At the Oscars, an Honest Man Wins

'Forrest Gump' clinches six awards; best actor Hanks credits film's appeal to its high standards

TO no one's surprise, 1995 is going down as the year ''Forrest'' had more gumption than ''Pulp.''

The enormously popular story of Forrest Gump, the lovable simpleton who stumbles through the racially segregated south, the Vietnam War, the AIDs crisis, and several American presidencies won six academy awards, including Best Picture, Best Director (Robert Zemeckis) and Best Actor (Tom Hanks).

In winning three of the top awards as well as those for visual effects, film editing, and adapted-screenplay, ''Gump'' elbowed aside ''Pulp Fiction,'' the alternately dark and funny tour de force directed by Quentin Tarantino, which won only for Best Original Screenplay.

''Everybody sees 'Forrest Gump,' and they get something different,'' said Hanks backstage after an emotional acceptance speech. ''I think audiences took to it because they see a man who does not lie, cannot lie, and I think we would all like to operate at that high level.''

After winning last year for playing a gay lawyer in ''Philadelphia,'' Hanks becomes the first actor to receive back-to-back Oscars since Spencer Tracy won for ''Captains Courageous'' in 1937 and ''Boys Town'' in 1938.

Screen veteran Dianne Wiest was honored Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal of an over-the-top Broadway diva in Woody Allen's 1920s comedy ''Bullets Over Broadway.'' Asked what went into creating her successful role, she replied, ''[Director Woody] Allen suggested it was something to do with my voice ... if I talked with my own voice it didn't work, if I lowered it, I could be as obnoxious as anyone.''

Martin Landau won Best Supporting Actor as horror-movie legend Bela Lugosi in a little-seen film, ''Ed Wood.''

''If [the role] were just that of a Hungarian over 70, with an accent and mood swings, it would've been hard enough,'' said Landau backstage. ''But it had to be Bela Lugosi on top of all that -- because of video cassettes he's probably more current in a strange way than in his heyday.''

Jessica Lange's performance as a manic-depressive Army wife in ''Blue Sky'' won her the Best Actress award, despite the film's delayed release of more than three years. Because of financial problems at Orion Pictures, the delayed debut also had little marketing behind it.

''This is such a wonderful award,'' Lange said, ''especially for a film that didn't seem to have much of a future.'' Comparing this year's award with an Oscar she won for best supporting actress in 1982's ''Tootsie,'' she added: ''I suppose this is more satisfying in some way. 'Tootsie' was wonderful, but it didn't demand as much of me as a part like this.''

In lifetime achievement awards, Italian Director Michelangelo Antonioni was honored for a career spanning five decades.

''Most movies celebrate the ways we connect with one another,'' said Jack Nicholson, who presented the award. ''Films by this master mourn the failures to connect.''

Consistently mentioned among the top Italian directors of the century with names like Federico Fellini and Bernardo Bertolucci, Antonioni is best-known for: ''Zabriskie Point,'' ''The Girl Friends,'' and ''Blow Up,'' which won him an Oscar nomination in 1966. His 1960s trilogy ''L'avventura,'' ''La Notte,'' and ''L'Eclisse,'' also drew worldwide attention.

In an industry first, the Academy also awarded Clint Eastwood the Irving Thalberg Memorial Award, which usually goes to people who have made their reputation primarily as producers or directors. After telling the television audience that filmmaking success ''is probably a little expertise and a little luck,'' Eastwood confided backstage to reporters: ''I have always been amazed that any of my films went together.''

Asked for his own personal favorites, he replied, '' 'Play Misty for Me' 26 years ago was pretty good because it had a low budget and limited time.'' He also praised actor Morgan Freeman as one of the best actors he's ever worked with, and fellow honoree Antonioni as a major influence. Walt Disney, Alfred Hitchcock, Stephen Spielberg, and George Lucas have won the Thalberg award winners in previous years.

In the competition for Best Documentary, the win by ''Maya Lin: A Strong Clear Vision'' was overshadowed by the controversy involving ''Hoop Dreams.'' The story of two inner-city youths and their quest for basketball stardom -- shot over a five-year period -- was not nominated in any category except film editing, despite its inclusion on more critics' top-ten lists than any film of the year.

The omission of ''Hoop Dreams'' as a nominee has caused the Academy to review its documentary nominating procedures.

Arthur Schmidt, who picked up a statuette for film editing of ''Gump,'' said director Zemeckis departed from his earlier quick-cut styles to give the film a different look and feel.

''This is the first movie I have shot with Bob [Zemeckis] that he asked me to put things back, make the shots longer ... it added to the emotional effect....''

Zemeckis praised the ''brilliant screenplay'' of Eric Roth: ''It was breathtaking, different, compelling, and full of emotion....''

Asked about the task of using special effects in scenes where Tom Hanks meets Presidents Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon, Zemeckis replied: ''It was very slow and time consuming... like watching paint dry. Such effects will become more and more sophisticat ed and commonplace just years hence, he says, until those used in ''Gump'' will look ''quaint.''

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