Spotlight catches short, foreign pix

With the 66th presentation of the Academy Awards about to unfold, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences feted nominated filmmakers from the short film and foreign-language categories at two events Friday and Saturday.

Friday’s gathering at the Acad’s Samuel Goldwyn theater was billed as a “Celebration of Short Films: Past, Present & Future,” but the emphasis was on this year’s nominees. And the mood this year was considerably more upbeat than in ’93, when the Short Films branch was faced with elimination from Oscar eligibility.

Director Taylor Hackford told the crowd that the theatrical release of “Oscar Shorts ’93” has been a success and that Strand Releasing, which is distributing the shorts package, had made a commitment to release a package of nominated shorts every year.

A highlight of the event was an appearance by animation master Chuck Jones, who revealed that some of the Warner Bros. cartoons had racy scenes in them similar to those discovered in “Who Framed Roger Rabbit.””We did that long before they did,” he said. “I never did it, but some who worked for me did.”

The Academy went from the short film to the foreign-lingo film Saturday morning as the organization held its 11th annual Foreign Language Film Directors’ Symposium, also at the Goldwyn.

On hand were all five directors of the foreign-language Oscar nominees — Hong Kong’s Chen Kaige, with his “Farewell My Concubine”; Spain’s Fernando Trueba, “Belle Epoque”; Taiwan’s Ang Lee, “The Wedding Banquet”; the United Kingdom’s Paul Turner, with Welsh-language pic “Hedd Wyn”; and Vietnam’s Tran Anh Hung, “The Scent of Green Papaya.”

The Academy’s Fay Kanin said, “When we first started this, there were about 60 people. We’ve graduated into a 1,000-seat theater, which says something about the popularity of foreign films.”

The symposium’s moderator, director George Schaefer, called 1993 a “disappointing year” for the category. “This year, in addition to these five that were nominated, there were another half-dozen that were quite good,” he said.

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