Film named best picture, Costner gets best director


March 26, 1991|By Stephen Hunter | Stephen Hunter,Sun Film Critic

As expected, "Dances With Wolves," the majestic story of a cavalry officer's interaction with the Lakota Sioux in 1863, won the lion's share of awards at last night's 63rd annual Academy Awards with seven Oscars, including best picture and a best director award for first-time director Kevin Costner.

But Costner did not win best actor, for which he was also nominated; that went, instead, to the British actor Jeremy Irons, for his role as Claus Von Bulow in "Reversal of Fortune," Barbet Schroeder's icy yet amusing version of the alleged poisoning of the still comatose heiress Sonny Von Bulow, Claus' wife.

Costner, accepting the best picture award with his longtime friend and co-producer Jim Wilson, gave a somewhat defensive acceptance speech by addressing those "who would trivialize the Oscars" and saying, "I've got a flash for you: I will never forget what happened here, my family will never forget what happened here tonight, my Native American brothers and sisters will never forget, and people I went to school with will never forget. 'Dances With Wolves' will always be important for us."

Michael Blake won for best screenplay from another source for "Dances With Wolves," based on his novel of the same name. Blake's speech of thanks was translated into Lakota Sioux by Doris Leader Charge, who appeared in the film. Blake told the audience that "the moral of 'Dances With Wolves' is that it proves dreams can come true . . . don't give up, don't let anyone take your dream."

"Dances" also won best editing, best musical score, best cinematography and best sound.

Kathy Bates won best actress for her role as a deranged fan of a romance novelist in "Misery," directed by Rob Reiner from a novel by Stephen King.

Whoopi Goldberg won the best supporting actress Oscar for her role in the mega-smash summer hit "Ghost."

"I've wanted this; you don't know how I wanted this," said Ms. Goldberg in a heartfelt acceptance speech. The award marked something of a full circle for the actress, who starred in her first major film, Steven Spielberg's "The Color Purple," in 1985. But after that her vehicles declined in prestige and success as she went through a number of strict formula jobs such as "Burglar" and "Jumpin' Jack Flash" and even a weeper, "Clara's Heart."

But as the sassy quasi-spiritualist in "Ghost," Goldberg found a role with both energy and dignity and her rambunctious turn as the medium between a widow and her recently murdered husband was one of the high points of the film, the surprise box-office smash of the summer.

Goldberg was the second black woman to win an Oscar; Hattie McDaniel won one back in 1939 for "Gone With the Wind."

"Ghost" also picked up an Oscar when Bruce Joe Rubin won the best original screenplay award, beating out Baltimorean Barry Levinson's "Avalon."

The award for best supporting actor went to Joe Pesci for his role as a volatile psychopath named Tommy DeVito in Martin Scorsese's much honored Mafia film "GoodFellas." Pesci gave one of the shortest acceptance speeches in the history of the awards.

He said merely, "It's my privilege; thank you."

The little seen Swiss film "Journey of Hope" scored a mild upset in winning best foreign film over the more opulent French production "Cyrano de Bergerac." Perhaps star Gerard Depardieu's reported involvement in a rape -- which the star has since denied -- hurt "Cyrano" in Academy balloting.

The makeup crew for "Dick Tracy" won the Academy Award for best makeup. That film also won the Oscar for best art direction, a mild upset over "Dances With Wolves."

Adam Davidson's "The Lunch Date" won best live-action short Academy Award; the film, incidentally, will be screened at the 22nd annual Baltimore International Film Festival on opening night, April 4, as part of a director's choice selection of short subjects.

The best feature-length documentary also went to a film slated for the Film Festival, Barbara Koppel's "American Dream," an account of a strike at a meat packing plant in Austin, Minn. Ms. Koppel won a previous Oscar in this category, "Harlan County, U.S.A." The film will show at the festival April 5 at 7:30 p.m. Ms. Koppel is slated to appear.

"Cyrano de Bergerac," the expensive French mounting of the famous Edmond Rostond play, won the best costume award.

"Total Recall," the ultra-violent Arnold Schwarzenegger summer hit, won for special visual effects. The movie did an astonishing job in visualizing a future in which Mars has been colonized by a totalitarian mining combine and was undergoing a violent revolution. Unfortunately, two of the four acceptees were moved off stage before they could voice their thanks, though Rob Bittin did have a moment to give thanks to his mentor, the effects genius Rick Baker.

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