Elite Oscars?

AMONG us, we've seen most of the main Academy Award films. And while we take no exception to, say, Geraldine Page's trophy as best actress for ``The Trip to Bountiful,'' or Don Ameche's best supporting-actor award for ``Cocoon'' -- indeed, we applaud them -- we sense again this year a divergence of tastes in films that is perplexing. By and large, the academy chooses from among film buffs' films. The academy is generally cautious: Protests of the portrayal of black males in ``The Color Purple,'' for instance, seem the most likely reason none of the film's 11 nominations led to an Oscar. It is also curious that director Steven Spielberg did not receive a nomination for that same film, despite the 11 other nominations.

Still, the most curious omission of all is that the most popular films at the box office now tend to be overlooked on awards night. One may quibble about their artistic merits, but last year's big box-office draws -- such as ``Back to the Future'' -- were overlooked. After all, the box office reflects balloting of a very significant kind.

At one time, films that were big box-office draws such as ``The Sound of Music'' and ``Ben Hur,'' not to mention ``Gone With the Wind,'' were also fussed over on academy night.

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