picture and Best Director, was "Broadcast News," James L. Brooks' romantic comedy about a television news bureau in Washington. It registered the second-highest total of nominations with seven, including Best Picture. The other films in the running for the top Oscar prize are "Hope and Glory," "Moonstruck" and, in what was the most unexpected of the selections, the box office winner "Fatal Attraction," which took in six nominations.
Perhaps the most significant omission was Brooks' failure to win a nomination for Best Director. "Broadcast News" had been thought to be the strongest contender for the Best Picture award, but because no film has ever won an Oscar without its director at least being nominated, the film's chances now seem seriously weakened. The movie did lead the way in the acting categories, with nominations going to William Hurt for Best Actor, Holly Hunter for Best Actress and Albert Brooks for Best Supporting Actor. Hurt's nomination was his third in a row.
"Ironweed," Hector Babenco's film about a pair of Depression-era bums, also scored in the acting categories, earning Best Actor and Best Actress nominations for Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep. It was Nicholson's ninth nomination and Streep's seventh; each has won two awards.
The other names placed in the Best Actor column were Michael Douglas for "Wall Street," Marcello Mastroianni for "Dark Eyes" and Robin Williams for "Good Morning, Vietnam." The other starring actresses nominated were Cher for "Moonstruck," Glenn Close for "Fatal Attraction" and Sally Kirkland for "Anna." This was Kirkland's first Oscar nomination and Close's fourth. Cher, who previously received a Best Supporting Actress nomination for her role in "Silkwood," won this year's Golden Globe award for best actress in a comedy or musical. Kirkland won the award in the drama category.
Among the prominent omissions in the acting categories were Steve Martin for "Roxanne" -- perhaps partly because the film's summer release made it less fresh in the voters' minds -- John Lone for "The Last Emperor" and Richard Dreyfuss, who had been mentioned as a possible Best Actor for "Tin Men" and Best Supporting Actor for "Nuts." Actresses Barbra Streisand ("Nuts"), Lillian Gish and Bette Davis ("The Whales of August") and Faye Dunaway ("Barfly") had also been considered in the running.
The most eccentric -- and in some cases most daring -- choices seemed to come in the supporting actor and actress fields. Of the five nominees for Best Supporting Actress, only Olympia Dukakis for "Moonstruck" and Ann Sothern for "The Whales of August" had been expected to get the nod. The others -- Anne Archer for "Fatal Attraction," Norma Aleandro for "Gaby -- A True Story" and Anne Ramsey for "Throw Momma From the Train" -- were considered, at best, to be dark-horse candidates. Most notably absent from the list were Elaine Strich for her role in Woody Allen's "September" and Vanessa Redgrave from "Prick Up Your Ears."
In the Best Supporting Actor category, Morgan Freeman, who has already been honored by the New York Film Critics Circle and the National Society of Film Critics, was also honored with a nomination for his performance in "Street Smart." Joining him and Albert Brooks were Sean Connery for "The Untouchables," Vincent Gardenia for "Moonstruck" and Denzel Washington for "Cry Freedom." Surprisingly, this was Connery's first Oscar nomination.
Steven Spielberg, who received the Motion Picture Academy's Irving Thalberg prize this pastyear, was given his annual Oscar snub. The academy did award his picture "Empire of the Sun" with nominations in six categories, but once again passed him over for the director's prize, as it did two years ago when "The Color Purple" received 11 nominations but was left out of the Best Director competition.
It was not a good year in general for American directors, who for the first time in the history of the awards were shut out in their category. Of the nominated directors, John Boorman and Adrian Lyne are English, Norman Jewison ("Moonstruck") is Canadian, Bernardo Bertolucci Italian and Lasse Hallstrom ("My Life as a Dog") Swedish.
The lack of recognition for the late John Huston's last film, "The Dead," which received the Best Film award from the National Society of Film Critics, was also notable. The movie earned only one major mention, for Tony Huston's adaptation of the James Joyce short story. Nominations had been thought possible for both John Huston and, for Best Actress, his daughter Anjelica.
One critical favorite, John Boorman's "Hope and Glory," was not overlooked. The film, which presents the director's autobiographical account of his boyhood in London during the Blitz, received, in addition to its Best Picture and Best Director nods, nominations for original screenplay, cinematography and art direction.
Louis Malle's "Au Revoir les Enfants," which took the Los Angeles Film Critics Award for best foreign-language film, was placed in the running for the Oscar in that category. The picture also earned Malle a nomination for Best Original Screenplay. The other foreign films named were "Babette's Feast" (Denmark), "Course Completed" (Spain), "The Family" (Italy) and "Pathfinder" (Norway).
In addition to Brooks, Boorman and Malle, the Best Original Screenplay nominees were John Patrick Shanley for "Moonstruck" and Woody Allen for "Radio Days."
The year's No. 1 box office hit, "Beverly Hills Cop II," made it onto the Oscar rolls with a nomination for the Bob Seger song "Shakedown." Missing from this year's list was the category of original song score. The requirements for a film in this slot are five original songs by one writer or team of writers, and no film qualified.
Robert Wise, the academy's president, and Shirley MacLaine, who won an Oscar four years ago for her performance in "Terms of Endearment," got out of bed early this morning to glitz up the announcement of the nominations at a ceremony in Beverly Hills. With the exception of Best Picture, nominations for the Academy Awards are made by the individual branches: Actors nominate for acting, directors for directing. All 4,400 voting members vote on the Best Picture nominations. This year's winners will be announced at the annual televised ceremony on April 11.