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Who will win the Oscars this year?

Who knows?But since it's written somewhere that the film critic's job description includes making educated guesses just before the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences hands out the awards, here are my humble notions on the subject.

First off, Kevin Costner and "Dances with Wolves" will probably lead the pack - but how many Oscars the film will actually walk away with is anybody's guess. If it somehow makes a clean across-the-board sweep, winning in every one of the 12 categories in which it is nominated, "Dances" will break the record. "Ben-Hur" holds the current title with 11 wins.

There are several areas where Costner could be clobbered - from the best director Oscar, which many feel should go to Martin Scorsese, not only for "GoodFellas" but also because he has been passed over in the past; to best actor, which will likely go to either Jeremy Irons for "Reversal of Fortune" or Robert De Niro for "Awakenings."

After all, as has been noted many times in the past, the Oscars do not necessarily go to the most deserving candidate. They often go to the most popular candidate - or to the one that will make the 5,000 Academy voters look the smartest.

The biggest potential surprises, of course, are "Ghost" winning best picture and/or Julia Roberts winning best actress for "Pretty Woman."

But I wouldn't put any money on those.

My guess is that Costner's Western epic will win in most of the technical areas where it is nominated, as well as a couple of the major awards.

Here are my predictions for this year's top six Oscar categories:


Nominees: "Awakenings," "Dances With Wolves," "Ghost," "The Godfather, Part III" and "GoodFellas."

Probable winner: "Dances With Wolves."

Why: Because it's an intelligent piece of work, it's the kind of epic Academy voters seem to like, and Costner is very popular. Besides, maybe it really is the best picture of 1990.

Hedging bet: "GoodFellas" could win if a ground-swell develops for Scorsese, the undisputed darling of critics nationally, many of whom named "Raging Bull" as the best film of the '80s.


Nominees: Kathy Bates, "Misery"; Anjelica Huston, "The Grifters"; Julia Roberts, "Pretty Woman"; Meryl Streep, "Postcards from the Edge"; Joanne Woodward, "Mr. & Mrs. Bridge."

Probable winner: Joanne Woodward, "Mr. & Mrs. Bridge."

Why: She's popular, supremely talented, a member of the Old Guard and married to Paul Newman, who often - albeit unintentionally - overshadows her. Furthermore, Newman should have been nominated for the same film but wasn't; this would be a win for both of them. (Woodward won the best actress award previously in 1957, for "The Three Faces of Eve.")

Hedging bet: Anjelica Huston, who was awfully good in "The Grifters," is from a popular and respected Oscar-winning show-biz dynasty. (She won in the supporting category in 1985 for "Prizzi's Honor.")


Nominees: Kevin Costner, "Dances With Wolves"; Robert De Niro, "Awakenings"; Gerard Depardieu, "Cyrano de Bergerac"; Richard Harris, "The Field"; Jeremy Irons, "Reversal of Fortune."

Probable winner: Robert De Niro, "Awakenings."

Why: De Niro is a very talented actor who takes great risks - and they almost always pay off. He deserves it here but so does his absent co-star, Robin Williams. He will probably win for both.

Hedging bet: Jeremy Irons, brilliant in "Reversal of Fortune," was thought by many to have been robbed when he didn't even get a nomination in 1988 for his dual roles as dark twins in "Dead Ringers."


Nominees: Annette Bening, "The Grifters"; Lorraine Bracco, "GoodFellas"; Whoopi Goldberg, "Ghost"; Diane Ladd, "Wild at Heart"; Mary McDonnell, "Dances With Wolves."

Probable winner: Whoopi Goldberg, "Ghost."

Why: Her comic character gave that very popular film a much-needed boost, but mainly for two other reasons - because her talents are misunderstood by Hollywood and this would be a nice way to apologize for that and because she lost in 1985 for her brilliant performance in "The Color Purple." It's also worth noting that she should have been nominated as best actress for "The Long Walk Home," a film the Academy chose to ignore.

Hedging bet: Diane Ladd, who is a much-liked veteran and whose hysterics in "Wild at Heart" may be mistaken for great acting.


Nominees: Bruce Davison, "Longtime Companion"; Andy Garcia, "The Godfather, Part III"; Graham Greene, "Dances With Wolves"; Al Pacino, "Dick Tracy"; Joe Pesci, "GoodFellas."

Probable winner: Joe Pesci, "GoodFellas."

Why: Because no one - as good as the other nominees are - came close to matching Pesci's powerhouse performance as a weaselly gangster with a killer temper. If the voters really saw "GoodFellas," Pesci has it sewn up.

Hedging bet: Al Pacino, who was very funny as Big Boy Caprice, could get strong sentimental backing; he's had five previous Oscar nominations, he's made a strong comeback in the past couple of years (with "Sea of Love," "Dick Tracy" and "The Godfather, Part III") and he really should have been nominated as best actor this year for "Godfather III."


Nominees: Kevin Costner, "Dances With Wolves"; Francis Ford Coppola, "The Godfather, Part III"; Martin Scorsese, "GoodFellas"; Stephen Frears, "The Grifters"; Barbet Schroeder, "Reversal of Fortune."

Probable winner: Kevin Costner, "Dances With Wolves."

Why: Because it was an incredible first-time directing effort, because Costner is very popular and probably won't be in this category again very soon, and because he will not win this year as best actor.

Hedging bet: Martin Scorsese, who may not be all that dark a horse if the Academy decides to split from the best picture/best director hand-in-hand tradition - which it sometimes does. In fact, it happened last year with "Driving Miss Daisy" taking best picture while the best director Oscar went to Oliver Stone for "Born on the Fourth of July" - but in that case "Daisy" director Bruce Beresford was not nominated.

You can compare your own ballots with the real thing when the Oscars are broadcast live Monday, March 25, at 7 p.m. on ABC - that's KTVX, Ch. 4, locally.


(Additional information)

Hicks' predictions:

Best Picture: "Dances With Wolves"

Best Actress: Joanne Woodward, "Mr. & Mrs. Bridge"

Best Actor: Robert De Niro, "Awakenings"

Best Supporting Actress: Whoopi Goldberg, "Ghost"

Best Supporting Actor: Joe Pesci, "GoodFellas"

Best Director: Kevin Costner, "Dances With Wolves"