THE nominations for this year's Academy Awards prove once again that the 4,000 or so members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences have a rather low appreciation for the home-grown product, the big-budget, Hollywood-produced film. And once more, they seem to favor non-American actors and directors.
Two of the films nominated for best movie of the year were inexpensive features made in England, and one of the men nominated for best director is Irish. One of the women nominated for best actress is English; another is French.
Three of the women nominated for best supporting actress are English, one is Australian and one is American. So it goes, down the list, the American nominees finding themselves in hot competition with performers from other countries.
It's only fair, of course: The Academy Awards competition is supposed to be international. But low-budget foreign representation is particularly heavy this year, so much so that many members of the Hollywood community are said to be unexcited about the event, to be televised tonight at 9 on ABC.
The award for best actor could go to America's Al Pacino for his work as the blind military officer in "Scent of a Woman." Well, we can hope. We can't overlook the fact that Stephen Rea, an Irish actor, has been nominated for the same award for his work in the highly admired curiosity, "The Crying Game," a film done in Ireland and England by Neil Jordan.
We just can't count Mr. Rea out. In the last three years, the best actor award has gone to a non-American.
Today, it seems, an American actor has little chance to take this category, a situation that reached a new depth of silliness when Anthony Hopkins won the 1991 award for his portrayal of a serial killer in "Silence of the Lambs," a movie with no more social value than "Friday the 13th" in all its parts.
Best picture? Give that to Clint Eastwood's "Unforgiven," and if that doesn't take it, look for the award to go to "The Crying Game," the movie whose surprise ending was given away by the nominations (a revelation, however, that was not necessarily picked up by those who hadn't seen the film).
The same film's Jaye Davidson should win the best supporting actor award. This one is just too good to resist. It has everything going for it, beginning with novelty.
The best director award should go to Clint Eastwood for his "Unforgiven." He's already won that recognition from the Director's Guild, so it is almost a certainty that he will receive the same citation from the academy.
Marisa Tomei is the only American actress nominated for best supporting actress, and in a reverse demonstration of snobbery, she may win for that very reason.
Emma Thompson is said to be the likely winner for her work in "Howard's End," but some of the smart money is on Susan Sarandon, for her performance in "Lorenzo's Oil." True, Ms. Sarandon is American. This will work against her, but she did incredibly good work in the film, and she is the kind of actress other performers admire, partly for her outspokenness, mostly for her talent and durability.
Billy Crystal will act as host of the awards ceremonies again. Aside from a joke or two that might have been better unsaid, Mr. Crystal, without ridiculing the affair, added to the evening last year.
You may recall that Jack Palance, after winning his best supporting actor award, did a few push-ups to show he was still in good shape for a man of 71. Billy didn't let that pass. He mined this and the Palance personality for all they were worth.
On too many occasions, Oscar night has looked like a ceremony sponsored by the Foreign Academy of Arts and Sciences. It could go the same way tonight. Hollywood doesn't believe that strongly in itself.
Lou Cedrone is the retired Evening Sun theater and film critic.