Driving Miss Daisy," a sentimental tale about a Southern white woman's friendship with her black chauffeur, edged out "Born on the Fourth of July" in the 62nd Academy Award race Wednesday with nine nominations. But the directors' ballot omissions of "Driving Miss Daisy's" Bruce Beresford and "Do the Right Thing's" Spike Lee--as well as the snub of Michael Moore's "Roger & Me" by the documentary film voters--promised to provoke the most debate.
Lee, whose uncompromising look at the roots of an inner-city race riot may have been the most critically acclaimed film of the year, received a nomination for his original screenplay, but he was snubbed by the directors branch of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and "Do the Right Thing" was not nominated for best picture.
The five best picture nominees are "Driving Miss Daisy," "Born on the Fourth of July," "Dead Poets Society," "Field of Dreams," and--one of the day's biggest surprises--the Irish film "My Left Foot."
All three of "Driving Miss Daisy's" lead actors--Morgan Freeman, Jessica Tandy and Dan Aykroyd--received nominations. The film also was nominated for best screenplay, art direction, costume design, film editing and makeup.
"Born on the Fourth of July," Oliver Stone's pounding look at the life story of disabled Vietnam veteran Ron Kovic, came in a close second to "Miss Daisy" with eight nominations, including those for best director (Stone), best actor (Tom Cruise), cinematography (Robert Richardson), plus film editing, original score and sound.
Stone, who won the best director Oscar for "Platoon" in 1986, was joined on this year's best director list by Peter Weir ("Dead Poets Society"), Woody Allen ("Crimes and Misdemeanors"), Jim Sheridan ("My Left Foot"), and Kenneth Branagh ("Henry V").
The Oscar winners will be chosen by the academy's 4,800 voting members and announced at the annual televised ceremony March 26 at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.
Universal Pictures, which released two of the best picture nominees--"Born on the Fourth of July" and "Field of Dreams"--was the most recognized studio, with a total of 17 nominations. Fox and Warner Bros. tied for second with 11, Tri-Star had nine, while Disney and Paramount each drew eight.
Independent Miramax, distributor of "My Left Foot," "sex, lies and videotape" and foreign-language nominee "Cinema Paradiso," had seven nominations, beating out majors Columbia, Orion and MGM.
The academy voters, not untypically, ignored many of the year's most popular films and voted only one nomination--for art direction--for 1989's top-grossing "Batman." "Dead Poets Society," which logged four nominations, was the only film from the year's top 10 grossing movies (it was 10th) to received a best picture nomination. "Dead Poets Society," released last summer by Disney's Buena Vista, grossed about $96 million. Universal's sleeper spring hit, "Field of Dreams," ended up grossing $63 million.
"Born on the Fourth of July," with more than $48 million in ticket sales, and "Driving Miss Daisy," with nearly $33 million, are both in current wide national release and should get a big boost in ticket sales from the nominations.
"My Left Foot," an independent film in limited released from Miramax, has not been seen by many moviegoers: The film is playing in only 50 theaters and has grossed only $2.7 million. But it has drawn widespread praise from film critics. Its star, Daniel Day-Lewis, was nominated in the best actor category, and Brenda Fricker, who played Brown's mother, was nominated for best supporting actress.
The academy shut out "Glory," widely considered a front-runner, from the best picture and director races. But the film, which examines the fate of an all-black regiment during the Civil War, managed to capture nominations in five other categories: best supporting actor (Denzel Washington), art direction, cinematography, film editing and sound.
Spike Lee's omission from the best director list will have a lot of people questioning the voting directors' judgment. But it isn't the outspoken Lee's first snub. The film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival last May and, despite rave notices from critics there, won nothing. Lee dominated the L.A. film critics annual awards, winning for directing and writing while the film was named best picture, but he was overlooked by his peers for a Directors Guild of America nomination.
"Racism permeates everying in America," Lee said Wednesday. "I'm not going to say that was behind (the shut-out) . . . . The history of this film from Cannes--where we were robbed of that (award)--has been the same. But history will show that this is an important film, that it will have a great impact for years to come."
Lee attributed the academy's warmer reception to two other films dealing with American black history--"Glory" and "Driving Miss Daisy"--to the fact that these are "safe films . . . . The academy loves those kinds of films."
"Driving Miss Daisy" co-producer Richard Zanuck, reached in London Wednesday, called the shutout of Beresford "baffling . . . . I really don't understand it. It's Bruce's film from a directorial standpoint."
