Denzel Washington was named best supporting actor for his portrayal of a maverick black soldier in the Civil War drama "Glory," as the 62nd Academy Awards ceremony got under way in Los Angeles.
"I want to pay homage to . . . the black soldiers who helped make this country free," 34-year-old Washington said in accepting his first Oscar.
"Glory" told the story of black soldiers who were commanded by white officers in the Union army.
As the show opened, "Driving Miss Daisy," with nine nominations, and "Born on the Fourth of July," with eight, appeared to be favorites for the major prizes, including best picture.
"Driving Miss Daisy," about the relationship between a southern matron and her black chauffeur, captured a best-actress nomination for 80-year-old Jessica Tandy and a best-actor nomination for 52-year-old Morgan Freeman. But the picture did not get a best-director nod for Bruce Beresford, apparently diminishing its chances in the best-picture category.
Only rarely has a movie been named best picture when its director was not nominated.
Oliver Stone, who previously won Oscars for directing "Platoon," the best picture of 1986, and for writing "Midnight Express," has been widely favored to win the directing Oscar for "Born on the Fourth of July." The film, about the political and psychological odyssey of Vietnam veteran and anti-war activist Ron Kovic, also won a best-actor nomination for Tom Cruise.
Monday's ceremony, produced by film and TV director Gil Cates, carried an international theme. Several Oscar presenters were scheduled to announce some prizes by satellite hook-ups from London, Moscow, Sydney and Buenos Aires, in recognition of the growing internationalization of the film business.
"How can you have a closed society when the skies are open from Moscow to Beijing to, you name it, Gary, Indiana?" academy president Karl Malden said as the ABC telecast began.
While the Oscar telecast was seen in about 27 million homes in the United States last year, the show's international audience has grown to more than a billion viewers in about 90 countries.
Hollywood studios like Warner Bros. and Paramount Pictures say they now get nearly half their film revenue abroad with some films, like Paramount's "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" pulling in more from foreign markets than in the United States. With actor-comedian Billy Crystal as host, the ABC telecast opened smoothly at 6 p.m. despite heavy traffic and large crowds.
The show moved back to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion of The Music Center, where it had been staged in earlier years, amid grumbling about congestion at the much larger Shrine Auditorium. Yet it is expected to return to the Shrine again next year.
Monday's scheduled presentation contrasted with last year's show, which attracted a larger-than-usual TV audience, but was sharply criticized by Hollywood insiders for its glitzy production numbers staged by producer Allan Carr. That show included a song and dance by an actress portraying Snow White and actor Rob Lowe, which proved an embarrassment when Walt Disney Co. later sued the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for trademark infringement. The suit was dropped after the academy apologized.
The Oscar nominations this year have been laced with surprises, as academy members overlooked some critical and box-office favorites to honor films that escaped wide notice before the balloting.
"My Left Foot," about Irish writer and painter Christy Brown's struggle with cerebral palsy, provided some of the biggest surprises, as it won a nomination for best picture, along with nominations for best actor for star Daniel Day-Lewis, best supporting actress for Brenda Fricker and best director for Jim Sheridan.
Monday's Oscar show was scheduled to include a tribute to Japanese film maker Akira Kurosawa, who has inspired American directors as diverse as George Lucas and Lawrence Kasdan with such movies as "Yojimbo," "The Seven Samurai" and "Ran." Many of those films in turn drew inspiration from non-Japanese sources that ranged from Shakespeare to the American Western.
Kurosawa's "Rashomon" and "Dersu Uzala" won best foreign-language film Oscars, but the film maker was never honored as best director.
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