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Can anyone who lived through it forget such gruesome low points of last spring's Academy Awards broadcast as the joint appearance of Rob Lowe and Snow White and the "Talent of Tomorrow" segment?

There's one small sign that the Oscar people would like to try. Gilbert Cates, former head of the Directors Guild, has been invited to produce the 1990 Oscar show. The choice of the veteran director of movies ("I Never Sang for My Father"; "Oh God! Book II") and television ("Hootenanny," "Faerie Tale Theater") by new academy president Karl Malden was announced much earlier than usual, giving Cates a head start on preparation. Cates says that he wants to "take advantage of the benefit of time," and promises that he has very "definite ideas" about how to mount the show.It will be Cates' first Oscar production, and anything he tries will look good when measured against the 1989 broadcast, which can be blamed on Allan Carr.

Producer Carr took a lot of flak after the March 29 telecast, and the Disney Studio even threatened legal action over the infringement of its copyright on the Snow White character.

The 1990 Oscar show - set for Monday, March 26 - will originate from its old stomping grounds, the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. For the past two years, the Academy Awards have been dispensed at the Shrine Auditorium across the street from the University of Southern California campus in downtown Los Angeles. The reason for shifting from the Chandler Pavilion to the auditorium was the arena's more ample seating. However, traffic problems around the auditorium - the show airs in the middle of L.A.'s horrendous rush hour - proved a major headache.

-When Barry Levinson released "Good Morning, Vietnam" in 1987, he remarked that the Vietnam War was such a pivotal issue for Americans that he fully expected we would be making movies about it 40 and 50 years from now. It certainly seems that way.

Two of the major fall releases are Norman Jewison's "In Country," which is out this month, and Oliver Stone's "Born on the Fourth of July," in which the "Platoon" director and Vietnam vet takes up the story of Ron Kovic. Kovic went to war a hawkish young Marine and came back a dovish paraplegic. In the film, which is set for release in December, he is played by the versatile Tom Cruise.

Further down the line, look for:

- "Welcome Home," a bittersweet love story starring Kris Kristofferson as an Air Force MIA who comes home after 17 years only to discover that his wife has remarried.

- "Air America," a comedy starring Mel Gibson as a pilot flying for a CIA airline in Vietnam just as the war is ending.

- "Last Stand at Lang Mei," the true story of a platoon cut off behind enemy lines.

- And, finally (at least for the moment), "Vietnam, Texas," with Robert Ginty as a vet tormented by the memory of the Vietnamese wife and child he left behind.

-The word at Disney is that a sequel to "Mary Poppins," the studio's biggest hit of the '60s, is in the works.

-Jodie Foster will make her directing debut with "Little Man Tate," a film about a boy genius.

-Joan Micklin Silver's next project is "Sportsman of the Year," a comedy about a philandering sports doctor.

Not to be outdone in the medical department, screenwriter Pat Conroy has penned the script for "EX," a thriller about a surgeon who terrorizes his ex-wife and her lover.