Zanuck and his wife, Lili Fini Zanuck, first bought the rights to "Driving Miss Daisy" in 1987 and later watched Morgan Freeman perform in Alfred Uhry's Pulitzer Prize-winning play Off-Broadway.
"We had a very, very difficult time in getting a distributor" for a film, said Richard Zanuck. "Everybody turned it down. It was only after we brought the budget down to $7.5 million and sold off the foreign rights that we got Warner Bros. to come in."
This is the Zanucks first production together; Richard Zanuck previously was a partner with David Brown for 17 years.
Michael Moore's "Roger & Me," which takes a witty but piercing jab at General Motors and company chairman Roger Smith, may have been overlooked for a documentary nomination by criticism of Moore's liberal interpretation of the chronology surrounding GM's closings of auto plants in Flint, Mich.
Film critic Roger Ebert, half of the "Siskel & Ebert" TV team, called "Do the Right Thing" and "Roger & Me" the academy's "most shocking omissions." He attributed the academy's shut-out of Lee to the director's abrasive personality and the film's uncomfortable subject matter.
"What they try to do every year is select films that make them feel good," said Ebert. " 'Do the Right Thing' didn't make them feel good. But I feel it's a positive film." As well as the year's most important movie, he added.
Ebert also defended "Roger & Me" and called for an overhaul of the academy's method of choosing documentaries for nomination. Last year, he noted, the academy's documentary branch also overlooked an important documentary in the nomination process, "The Thin Blue Line."
Steven Soderbergh's "sex, lies and videotape," which won the Grand Prize that Spike Lee thought he deserved at Cannes, received just one Oscar nomination, for Soderbergh's original screenplay.
In addition to Cruise, Day-Lewis and Freeman, the nominees for best actor are Robin Williams ("Dead Poets Society") and Kenneth Branagh, the 29-year-old Shakespearean actor who played the ambitious young king in "Henry V." If he won, Branagh--who also received a nomination for directing "Henry V"--would become the second actor, after Laurence Olivier, to receive an academy award for film versions of Shakespeare plays.
These are first nominations for Branagh, Cruise and Day-Lewis. Freeman was nominated as best supporting actor in the 1987 film "Street Smart," and Williams was nominated for the 1987 film "Good Morning, Vietnam."
Joining Tandy in the best actress category were Jessica Lange, who plays a lawyer defending her father against charges of Nazi brutality in "Music Box"; Michelle Pfeiffer, who portrays a sultry cocktail lounge singer in "The Fabulous Baker Boys"; Isabelle Adjani, the French actress who plays Rodin's sculptor lover in "Camille Claudel," and Pauline Collins, the British actress who brought her one-woman stage show, "Shirley Valentine," to the screen.
This is the 80-year-old Tandy's first Oscar nomination. She spent much of her career on stage--making her biggest splash playing Blanche du Bois in the original Broadway production of Tennessee Williams' "A Streetcar Named Desire"--and has appeared only occasionally on American screens, often with her husband Hume Cronyn. This is also Pauline Collins' first nomination.
In contrast, this is the fifth nomination for Lange and the second for Pfeiffer and Adjani, who will attempt to become the third actor to win an Oscar for work in a foreign-language film.
Anjelica Huston and Lena Olin, playing two of the three wives of a Holocaust survivor in Paul Mazursky's "Enemies, A Love Story," were nominated for best supporting actress, but the critically-acclaimed film failed to make it on the ballot for picture, director or screenplay. This is the second nomination for Huston, who won as supporting actress for "Prizzi's Honor" in 1985. Olin's nomination is her first.
The other nominees for best supporting actress are Julia Roberts, the diabetic daughter in "Steel Magnolias," and Dianne Wiest, the divorced mother of two teen-agers in "Parenthood."
In the best supporting actor category, Aykroyd and Washington were joined by Danny Aiello, the pizza parlor owner in "Do the Right Thing"; Martin Landau, the philandering eye doctor in "Crimes and Misdemeanors"; and Marlon Brando, the two-time Oscar winner who made a cameo appearance as a civil rights lawyer in the anti-apartheid film "A Dry White Season."
The screenplays for all five nominated pictures made it onto one of the screenplay ballots. Tom Schulman's script for "Dead Poets Society" was alone among best picture nominees on the original screenplay list. The other films nominated were adapted from other material.
