Board of Review revs ‘L.A. Confidential’

NEW YORK — Noir thriller “L.A. Confidential” got a big boost in the year-end awards derby Tuesday when the Warner Bros. pic took best film honors and its helmer Curtis Hanson was tapped best director by the National Board of Review.

The Board, which bills itself as the nation’s oldest movie ranking organization (although its membership remains something of a mystery), is traditionally the first group to weigh in with its selection of the year’s outstanding films and performances. On Thursday, the New York Film Critics Circle will announce its annual awards.

The nod to “L.A. Confidential” gives the pic momentum in a year that many observers believe is without a clear awards favorite.

Sony’s “As Good As It Gets” was ranked the second-best film of 1997 by the Board of Review. Jack Nicholson and Greg Kinnear won best actor and best supporting actor, respectively, for their roles as neurotic New York neighbors who become unlikely allies in the James L. Brooks film.

Miramax’s “The Wings of the Dove” captured the third-place spot on the board list of the top 10 films. Helena Bonham Carter was named best actress for her role in Iain Softley’s screen adaptation of the Henry James novel.

Anne Heche was named best supporting actress for her performances in New Line’s “Wag the Dog” and Sony’s “Donnie Brasco.”

Miramax’s “Good Will Hunting” was the fourth-best film of 1997 by the Board’s reckoning. The Board also honored the film’s screenwriters and stars Matt Damon and Ben Affleck with a special achievement in filmmaking award.

The remaining films on the Board’s top 10 list: 20th Century Fox/Paramount’s “Titanic”; Fine Line’s “The Sweet Hereafter”; New Line’s “Boogie Nights”; Fox Searchlight’s “The Full Monty”; Paramount’s “John Grisham’s The Rainmaker”; and Miramax’s “Jackie Brown.”

Miramax’s Japanese-language pic “Shall We Dance?” was named best foreign-language film by the National Board. It also cited four other foreign pics: New Yorker’s “Beaumarchais”; Sony Pictures Classics’ gender-bender “Ma Vie En Rose”; New Yorker’s Belgian pic “La Promesse”; and Arrow Releasing’s “Ponette.”

Sony Pictures Classics’ “Fast, Cheap & Out of Control,” Errol Morris’ quirky meditation about life and death, was named best docu.

MGM’s “Red Corner” captured two awards. Chinese actress Bai Ling was cited for her “breakthrough” performance as a lawyer in the film, while its director Jon Avnet and star Richard Gere were given the org’s freedom of expression award.

Kasi Lemmons was honored with a director’s debut award for her film “Eve’s Bayou,” a Trimark release.

As previously announced, “The Apostle” producer, director, writer and star Robert Duvall will receive the group’s lifetime achievement award.

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