Monday, January 9, 2006

Oscars Central: Critics choose Brokeback Mountain best picture, best director

The 11th annual Critics' Choice Awards - voted on by the 200 members of the Broadcast Film Critics Association - are over, officially inaugurating the awards season and officially recognizing Brokeback Mountain as the film to beat this year. It was looking grim after losses in the best actor and best writing categories (Brokeback won only three of the seven awards for which it was eligible), but the critics came through: Brokeback ended up taking top honors in the two most important categories of Best Director and Best Film. Here's a synopsis:

Best Film: Brokeback Mountain
Best Director: Ang Lee, Brokeback Mountain
Best Actor: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Capote
Best Actress: Reese Witherspoon, Walk the Line
Best Supporting Actor: Paul Giamatti, Cinderella Man
Best Supporting Actress: Amy Adams, Junebug, and Michelle Williams, Brokeback Mountain (tie)
Best Comedy: The 40-Year-Old Virgin
Best Writer: Paul Haggis, Crash
Best Ensemble: Crash
Best Animated Feature: Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit
Best Documentary Feature: March of the Penguins
Best Foreign Language Feature: Kung-Fu Hustle

The Critics Choice for Best Film has also won the Best Picture Oscar five out of the last six years, so I'm hoping this win is a terrific indicator of things to come.

This is a tough year to pick, and the first awards of the year are extra hard. I knew it would be a tough choice in the acting categories, and other critics awards had split between Heath Ledger (for Brokeback) and the BFCA's winner, Hoffman. Don't get me wrong: I'm thrilled with Hoffman's win, and would have been ecstatic for Ledger, but I was kind of pulling for David Strathairn's brilliant performance in Good Night, and Good Luck. It's looking like these three actors are a lock for Oscar nominations, and that this might be the toughest race. I was a little surprised that Paul Haggis beat out Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana (Brokeback) and Noah Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale) in the writing category, but not at all surprised that Haggis' Crash won the best ensemble award.

To me the biggest surprises came from the Documentary and Foregin Language Feature categories. Going in, it looked like Warner Herzog's Grizzly Man was the fave in the documentary category; most critics are aghast that this film hasn't made the Oscars short-list, so it seemed like a natural that those same critics would give it top honors. Instead, the feel-good doc with legs, March of the Penguins, took home the crystal trophy. Expect to see more birds in tuxes at the Oscars. And Stephen Chow's comedy Kung-Fu Hustle won over the critically acclaimed Cache and 2046, both of which look like front-runners for a golden statuette in March.

Coming soon: A look at next Monday's Golden Globes

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