Oscar watch 1993: Best Picture -- ''A Few Good Men'' and ''Howard's End'' are among the contenders for the year's best film

By Gregg Kilday
January 15, 1993 at 05:00 AM EST

Oscar nominations won’t be announced until Feb. 17, but the race is heating up. In fact, there are already three sure shots in the Best Picture competition, leaving only two slots up for grabs. The remaining contenders all boast pros, but suffer from cons as well.

A FEW GOOD MEN A by-the-book demonstration of Hollywood professionalism. Undeniable star power (Tom Cruise, Jack Nicholson, Demi Moore) increases its allure exponentially. Mounting grosses ($77 million and climbing) and five Golden Globe nominations clinch the deal.

HOWARDS END Literary credentials, burnished antiques, and tony British accents boost this movie’s chances. Emma Thompson has already swept four major film critics’ awards for Best Actress, and costar Anthony Hopkins has just been knighted. Class will tell.

UNFORGIVEN Hailed as Best Picture by both the National Society of Film Critics and the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, and runner-up by the New York Film Critics Circle, this gives star-director Clint Eastwood the comeback of the year. An Oscar nomination would allow Hollywood to applaud both Clint and the Western, two underrated stand-bys that deserve respect and are suddenly profitable again.

THE CRYING GAME Giving new meaning to the word unpredictable, this romantic thriller has earned enthusiastic word of mouth and a surprise Globe nomination. But it has no big stars, low class, and Brit (and Irish) accents that are far from tony.

A RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT The industry loves director Robert Redford, and this literary adaptation is tastefully made. But the film could be too tasteful for its own good and has been eclipsed by several showier Christmas offerings.