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AWARDS WATCH | New York Critics Pick “United 93” and “Letters from Iwo Jima” Top Choice in LA

AWARDS WATCH | New York Critics Pick "United 93" and "Letters from Iwo Jima" Top Choice in LA

Two notable critics groups named their top choices for 2006 in the last 24 hours, both considered harbingers in the Oscar race among awards watchers. Unlike last year, the two groups had separate choices for best film, with the New York Film Critics Circle naming “United 93” by Paul Greengrass as its choice for best picture, while the Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA) bestowed their top prize to Clint Eastwood‘s “Letters from Iwo Jima.” In the best director category, however, the L.A. critics cited Greengrass for best director (“United 93”) while New York gave the honor to Martin Scorsese for “The Departed.” Last year, both groups named “Brokeback Mountain” their picks for best picture and director Ang Lee as their choice for best director. The film later lost the Academy Award in the best film category to “Crash,” though Lee did win best director Oscar last year.

In the best actress category, both groups named Dame Helen Mirren their choice for her role as Queen Elizabeth II in “The Queen” by Stephen Frears. The Venice Film Festival Golden Lion-winner has been tipped to be an Oscar best picture nominee, and the LA Film Critics gave the feature its runner-up mention in the best film category. The New York critics do not name runners-up. Los Angeles also notably gave Penelope Cruz its runner-up for best actress for her role in Pedro Almodovar‘s “Volver,” which otherwise was mostly shut out by both groups. “The Queen” was also honored in the best screenplay category (Peter Morgan) by both organizations.

In New York, the best foreign-language film went to “Army of Shadows” by Jean-Pierre Melville (which LA gave a special citation), while Germany’s entry for best foreign-language Oscar consideration, “The Lives of Others” by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck received the best foreign-language nod by the LA critics (“Volver” was runner-up in the category in LA). Though made in 1969, “Army of Shadows” had its U.S. premiere this year.

In the best actor category, both LA and New York named Forest Whitaker as their choices for his role in “The Last King of Scotland,” though the LAFCA also chose “Borat“‘s Sacha Baron Cohen to share the slot with Whitaker.

Los Angeles gave “An Inconvenient Truth” by Davis Guggenheim its top pick in the documentary/non-fiction film slot (“Darwin’s Nightmare” runner-up) while the New York Critics Circle gave the honor to Amy Berg‘s “Deliver Us From Evil.” Both films received Gothams nominations recently, while “Truth” was named best doc by the National Board of Review.

In New York, the best first feature nod went to Ryan Fleck‘s “Half Nelson,” which won best film at last month’s Gotham Awards. LAFCA gave its “New Generation” nod to “Little Miss Sunshine“‘s co-directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris as well as scribe Michael Arndt–both “Nelson” and “Sunshine” are up for the best film category at January’s Film Independent Spirit Awards. Los Angeles also cited both Kelly Reichardt‘s “Old Joy” and So Young Kim‘s “In Between Days” in its “Independent/Experimental” category Sunday.

The New York critics will present their awards on Sunday, January 7th at the Supper Club in Manhattan, while the LA critics will award their prizes on Sunday, January 14 at the Park Hyatt Hotel in Los Angeles.

[The full list of both the New York Film Critics Circle and Los Angeles Film Critics Association follow.]

New York Film Critics Circle winners:

Best Film – United 93, directed by Paul Greengrass (Universal Pictures)

Best Director – Martin Scorsese, “The Departed” (Warner Bros. Pictures)

Best Screenplay – Peter Morgan, “The Queen,” directed by Stephen Frears(Miramax Films)

Best Actress – Helen Mirren “The Queen,” directed by Stephen Frears (Miramax Films)

Best Actor – Forest Whitaker “The Last King of Scotland,” directed by Kevin Macdonald (Fox Searchlight Pictures)

Best Supporting Actress – Jennifer Hudson “Dreamgirls,” directed by Bill Condon (Paramount Pictures)

Best Supporting Actor – Jackie Earle Haley “Little Children,” directed by Todd Field (New Line Cinema)

Best Cinematography – Guillermo Navarro, “Pan’s Labyrinth,” directed by Guillermo del Toro (Picturehouse)

Best Animated Film – “Happy Feet,” directed by George Miller (Warner Bros. Pictures)

Best Non-fiction Film – “Deliver Us From Evil,” directed by Amy Berg (Lionsgate Films)

Best Foreign Language Film – “Army of Shadows,” directed by Jean-Pierre Melville (Rialto Pictures)

Best First Feature – “Half Nelson,” directed by Ryan Fleck (ThinkFilm)

Los Angeles Film Critics Association winners:

Best Picture of the Year: “Letters from Iwo Jima,” directed by Clint Eastwood

Runner-up: “The Queen,” directed by Stephen Frears

(Best) Director: Paul Greengrass, “United 93”

Runner-up: Clint Eastwood, “Flags of our Fathers”, “Letters from Iwo Jima”

(Best) Actress: Helen Mirren, “The Queen,” directed by Stephen Frears

Runner-up: Penelope Cruz, “Volver,” directed by Pedro Almodovar

(Best) Actor: Tie – Sacha Baron Cohen, “Borat” (Larry Charles) and Forest Whitaker, “The Last King of Scotland” (Kevin Macdonald)

(Best) Screenplay: “The Queen” by Peter Morgan, directed by Stephen Frears

Runner-up: “Little Miss Sunshine” by Michael Arndt, directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris

(Best) Supporting Actress: Luminita Gheorghiu, “The Death of Mr. Lazarescu,” directed by Cristi Puiu

Runner-up: Jennifer Hudson, “Dreamgirls,” directed by Bill Condon

(Best) Supporting Actor: Michael Sheen, “The Queen,” directed by Stephen Frears

Runner-up: Sergi Lopez, “Pan’s Labyrinth,” directed by Guillermo del Toro

(Best) Foreign Language Film: “The Lives of Others” directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck,

Runner-up: “Volver” directed by Pedro Almodovar

(Best) Documentary/Non-fiction film: “An Inconvenient Truth” directed by Davis Guggenheim,

Runner-up: “Darwin’s Nightmare” directed by Hubert Sauper

(Best) Production Design: Eugenio Caballero, “Pan’s Labyrinth,” directed by Guillermo del Toro

Runner-up: Jim Clay, Veronica Falzon, Geoffrey Kirkland, “Children of Men,” directed by Alfonso Cuaron

(Best) Animation: “Happy Feet” (George Miller)

Runner-up: “Cars” (John Lasseter, Joe Ranft)

(Best) Music: Alexandre Desplat, “The Painted Veil” and “The Queen

Runner-up: Thomas Newman, “The Good German” and “Little Children”

(Best) Cinematography: Emmanuel Lubezki, “Children of Men”

Runner-up: Tom Stern, “Flags of our Fathers” and “Letters from Iwo Jima”

New Generation: Michael Arndt (writer), Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris (co-directors) – “Little Miss Sunshine”

Career Achievement: Robert Mulligan (previously announced)

Independent/Experimental: Tie – “Old Joy” directed by Kelly Reichardt and “In Between Days” directed by So Yong Kim

Special Citations: To Jean-Pierre Melville’s 1969 film “Army of Shadows” which had its U.S. premiere this year, and to Jonas Mekas for his career as a critic and filmmaker.

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