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L.A. crix inhale ‘Insider’

Crowe, Plummer take thesp nods

In a year that saw no clear-cut favorites going into the voting, Michael Mann’s tobacco biz expose “The Insider” emerged as the big winner with the Los Angeles Film Critics Assn., copping four awards, including best picture.

In the final year of the century of cinema, the Buena Vista release also snared awards for Russell Crowe for actor, Christopher Plummer for supporting actor and Dante Spinotti for cinematography.

DreamWorks’ “American Beauty,” a close contender in numerous categories, managed one award, for director Sam Mendes, while Fox Searchlight’s low-budgeter “Boys Don’t Cry” took home the two female acting prizes: Hilary Swank for actress and Chloe Sevigny for supporting actress.

USA Films’ “Being John Malkovich,” another prominent title in the voting, was honored for Charlie Kaufman’s screenplay. Rick Heinrichs snared the production design award for Par’s “Sleepy Hollow,” while same studio triumphed in the music category for Trey Parker and Marc Shaiman’s work on “South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut.”

Pedro Almodovar’s “All About My Mother,” from Sony Classics, was declared best foreign lingo film of the year; Artisan’s “The Buena Vista Social Club” was voted best documentary, with director Wim Wenders and producer-musician Ry Cooder both cited for their work.

“Iron Giant,” directed by Brad Bird and produced by Allison Abbate and Des McAnuff for Warner Bros., was named in the animation category.

Payne nod for bows

Director Alexander Payne and his writing partner Jim Taylor received the New Generation Award for their initial efforts, “Citizen Ruth” and “Election.” Film editor Dede Allen’s career achievement award was previously announced. The Douglas Edwards Independent/Experimental Film/Video Award was given to vet short filmmaker Owen Land.

A special citation was created for Rick Schmidlin, Roger Mayer and Turner Classic Movies for “their meticulous reconstruction and promotion of Erich von Stroheim’s ‘Greed.’ ”

The 25th LAFCA awards ceremony will be held Jan. 19 at the Wyndham Bel Age Hotel in West Hollywood.

“The Insider,” which will need continued nominations and awards notice if it is to receive a B.O. boost in the coming weeks, pulled away as the major winner at the voting Saturday despite a great diversity in selections during the initial rounds and the fact that voting in several categories couldn’t have been closer.

Runners-up

Runners-up in the main categories were “American Beauty” for picture; Michael Mann, director; Richard Farnsworth in “The Straight Story,” actor; Reese Witherspoon in “Election,” actress, John Malkovich as himself in “Being John Malkovich,” supporting actor; Samantha Morton in “Sweet and Lowdown,” supporting actress; Alan Ball for “American Beauty,” screenplay; Dante Ferretti for “Titus,” production design; Conrad Hall for “American Beauty,” cinematography; and Gabriel Yared for “The Talented Mr. Ripley,” music score.

Foreign language film runner-up was Erick Zonca’s “The Dreamlife of Angels,” while Errol Morris’ “Mr. Death: The Rise and Fall of Fred A. Leuchter Jr.” was the second-place finisher among docus.

Thirty-eight critics participated in the voting.

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