HOLLYWOOD -- The entertainment industry's guilds and critics have been scurrying around the last several weeks distributing their annual awards to steal some of the thunder from the only trophy that means anything, Oscar.
Only an Academy Award can translate into millions of additional box-office dollars.
Once the Oscars are announced, as they will be March 26 from the Los Angeles Music Center with a TV audience estimated at 1 billion, other awards become immediately redundant.
Thus we are hearing the results of polls from the Producers Guild of America, the Directors Guild of America, the Writers Guild and such others as the New York and Los Angeles film critic groups.
The most interesting, for several reasons, to date is the vote of the membership of the directors guild.
First and foremost is the directors' neglect in nominating Bruce Beresford, one of their members, for his direction of 'Driving Miss Daisy,' which is the front-runner for the Academy Award for best picture of the year.
But then the film academy itself also failed to nominate Beresford.
The directors guild early this month gave its top award to Oliver Stone for 'Born on the Fourth of July.' He won the same award in 1986 for 'Platoon.'
Both Stone's winners dealt with the Vietnam War, in which Stone served in combat.
In addition to overlooking Beresford, the directors also ignored Jim Sheridan, an Irishman and not a member of the guild, who made his directorial debut with 'My Left Foot' and who was nominated by the academy.
Another Irishman, young Kenneth Branagh, was nominated for an Oscar for 'Henry V,' but was passed over by the Directors Guild of America.
Beresford is an Australian, as is Peter Weir who was nominated by the guild for his direction of 'Dead Poets Society.' Weir lost out to Stone.
One can only guess that Stone's closest competitor for the DGA award this year was Phil Alden Robinson, who was nominated for his marvelous 'Field of Dreams.'
Woody Allen, a winner in 1977 for 'Annie Hall,' failed to gather enough votes this year for 'Crimes and Misdemeanors.'
The other loser was the talented Rob Reiner for 'When Harry Met Sally.'
Without question, Stone's victory among his own kind gives him an edge in the Oscar race.
He faces a different field on Oscar night. In addition to Allen and Weir, he is up against Branagh and Sheridan, neither of whom really stands much of a chance.
This time his toughest competition, Robinson, is not in the field. Nor is Reiner.
Give the Oscar to Stone.
Curiously, Stone's picture, 'Born on the Fouth of July,' is more than likely to lose to 'Driving Miss Daisy,' for which Beresford was not nominated for best director.
Should 'Driving Miss Daisy' win best picture and Stone best director, it would be one of the rare times that an Oscar was won by a picture whose director was overlooked.
The last time that happend was in 1981 when 'Chariots of Fire' won for best picture, but its director, Hugh Hudson, did not win. Warren Beatty collected the statuette for 'Reds' that year.
But should Stone not win the Oscar, it would be only the fourth time a DGA winner did not also collect the Academy Award.
In 1986 Steven Spielberg won the DGA prize for 'The Color Purple.' He was not even nominated for the Oscar, which was won by Sydney Pollack for 'Out of Africa.'
Anthony Harvey won the DGA trophy in 1968 for 'The Lion in Winter' but blew the Oscar to Carol Reed for 'Oliver.'
In 1972 Francis Ford Coppola copped the DGA honors for 'The Godfather' while Bob Fossie went home with the Oscar for 'Cabaret.'
At the DGA last Saturday night, Stone accepted his award, thanking his fellow directors and giving due credit to his assistants and producers.
He said, 'How sweet it is -- and how fleeting.'
Stone is now the odds-on favorite to win the Oscar later this month.
adv thurs march 15 or thereafter