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PAN'S LABYRINTH Named Best Picture By National Society of Film Critics

Monday, January 8-----The National Society of Film Critics (NSFC), one of the most prestigious film critics organizations in North America, has chosen the Spanish-language film PAN’S LABYRINTH as the Best Picture of the Year. The choice of a non-English language film harkens back to the heyday of foreign films in the 1960s and 1970s, when the films of Truffaut, Fellini, Bergman and Kurosawa were given the Society’s highest accolade. In fact, all top three vote-getters in the Best Picture category were “foreign” films, with Romanian drama THE DEATH OF MR. LAZURESCU and Clint Eastwood’s Japanese-language LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA taking second and third place honors.

The NSFC is made up of 57 film critics which includes top critics from newspapers in New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Boston, Philadelphia, and Chicago, as well as such national publications as Time, Newsweek, The New Yorker, and New York Magazine. The Society represents movie criticism in the United States by supplying the official critic delegate to the The National Film Preservation Board (NFPB) and abroad as the official American representative of the FIPRESCI, the international federation of members of film press. The current Chairman is David Sterritt of the Christian Science Monitor.

The Society joined with their peers in the choice of Dame Helen Mirren as Best Actress for her stellar work in THE QUEEN, and Forest Whitaker for his lacerating portrayal of Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND. The vote for Best Actor had to go through nine rounds of voting, with veteran actor Peter O’Toole tying Whitaker on the first eight ballots, for his performance as an aged cad in the film VENUS.

UK director Paul Greengrass was named Best Director for his work on the 9-11 drama UNITED 93, winning out over his most immediate competitors: Martin Scorsese for THE DEPARTED and Guillermo del Toro for PAN’S LABYRINTH .

Mark Wahlberg snagged top honors as Best Supporting Actor for his role as a hot-headed police detective in THE DEPARTED, besting Jackie Earle Haley, for his sensitive performance of a pedophile in LITTLE CHILDREN, and Alan Arkin, as the anarchic, foul-mouthed grandfather in LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE.

Meryl Streep was a surprise choice as Best Supporting Actress for two very different roles this year: the boss from hell in THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA and a scatterbrained singer in Robert Altman’s final film, A PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION. In second and third place were Jennifer Hudson, the breakout star from DREAMGIRLS, and Shareeka Epps, a newcomer whose sensitive portrayal of a young black student who helps her drug-addicted teacher in the indie sleeper HALF NELSON, has been widely praised.

In other categories, Peter Morgan won the Best Screenplay award for his behind-the-scenes look at tensions in the royal family in THE QUEEN; Emmanuel Lubezki won Best Cinematography honors for his expressive work in the futuristic drama CHILDREN OF MEN; and the cautionary tale of the effects of global warming, AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH, was hailed as the year’s Best Documentary (with DELIVER US FROM EVIL and SHUT UP AND SING a close second and third).

The Society decided to award several special prizes this year. David Lynch was acknowledged for his digital video marathon film INLAND EMPIRE as Best Experimental Film.

Two Film Heritage Awards were announced: the first to distributor Rialto Pictures for resurrecting the unseen ARMY OF SHADOWS, a Jean-Pierre Melville drama originally produced in 1969; and the second to New York’s Museum of the Moving Image, for the first complete US retrospective of the oeuvre of French filmmaker Jacques Rivette.

The National Society of Film Critics Awards will be given out at a ceremony in New York City in late January. The Society dedicated this year’s awards to the memory of Robert Altman, who passed away in November.

Sandy Mandelberger
Awards Watch Editor


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