HOLLYWOOD -- This year's Oscar race promises to be the weirdest in recent Academy Award memory thanks to the exclusion of some deserving candidates and the inclusion of others.
The greatest oversight was that of director Steven Spielberg, who produced and directed 'The Color Purple,' which accumulated 11 nominations earlier this month.
It came as a shock to most in Hollywood that Spielberg, who has directed some of the screen's all-time box-office winners, was not among the nominees. In past years he was nominated for 'Raiders of the Lost Ark,' 'E.T.' and 'Close Encounters of the Third Kind.'
He has never won an Oscar.
Spielberg had nothing to say about his omission. He was in Hawaii on vacation when the nominations were announced. But he must be wondering about his popularity in the film community.
Everyone agrees movies are a collaborative art form. But if one person can be held responsible for the success -- or failure -- of a movie it is almost certainly the director.
'The Color Purple,' more than most films, reflects its director's intellect and passions. It was nominated for best picture but the academy ignored Spielberg as if he were nothing more than a spectator.
Warner Bros., which released 'The Color Purple,' fired off a corporate announcement lamenting the academy's slight:
'Warner Bros. wishes to express its sincere appreciation to the members of the motion picture academy for according 'The Color Purple' the total of 11 nominations and also congratulates all of the picture's wonderfully talented Oscar nominees. At the same time, the company is shocked and dismayed that the movie's primary creative force, Steven Spielberg, was not recognized.'
Then there's the case of the nomination of Japan's master filmmaker Akiro Kurosawa for best director for 'Ran.' He was nominated but his picture was ignored for best picture and best foreign language film.
Academy rules eliminate foreign language films for competing for best picture, so the 4,200 academy members are off the hook for overlooking 'Ran' in that category.
But why was it not nominated for best foreign language film?
A spokesman for 'Ran' said, 'Well, it was a combined Japanese and French project. I guess the French contingent thought the Japanese would put it up for nomination and vice versa. It's a shame it wasn't nominated.'
Kurosawa, however, has two Oscars for best foreign language film, 'Rashomon' in 1951, and 'Dersu Uzala' in 1975.
Like Spielberg, Kurosawa, 75, seems to be a prophet without honor at home. He has not exactly endeared himself to his Japanese peers who have dubbed him 'The Emperor.' His admirers call him 'Sensei,' an affectionate appellation for teacher or master.
A spokesman for the Directors Guild of America, which did nominate Spielberg for its awards this year and also nominated Ron Howard for 'Cocoon,' said, 'We nominated Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn while the academy nominated two foreign guys -- Kurosawa and (Hector) Babenco (who won a nomination for 'Kiss of the Spider Woman').'
Spielberg could still win the Guild award March 8, becoming only the third director in history to win the DGA award and still fail to capture the Oscar. The others were Francis Coppola in 1972 for 'The Godfather,' when Bob Fosse won the Oscar for 'Cabaret,' and Anthony Harvey in 1968 who won the DGA award for 'The Lion In Winter' the same year Carol Reed won the Oscar for 'Oliver.'
Gilbert Cates, president of the Directors Guild, said, 'I find it amazing that anyone can be nominated for best director and not have his picture nominated, and the corollary is just as astonishing. How can you separate the quality of the film from the work of the director?
'It's happened before. Everyone is entitled to vote the way they feel. But I am truly surprised.'
Another off-beat nomination is that of 'The Color Purple' for best original score. Starting at the top with Quincy Jones there are a total of 12 nominees. If Jones and company win the Oscar, they will break the all-time award record in a single category, 10 individuals for art direction in 'Cleopatra' back in 1963.
Another oddity too is Whoopi Goldberg, a one-time stand-up comedian, who is in the running for best actress in her movie debut as a performer.
Goldberg, of course, had never been nominated before and finds herself in the running against a formidable bunch of veteran Oscar campaigners with an intimidating aggregate of 23 nominations to their credit.
Geraldine Page has been nominated a whopping eight times but has never won an Oscar.
Anne Bancroft has had five nominations and won the Oscar in 1962 for 'The Miracle Worker.'
Jessica Lange has been nominated four times, winning best supporting actress for 'Tootsie' in 1982.
Meryl Streep, a two-time winner -- for best actress in 'Sophie's Choice' in 1982 and best supporting actress in 'Kramer vs. Kramer' in 1979 -- has six nominations.
Whoopi will be able to shout 'Whoopee!' indeed if she can overcome her heavyweight competition.
Page is liable to win the sympathy vote of academy members, having been nominated eight times since 1953 but always coming away empty-handed. She is ahead of such other oft-nominated losers as Peter O'Toole and the late Richard Burton who were nominated seven times without winning.
Others in the also-ran hall of fame with six nominations but no Oscars are Paul Newman, Deborah Kerr and Thelma Ritter.
But Page isn't uptight about winning this year. She said being nominated is almost as much fun as getting the Oscar, adding, 'You don't have the horrible responsibility to make a big speech.'
The best actor category suffers from the blahs this year.
Jack Nicholson has become, justifiably, a perennial nominee with eight nominations. He's won two Oscars -- for best actor in 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest' and best supporting actor in 'Terms of Endearment.'
He belongs to a special Oscar club, a handful of performers who have won awards in both acting categories. The others are Jack Lemmon, Robert DeNiro, Helen Hayes, Meryl Streep, Maggie Smith and Ingrid Bergman.
Jon Voight, who won the Golden Globe last week for his heroics in 'Runaway Train,' is a former winner with an outside chance.
There are three newcomers in the best actor race.
Harrison Ford, who gained fame in the 'Star Wars' trilogy and as 'Indiana Jones,' was nominated for his cop role in 'Witness.' James Garner (surprise!) was nominated for his amorous druggist role in 'Murphy's Romance.' The brooding William Hurt won his nomination playing a homosexual in 'Kiss of the Spider Woman.'
The supporting categories offer mostly new faces with a few oldtimers thrown in. All 10 nominees are in the race for the first time.
Most interesting of the nominated supporting players is Anjelica Huston, who played the scheming daughter in 'Prizzi's Honor.'
It is possible she will become part of a father-daughter combination if she wins the Oscar and John Huston wins the award for best director, again for 'Prizzi's Honor.'
An Anjelica victory would make her the second person ever to win an Oscar for a role in a film directed by a family member. The first time involved her father, who directed his father, Walter Huston, to a supporting role Oscar in 'The Treasure of the Sierra Madre' back in 1948.
A nostalgic touch was provided by the inclusion of Don Ameche, a romantic leading man in almost 50 movies in the '30s and '40s, who was nominated for his comic oldster role in 'Cocoon.'
Said Ameche of his nomination, 'I really wasn't expecting it, but in the past few weeks I've eaten a great deal and gained 12 pounds. Maybe I was subconsciously preparing for all this.'
His opposite number must be Oprah Winfrey who made her acting debut in 'The Color Purple' and was nominated in her very first film.
A minor surprise? Sally Field, last year's winner for 'Places in the Heart,' wasn't nominated this year.