Academy Award voters sure are gracious. They hate to see a contender lose, especially more than once in a night, so multiple nominees often win at least one statuette.
Although writers and directors can have more than one nomination per category, actors can't, but many still manage to reap chances in the lead and supporting races in the same year. Not all successfully, alas. Poor Sigourney Weaver lost same-year bids for "Gorillas in the Mist" and "Working Girl" and Julianne Moore went home empty-handed despite dual noms for "Far from Heaven" and "The Hours."
However, all of these stars prevailed in one category despite losing in another (note: the winning film is cited first): Jamie Foxx ("Ray," "Collateral"), Jessica Lange ("Tootsie," "Frances"), Holly Hunter ("The Piano," "The Firm") and Al Pacino ("Scent of a Woman," "Glengarry Glen Ross").
Heck, Barry Fitzgerald was nominated in both the lead and supporting categories for the same role as a crusty geezer priest in "Going My Way." He won in supporting when it was clear that the lead race was going Bing Crosby's way. Nowadays one role can no longer compete in two races.
Emma Thompson, Billy Bob Thornton, and Matt Damon lost acting races the same years they won Oscars for screenplay writing.
Oscar voters' seldom-hailed hospitality is the reason I'm picking George Clooney to win best supporting actor for "Syriana." I figure it'll be his consolation prize for losing the director and screenplay categories (for "Good Night, and Good Luck"). Clooney can't win best director. Nobody's getting around "Brokeback's" Ang Lee and all academy members know that, just as they are keenly aware that the Oscar for original screenplay inevitably will go to "Crash." Not just because academy members love "Crash" and want to reward it someplace, but because they know it's overdue homage to "Million Dollar Baby" scribes Paul Haggis and Robert Moresco. Last year everybody won an Oscar for their "Baby" but them when that screenplay prize went to "Sideways." Now there's no other place to hail Clooney but in the supporting actor's slot.
Most stars who have been nommed for the same triple crown — writing, director and acting — have reaped at least one win. Orson Welles proved victorious for his "Citizen Kane" screenplay. Woody Allen won laurels for writing and directing "Annie Hall." Warren Beatty was honored for directing "Reds."
But, beware: Beatty lost triple bids the year of "Heaven Can Wait." But that had big comic turns and academy members, as we all know, have no sense of humor. That's one of the reasons Charlie Chaplin lost those same triple noms for "The Great Dictator." The other reason was that the academy was fiercely jealous of Chaplin's artistic freedom and popular and critical success, so much so that, back at the very first Oscars race, they threw out his trio of bids for "The Circus." Just out of meanness. Then they relented and tried to pay him off with an honorary award, but the Little Tramp got the last laugh. He refused to show up to accept it.
Photo: Orson Welles lost bids for best actor and director, but won an Oscar for writing "Citizen Kane."(RKO Pictures)