The Hollywood Buzz on Oscar Snubs and Surprises

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Hollywood was buzzing Thursday over who got the short-shrift and the few surprises in this year's Oscar nominations.

Many studio executives were surprised that "The Fugitive" director Andy Davis, in particular, was snubbed and that "Short Cuts" director Robert Altman got the nod even though his film received no other honors.

While "The Fugitive" pulled off seven nominations including best picture, some wondered why the list overlooked Harrison Ford as best actor and Writers Guild nominees Jeb Stuart and David Twohy for best screenplay adaptation. Other writers most noticeably ignored were Amy Tan and Ron Bass for "The Joy Luck Club," another favorite with critics that was also nominated by the Writers Guild.

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Some Hollywood insiders were surprised that best actress nominee Stockard Channing in "Six Degrees of Separation" managed to bump Michelle Pfeiffer (usually an academy favorite) in Martin Scorsese's "Age of Innocence," a film notably rejected for the top nominees.

But they also see the double nods to Emma Thompson and Holly Hunter in the best actress and best supporting actress categories as clear indication of the dearth of good roles for women.

Unlike the number of strong male roles, the number of meaty women's parts fell short by comparison, noted entertainment attorney David Colden and various studio heads. "This industry has a vast number of superb actresses like Meryl Streep, Glenn Close, Sigourney Weaver, Cher and the list goes on," Colden says. "Where were roles for them this year? Where were the roles like 'Norma Rae'?"

Some in Hollywood were wondering why Jane Campion's "The Piano," a film that centers on a woman's love for music, didn't get a nod for best original musical score. Bob Werden, spokesman for the academy, explained that the picture's score didn't qualify "because the music's been played before."

Many observers were noting an unusual number of relative newcomers on the list: best supporting actress nominee Anna Paquin ("The Piano") and best supporting actor contenders Leonardo DiCaprio ("What's Eating Gilbert Grape") and Pete Postlethwaite ("In the Name of the Father"). Yet Werden said the list of new names is actually shorter than years past, although he didn't have specifics on which year held the longest list of relative unknowns.

Overall, most said they were thrilled to see what some called the academy's "taste factor" rise significantly in the members' selections. Many especially noted the best actor nomination to Tom Hanks as not just an issue of being "politically correct" but as an acknowledgment of the actor's risk in taking the role. Before "Philadelphia" opened, many wondered if mainstream audiences would accept Hanks as a lawyer dying of AIDS who challenges the system.

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Speaking of buzz, many Oscar reports erroneously said that Emma Thompson and Holly Hunter's nominations for best actress and best supporting actress mark the first time two actors have had double nominations in the same year.

In fact, way back in Oscar's infancy, five performers and one director received double nominations. It was 1930, the only year the academy allowed double nominations in the same category.

George Arliss won separate best actor nominations for "Disraeli" and "The Green Goddess." Maurice Chevalier was nominated for "The Love Parade" and "The Big Pond." Ronald Colman got his two nominations for "Bulldog Drummond" and "Condemned." The best actor award went to Arliss for "Disraeli."

On the best actress side, Greta Garbo nabbed nominations for "Anna Christie" and "Romance." Norma Shearer also received nominations for "The Divorcee" and "Their Own Desire." Shearer won for "The Divorcee."

And Clarence Brown won two best director nominations for "Anna Christie" and "Romance." Lewis Milestone won the award for directing that year's best picture winner, "All Quiet on the Western Front."

So to set the record straight: Thompson and Hunter's double-double is the first in differ e nt categories.

Times staff writer Susan King contributed to this report.

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