We take a look at the upcoming Academy Awards

By Pat H. Broeske
December 24, 1993 at 05:00 AM EST

Too early to talk Oscar? Not this year. The fight for the 1994 Academy Awards began in earnest last September when the Samuel Goldwyn Company launched its campaign touting the Oscar potential of Kenneth Branagh’s Much Ado About Nothing. Since then the battle has escalated and now looms as one of the fiercest in years for the Best Actor, Director, and Picture prizes. Among the more interesting salvos:

Bill Murray, Best Actor? Last week the race kicked into high gear when Columbia sent a lavish stocking stuffer — a nine-tape collection of the studio’s 1993 movies, packaged in a small wooden box — to the 4,906 members of the Academy. Although video is an essential part of any Oscar campaign, Columbia’s gift was rare because the studio promoted its true Oscar contenders (including The Age of Innocence and The Remains of the Day) along with its more commercial fare (such as Malice and In the Line of Fire). “I mean, they even included Groundhog Day,” says one marketing executive.

Double Your Pleasure: Meanwhile, Daniel Day-Lewis’ work is being hyped as Best Actor material by both Columbia (The Age of Innocence) and Universal (In the Name of the Father). Ditto Anthony Hopkins by Savoy Pictures (Shadowlands) and Columbia (The Remains of the Day). In the Supporting Actor category, Paramount and Columbia are both promoting Gene Hackman, for his roles in The Firm and Geronimo: An American Legend, respectively.

The Cliffhanger: As Columbia cuts to the videotape, Universal is saying that the most talked-about film of Oscar season, Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List, will not be distributed on cassette to be enjoyed in the comfort of Academy members’ living rooms. “We feel it would be inappropriate,” says a Universal spokesman. Adds another studio exec, “That movie shouldn’t be watched in between phone calls and trips to the bathroom and the refrigerator.” Whether or not this will affect Spielberg’s chance to finally win a Best Director award is unclear. However, he’s already been snubbed by the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, which gave Schindler its Best Picture award but bestowed Best Director honors on The Piano‘s Jane Campion. The bad news: Last year, the group foreshadowed Unforgiven‘s sweep. The good news: Two years ago, it hailed Oscar dud Bugsy.