No one seemed more surprised than Kathy Bates Monday night when her name was read as winner of the Oscar for best actress. With the "smart money," as analysts were saying, on Anjelica Huston or Joanne Woodward, Bates seemed, at best, a dark horse.
Nonetheless, the veteran of two decades on the stage and in minor screen roles won a major victory for her first starring role as the demented fan in Rob Reiner's adaptation of Stephen King's "Misery."There were a couple of other upsets as well Monday evening, but for the most part the winners at the 63rd annual Academy Awards in Los Angeles were fairly predictable: Jeremy Irons as best actor for his portrayal of Claus von Bulow in "Reversal of Fortune," Kevin Costner as best director for "Dances With Wolves" and his film as best picture. Whoopi Goldberg won as best supporting actress for "Ghost," which had been widely predicted, and Joe Pesci was named best supporting actor for "GoodFellas."
"American Dream," which was the big winner at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City in January, winning three major awards there, walked off with the Oscar for best documentary feature.
Nominated for 12 Oscars, "Dances With Wolves" won in seven categories, including best adapted screenplay (by Michael Blake, from his own novel), musical score and cinematography. The only other multiple winners for the evening were "Dick Tracy," which won three technical awards, and "Ghost," with two major wins - Goldberg's and, for best original screenplay, Bruce Joel Rubin.
Rubin's win over such competition as Woody Allen for "Alice" and Barry Levinson for "Avalon" was perhaps an even greater surprise than Bates being named best actress.
Similarly, there were gasps when the award for best foreign-language film went to Swiss "Journey of Hope," instead of the more highly publicized "Cyrano de Bergerac," from France, or "Ju Dou," a Chinese film which has been censored by that country's government. ("Journey of Hope" is the only foreign-language nominee that has not yet been released in this country.)
The Oscarcast itself was the usual, rambling 31/2-hour television program, broadcast live all over the world, with Billy Crystal hosting for the second consecutive year.
Crystal is a funny guy and handled his duties well, though many of his jokes were probably a bit too inside for the average moviegoer or TV-watcher who might not have understood references to Orion Pictures' money troubles or the scandalous tell-all book by Julia Phillips. He would have benefited also from dropping all the little asides about his own jokes.
Last year the dull production numbers were excised but they were back in force this year, with Jasmine Guy and friends dancing to Debbie Allen's choreography. For the opening number in particular, Guy's steps were overshadowed by clips from old movies in the background.
Periodic ancient clips used to celebrate the 100th anniversary of film were a much better demonstration of what movies are about and the repeated use of clips throughout the show proved that, used imaginatively, they are much more entertaining than musical numbers.
The evening's real showstopper, however, was a short film by Chuck Workman, for which he asked major stars to relate memories of their first movie experience. It was sharply edited with bright film clips and equally peppered with representatives of both old and new Hollywood - from Katharine Hepburn and James Stewart to Whoopi Goldberg and Tom Cruise.
The production numbers for each of the nominated songs provided the evening's most eclectic entertainment - from country-western singer Reba McEntire to hard rocker Jon Bon Jovi to crooner Harry Connick Jr. to Madonna.
Madonna, sporting her Marilyn Monroe look, postured broadly as she sang "Sooner or Later," the "Dick Tracy" song by Broadway songwriter Stephen Sondheim, which went on to win. Closeups showed Madonna's hands to be shaking but the performance was slick and impressive. (She later took her place in the audience next to Michael Jackson for the evening, which seemed fitting somehow.)
Of the winners, Sondheim was the only no-show whose award had to be "accepted on his behalf by the Academy."
For the most part the stars' wardrobes were fairly conservative - Cher didn't show up. But Jodie Foster gets the kitsch award for her plunging neckline - which was more plunging than neckline.
As for the men, there seemed to be a preponderance of the three-day-growth look as an unshaven Dustin Hoffman, Alec Baldwin and others presented awards.
There was also the feeling that some stars - primarily Robert De Niro and Anthony Hopkins - should eschew vanity and wear glasses so they wouldn't have to squint while reading their lines.
The evening's tacky award, however, goes to Kim Basinger, for a tasteless joke - whether written or spontaneous - that didn't get a single laugh, which she followed with a scowl for the rest of her time on stage. (Didn't she do that last year, after a tirade about "Do the Right Thing" being overlooked in major award categories?)
Class and taste were, as is often the case, represented primarily by the old guard, especially a tearful acceptance for a special Oscar by Sophia Loren, and Myrna Loy's brief thank you for her special Oscar - both preceded by a bevy of terrific clips featuring the stars.
But there were moments when the younger crowd demonstrated that some among them can carry on with elegance and style - as with the sincere acceptance remarks by award winners Goldberg, Bates and Costner.
And Pesci deserves some kind of additional award for the evening's shortest speech - perhaps the shortest acceptance speech in Oscar history. He came to the podium and said, simply, "It was my privilege. Thank you."
Here's a list of who took an Oscar home
PICTURE: "Dances With Wolves," Kevin Costner and Jim Wilson, producers.
ACTOR: Jeremy Irons, "Reversal of Fortune."
ACTRESS: Kathy Bates, "Misery."
SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Whoopi Goldberg, "Ghost."
SUPPORTING ACTOR: Joe Pesci, "GoodFellas."
DIRECTOR: Kevin Costner, "Dances With Wolves."
ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: Bruce Joel Rubin, "Ghost."
ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: Michael Blake, "Dances With Wolves."
FOREIGN FILM: "Journey of Hope," Switzerland.
FILM EDITING: Neil Travis, "Dances With Wolves."
ART DIRECTION: Richard Sylbert (art direction), Rick Simpson (set decoration), "Dick Tracy."
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Dean Semler, "Dances With Wolves."
COSTUME DESIGN: Franca Squarciapino, "Cyrano de Bergerac."
DOCUMENTARY FEATURE: "American Dream," Barbara Kopple and Arthur Cohn, producers.
DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT: "Days of Waiting," Steven Okazaki, producer.
MAKEUP: John Caglione Jr. and Doug Drexler, "Dick Tracy."
MUSIC ORIGINAL SCORE: John Barry, "Dances With Wolves."
MUSIC ORIGINAL SONG: "Sooner or Later (I Always Get My Man)," music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, "Dick Tracy."
ANIMATED SHORT FILM: "Creature Comforts," Nick Park, producer.
LIVE ACTION SHORT FILM: "The Lunch Date," Adam Davison, producer.
SOUND: Russell Williams II, Jeffrey Perkins, Bill W. Benton and Greg Watkins, "Dances With Wolves."
SOUND EFFECTS EDITING: Cecelia Hall and George Watters II, "The Hunt for Red October."Awards announced in advance:
HONRARY OSCAR: Myrna Loy.
HONORARY OSCAR: Sophia Loren.
IRVING J. THALBERG AWARD: Producers Richard Zanuck and David Brown.
SPECIAL ACHIEVEMENT FOR SPECIAL EFFECTS: "Total Recall."
ACADEMY AWARD OF MERIT: Eastman Kodak Co., for a new film technology.
GORDON SAWYER TECHNICAL ACHIEVEMENT AWARD: Stefan Kudelski, for development of first self-contained movie sound recorder.