Roberts, Douglas win actor nods; Soderbergh gets helmer kudos

HOLLYWOOD — “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” Ang Lee’s gravity-resistant martial arts extravaganza, pounced on the lion’s share of the awards voted by the Los Angeles Film Critics Assn., snaring four prizes, including best picture of the year.

In the process, the Mandarin-lingo costumer shot in mainland China became the first foreign language film ever to win the group’s top award. Best foreign-language film award went to another feature by a Taiwanese director, Edward Yang’s delicate family drama “Yi Yi” (aka “A One and a Two…”).

In a year marked by highly disparate first-ballot voting and several important races won by Bush-and-Gore-like margins, familiar Hollywood faces copped the acting awards, while more offbeat independent and foreign entries won in all the other categories.

Douglas, Roberts win

Michael Douglas, for “Wonder Boys,” and Julia Roberts, for “Erin Brockovich,” were named best actor and actress, respectively, while Willem Dafoe, for “Shadow of the Vampire,” and Frances McDormand, for both “Almost Famous” and “Wonder Boys,” were honored in the male and female supporting categories.

Steven Soderbergh was voted best director of 2000 for his two films, “Erin Brockovich” and “Traffic,” while Kenneth Lonergan won best screenplay honors for his debut feature, “You Can Count On Me.”

“Chicken Run,” directed by Nick Park and Peter Lord, was named best animated feature, and Marc Singer’s “Dark Days,” about homeless people living in an abandoned railway tunnel under Manhattan, emerged with the best documentary prize.

Aside from best picture, the three other awards for “Crouching Tiger” were in the craft categories of music (Tan Dun), cinematography (Peter Pau) and production design (Tim Yip).

Mark Ruffalo, the leading actor in “You Can Count On Me,” was voted the New Generation Award.

The wide-ranging first-ballot voting of the 38 members of LAFCA present for Saturday’s meeting reflected what most critics have described as a wide-open year, and some of the awards were decided by just one or two votes.

The runners-up included, for best picture, Curtis Hanson’s “Wonder Boys”; director, Ang Lee; actor, Javier Bardem for “Before Night Falls”; actress, Laura Linney for “You Can Count On Me”; supporting actor, Benicio Del Toro for “Traffic”; supporting actress, Zhang Ziyi for “Crouching Tiger”; screenplay, Steve Kloves for “Wonder Boys”; foreign film, Patrice Leconte’s “The Girl on the Bride” from France; documentary, Aviva Kempner’s “The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg”; music, Bjork for “Dancer in the Dark”; cinematography, Peter Andrews (Soderbergh) for “Traffic”; and production design, a tie between Arthur Max for “Gladiator” and Don for “House of Mirth.”

No Independent/Experimental Award is to be given this year.

Sony on top

As far as distributors are concerned, Sony Pictures Classics was the big winner with its four kudos for “Crouching Tiger,” which will undoubtedly receive a boost in its bid to be accepted as a contender in all categories in the forthcoming awards sweepstakes.

DreamWorks, Paramount and Universal all received one-and-a-half awards, by virtue of the multiple pictures for which Soderbergh and McDormand were honored. Lions Gate and Winstar got one apiece, while USA Films technically merits one-half of an award.

The awards will be presented at a dinner on Jan. 17.

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