"Driving Miss Daisy," the surprise hit about a tart Southern matron and her black chauffeur, won Oscars for best picture and best actress, as Hollywood scattered its laurels around the globe during the 62nd annual Academy Awards ceremony Monday night.
Oliver Stone won his second statuette for best director on Universal Pictures' "Born on the Fourth of July," the political and psychological odyssey of Vietnam veteran and anti-war activist Ron Kovic.
"Fourth of July" also took an award for film editing, but those were the movie's only Oscars, despite eight nominations.
Britain's Daniel Day-Lewis edged aside "Fourth of July" star Tom Cruise to capture the Oscar for best actor for portraying Irish writer-artist Christy Brown's struggle with cerebral palsy in Miramax's "My Left Foot."
Brenda Fricker was named best supporting actress for her role as Brown's mother in the film, which had also received nominations for best picture and best director after it was initially overlooked by audiences.
In a widely expected award, London-born stage and film veteran Jessica Tandy was named best actress for her portrayal of the cantankerous Jewish dowager in "Miss Daisy."
"I'm on Cloud 9!" the actress said as she picked up her statuette--and became the academy's oldest best-actress winner at age 80.
Alfred Uhry, who won a 1987 Pulitzer Prize for the play on which "Miss Daisy" was based, won for best screenplay adaptation.
The film also won the makeup award, reflecting the difficulty of making up actors to reflect their changing ages in the story.
"Miss Daisy," initially turned down by the major studios, was made by Warner Bros. only after producers Richard and Lili Fini Zanuck slashed its budget and secured additional backing from British film financier Jake Eberts.
It nonetheless racked up nine Oscar nominations and, to date, $70 million at the U.S. box office, and bucked the conventional wisdom again by becoming one of the few films ever to win the best-picture Oscar without its director having been nominated.
"We're here for one very simple reason. Bruce Beresford is a brilliant director," Richard Zanuck said in accepting the best-picture Oscar.
Stone, who previously won Oscars for directing "Platoon," the best picture of 1986, and for writing "Midnight Express," had been widely favored to win this year's directing Oscar.
"My deepest thanks for your acknowledgement that Vietnam is not over, although some people say it is," Stone said of the war in which he fought and was decorated.
Denzel Washington was named best supporting actor for his portrayal of a maverick black soldier in the Civil War drama "Glory," distributed by Tri-Star Pictures.
"I want to pay homage to . . . the black soldiers who helped make this country free," Washington said in accepting. His was the only major prize for "Glory," but the film also took Oscars for best cinematography and best sound.
Monday's ceremony, produced by film and TV director Gil Cates, carried an international theme that was supposed to reflect the growing internationalization of the film business and the way new communications technologies have helped break down cultural barriers. Several Oscar presenters announced prizes by satellite hookups from London, Moscow, Sydney, and Buenos Aires.
"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 show 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 over a billion viewers in about 90 countries.
Hollywood studios such as Warner Bros. and Paramount Pictures say they currently get nearly half their film revenue abroad, with some films, such as Paramount's "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" pulling in substantially more from foreign markets than in the United States.
The show, broadcast on the ABC television network and hosted by actor-comedian Billy Crystal, was slow-paced, and lasted 3 hours and 35 minutes after opening shortly after 6 p.m. The show had moved back to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion of the Music Center, where it was held previously, amid grumbling about congestion at the much larger and older Shrine Auditorium.
Yet it is expected to return to the older venue again next year.
In his opening monologue, Crystal took some satirical jabs at modern-day Hollywood, as he quipped about Jack Nicholson's huge salary, Japan-based Sony Corp.'s takeover of Columbia Pictures, and Paramount's much-publicized fight with Art Buchwald over the profits from its hit, "Coming to America."
Of 330 films in an opening montage, Crystal joked, "not one has yet gone into profit" according to Paramount.
Yet the relatively subdued 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.
The earlier show included a song and dance by 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.
Monday's ceremony included a special tribute to Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa, who has inspired such American directors as George Lucas, Steven Spielberg and Lawrence Kasdan with dramas such as "Yojimbo," "The Seven Samurai" and "Ran." Many of those films in turn drew inspiration from non-Japanese sources that ranged from Shakespeare to American westerns.
Kurosawa's "Rashomon" and "Dersu Uzala" won Oscars for best foreign language film, but the 80-year-old filmmaker has never been honored as best director.
"I really don't feel that I have yet grasped the essence of cinema," Kurosawa said in accepting a lifetime achievement award from Lucas and Spielberg. "I promise you from now on, I will work as hard as I can at making movies. Maybe by following this path, I will achieve an understanding of the true essence of cinema, and earn this."
"Cinema Paradiso," director Giuseppe Tornatore's tribute to the movie culture of the 1940s and 1950s, captured the award for best foreign language film for Italy.
"Henry V," a Shakespearean adaptation that won best-actor and best-director nominations for 29-year-old Kenneth Branagh, won an Oscar only for best costume design.
Warner Bros.'s "Batman," the year's biggest box-office success, was nominated only once, but took the prize for best art direction by Anton Furst.
"Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade," which was directed by Spielberg and became Paramount's biggest hit last year, also won a single Oscar, for sound effects.
"Dead Poets Society"--nominated for best picture, best actor, and best director--received only a single award for Tom Schulman's screenplay.
"The Little Mermaid," Walt Disney Co.'s animated entry, won best song and original score prizes for composer Alan Menken and lyricist Howard Ashman.
"The Abyss," an underwater epic that proved to be a box-office disappointment for 20th Century Fox, received an Oscar for visual effects.
This year's Oscar nominations were laced with surprises, as academy members overlooked some critical and box-office favorites to honor films that escaped wide notice before the balloting.
Among the critical favorites overlooked in this year's nominations were actor-director Spike Lee's "Do the Right Thing," which received nominations only for best supporting actor and best screenplay, and "Glory," which was bypassed for best picture, director, and screenplay.
Actress Kim Basinger gently chided the academy for all but ignoring Lee's picture, which had been critically acclaimed for its tough look at race relations in New York City.
"It might tell the greatest truth of all," Basinger said during her appearance on the telecast, asserting that "Do the Right Thing" should have been among the best picture nominees.
Howard Koch Sr., a longtime film producer and director who was once Paramount's top movie executive, was awarded the academy's Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award.
Producer Charles Guggenheim's "The Johnstown Flood" was named best documentary short, while Robert Epstein's and Bill Couturie's "Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt," about the AIDS epidemic, won for best documentary feature.
The documentary nominees did not include Michael Moore's popular anti-General Motors satire, "Roger and Me"--an exclusion that has prompted proposals that the academy change its documentary-nominating procedures for next year.
James Hendrie's "Work Experience" was the best live-action short film, and Christoph and Wolfgang Lauenstein's "Balance" won the Oscar for best animated short.
RELATED STORIES, PICTURES: F1, F2, F3