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Windy City critics blow ‘Fargo’s’ horn

CHICAGO — It was ”Fargo,” ”Fargo” and more ”Fargo” as the Chicago Film Critics presented their ninth annual awards Monday evening at the Windy City’s Ritz-Carlton Hotel. The quirky Midwestern thriller by Joel and Ethan Coen walked off with five bests, including picture, direction, screenplay and actress for Frances McDormand’s performance.

None of the ”Fargo” crew attended, owing to the shooting schedule of the Coens’ current ”The Big Lebowski,” so the evening’s major surprise and star turn came with an unannounced appearance by Chevy Chase. The comedian presented the annual Commitment to Chicago honor to writer-director Harold Ramis.

Another high point in the program was the appearance of Larry Flynt, who accepted Courtney Love’s Promising Actress prize for her work in ”The People vs. Larry Flynt.” Edward Norton, the Promising Actor winner, was cited for ”Flynt,” ”Primal Fear” and ”Everyone Says I Love You.”

Chicago-based actress-come-lately Irma P. Hall was an emotional fave as she was named for her supporting work in ”A Family Thing,” co-scripted by Billy Bob Thornton. Thornton earned his own trophy for his performance in ”Sling Blade.”

Also prized were Cuba Gooding Jr. as supporting actor in ”Jerry Maguire,” cameraman John Seale for ”The English Patient,” and Carter Burwell’s original music score for ”Fargo.”

The late Krzysztof Kieslowski’s ”The Decalogue” was honored in the foreign-language category, and Jim Taylor and Margaret Caples of the Chicago Community Film Workshop were presented with the organization’s first Big Shoulders honor, for special contributions to the Chi film industry. This year’s event was emceed by actress Marilu Henner.

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