Best Actor Nominees Kenneth Branagh, "Henry V" Tom Cruise, "Born on the Fourth of July" Morgan Freeman, "Driving Miss Daisy" Daniel Day-Lewis, "My Left Foot" Robin Williams, "Dead Poets Society"
Best Actress Nominees Isabelle Adjani, "Camille Claudel" Pauline Collins, "Shirley Valentine" Jessica Lange, "Music Box" Michelle Pfeiffer, "The Fabulous Baker Boys" Jessica Tandy, "Driving Miss Daisy"
Best Director Nominees Woody Allen, "Crimes and Misdemeanors" Kenneth Branagh, "Henry V" Jim Sheridan, "My Left Foot" Oliver Stone, "Born on the Fourth of July" Peter Weir, "Dead Poets Society"
Best Supporting Actor Nominees Danny Aiello, "Do the Right Thing" Dan Aykroyd, "Driving Miss Daisy" Marlon Brando, "A Dry White Season" Martin Landau, "Crimes and Misdemeanors" Denzel Washington, "Glory"
Best Supporting Actress Nominees Brenda Fricker, "My Left Foot" Anjelica Huston, "Enemies, A Love Story" Lena Olin, "Enemies, A Love Story" Julia Roberts, "Steel Magnolias" Dianne Wiest, "Parenthood"
AND THE OTHER WINNERS WERE . . .
Los Angeles Film Critics Picture: "Do the"Right Thing" Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis, "My Left Foot" Actress: Tie: Andie MacDowell, "sex, liesand videotape", Michelle Pfeiffer, "The Fabulous Baker Boys" Supporting Actor: Danny Aiello, "Do the"Right Thing" Supporting Actress: Brenda Fricker, "My Left Foot" Director: Spike Lee, "Do the Right Thing" Cinematography: Michael Ballhaus, "The Fabulous Baker Boys" Screenplay: Gus Van Sant, Daniel Yost, "Drugstore Cowboy"
New York Film Critics Circle Picture: "My Left Foot" Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis, "My LeftFoot" Actress: Michelle Pfeiffer, "The Fabulous Baker Boys" Supporting Actor: Alan Alda, "Crimes and Misdemeanors" Supporting Actress: Lena Olin, "Enemies, A Love Story" Director: Paul Mazursky, "Enemies, A Love Story" Cinematography: Ernest Dickerson, "Do the Right Thing" Screenplay: Gus Van Sant, Daniel Yost, "Drugstore Cowboy"
National Society of Film Critics Picture: "Drugstore Cowboy" Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis, "My LeftFoot" Actress: Michelle Pfeiffer, "The Fabulous Baker Boys" Supporting Actor: Beau Bridges, "The Fabulous Baker Boys" Supporting Actress: Anjelica Huston, "Enemies, A Love Story" Director: Gus Van Sant, "Drugstore Cowboy" Cinematography: Michael Ballhaus, "The Fabulous Baker Boys" Screenplay: Gus Van Sant, Daniel Yost, "DrugstoreCowboy"
Golden Globe Awards Picture: Drama: "Born on the Fourth of July" Musical/Comedy: "Driving Miss Daisy" Actor: Tom Cruise, "Born on the Fourth of July" Morgan Freeman, "Driving Miss Daisy" Actress: Michelle Pfeiffer, "The Fabulous Baker Boys" Jessica Tandy, "Driving Miss Daisy" Supporting Actor: Denzel Washington, "Glory" Supporting Actress: Julia Roberts, "Steel Magnolias" Director: Oliver Stone, "Born on the Fourth of July" Cinematography: Not Applicable Screenplay: Oliver Stone, Ron Kovic, "Born on the Fourth of July"
Directors Guild Nominees: Woody Allen, "Crimes and Misdemeanors." Rob Reiner, "When Harry Met Sally . . . " Phil Alden Robinson, "Field of Dreams." Oliver Stone, "Born on the Fourth of July." Peter Weir, "Dead Poets Society." (To be announced March 10.)
Writers Guild Nominees: Original screenplay, Woody Allen, "Crimes and Misdemeanors." Norah Ephron, "When Harry Met Sally . . . " Steve Kloves, "The Fabulous Baker Boys." Tom Schulman, "Dead Poets Society." Steven Soderbergh, "sex, lies and videotapes." Adaptation, Shane Connaughton and Jim Sheridan, "My Left Foot." Kevin Jarre, "Glory." Phil Alden Robinson, "Field of Dreams." Oliver Stone and Ron Kovic, "Born on the Fourth of July." Alfred Uhry, "Driving Miss Daisy." (March 18.)