Clint Eastwood Corrals Best-Picture Oscar Monday Night's Awards Show Highlighted Some Achievements, but Attempts to Showcase Women's Contributions Fizzled

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THE 65th Academy Awards will go down as the night Hollywood tried to honor women in film, gave a qualified handshake to smaller independent filmmakers, and finally made Clint Eastwood's day.

Of all three gestures, honors for Mr. Eastwood's dark repudiation of Western violence, "Unforgiven," were the most successful. Nominated as director, producer, and actor, Eastwood garnered two Academy awards (best director, best picture).

The film also won a film-editing Oscar as well as a best-supporting-actor award for Gene Hackman as the movie's sadistic sheriff.

"I tried to deglamorize violence and gunplay and a lot of {those} things that people have misgivings about today," Eastwood said backstage after the show. Calling the movie the culmination of everything he has learned in 39 years as an actor and director, Eastwood said the awards showed Hollywood's willingness to finally embrace the western as an art form.

"I've had films like `Outlaw Josey Wales' and `Bronco Billy' I thought were as good as `Unforgiven' in many ways," Eastwood said, clutching two gold-plated Oscars like dumbbells. "But there was something about {this film's} message that it's not so cool to carry guns and kill people that coincides with people's concerns today."

Onstage, the Oscars made several efforts to spotlight the contributions of women to film. Among them was a tribute to Audrey Hepburn (the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award), honoring the late Miss Hepburn's longstanding commitment to help famine- afflicted populations in Africa; a film tribute to costume designer Edith Head, a 35-time Oscar nominee for films stretching from the Marx Brothers to "The Sting"; and an Oscar to Elizabeth Taylor for her work spotlighting AIDS research.

But backstage, several comments made it evident that actresses would rather see such concern for women translated into richer and more diverse roles.

"There has just got to be more and better roles out there for women besides girlfriend and wife," said Marisa Tomei, who won the best-supporting-actress Oscar for her role as a feisty female automotive expert in "My Cousin Vinny." "Hopefully this Oscar in the year of the woman will {entice writers to write} more- complex female characters."

Emma Thompson, who won best actress for her role as an Edwardian-era wife in "Howard's End" also spoke about the dearth of well-rounded roles for women. …