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San Francisco Film Critics Go Their Own Way

Wednesday, December 13---The San Francisco Film Critics Circle has named the emotional domestic drama LITTLE CHILDREN as its Best Picture of the Year. The group, which includes twenty-three film critics from around the Bay Area, will present their awards next month at a special evening ceremony.

This is the first win for LITTLE CHILDREN among film critics associations, and portends well for some key Golden Globe and Oscar nominations for the film, its director Todd Field, and its stellar cast, led by Kate Winslet, Patrick Wilson and this year's "comeback kid" Jackie Earle Haley.

Haley, a child star who has been out of the business for more than 15 years, also won the Best Supporting Actor prize for his wrenching portrayal of a pedophile, locked in the grip of his addiction.

The Critics Circle named Paul Greengrass as Best Director for his superlative work on the 9-11 docudrama UNITED 93. This win, along with previous ones announced earlier this week, makes Greengrass a strong contender (along with veteran Martin Scorsese) for Golden Globe, Oscar and Directors Guild of America honors.

The San Francisco critics joined with their California bretheren in Los Angeles in choosing Sacha Baron Cohen as Best Actor for his incarnation of the Kazakhstani investigative journalist BORAT. It is very rare that comedic performances are thus recognized, but the critics were impressed by Cohen's uproarious portrayal as an impulsive reporter crossing the U.S. in search of the pulse of mainstream America.

Dame Helen Mirren continued to gather more accolades for her spot-on turn as the stoic Queen Elizabeth II in THE QUEEN. Her performance as the stiff upper lip royal has been the one constant in all the film critics associations announced so far, making her seemingly unbeatable for Golden Globe and Oscar honors. I hope she has room on her mantle for all the awards that will be coming her way in 2007 (not to mention honors that she will undoubtedly receive for her blistering television performance as the boozy police investigator in PRIME SUSPECT).

A surprise choice as Best Supporting Actress was Mexican actress Adriana Barraza, for her role as a nanny who sneaks her charges across the US-Mexican border in the multiple-tale epic BABEL. The actress shared honors with her BABEL cast members Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Gael García Bernal, Kôji Yakusho and Rinko Kikuchi as Best Ensemble Cast at last month's Gotham Awards.

Another original choice was the award for Best Original Screenplay, given to Rian Johnson for his neo-noir inflected screenplay BRICK (a modest but pungent indie hit). Todd Field and Tom Perrotta won the award for Best Adapted Screenplay for the adaptation of Perrotta's prickly novel LITTLE CHILDREN.

AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH, a sobering film on the effects of global warming that has turned Presidential candidate Al Gore into a media star, won the Critics Circle's award as Best Documentary. The film, which has become the third highest grossing documentary in history, was directed by Davis Guggenheim.

The surrealistic fantasy PAN'S LABYRINTH was also honored as Best Foreign Language film, a definite career boost for its highly praised director Guillermo del Toro. A Special Citation was given to the Romanian tragicomedy THE DEATH OF MR. LAZARESCU, a heartbreaking tale of biological betrayal and healthcare system indifference.

The group's Marlon Riggs Award, honoring a Bay Area filmmaker or individual who represents courage and innovation in the world of cinema, was awarded to Stephen Salmons, co-founder and artistic director of the San Francisco Silent Film Festival, for recognizing a neglected audience for silent movies and creating what is now, in its 11th year, the nation's largest annual silent-cinema showcase.

Sandy Mandelberger
Awards Watch Editor


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