Clooney, Christie, Coens also honored

Breaking away from the most of the other critical bodies this awards season, the San Francisco Film Critics’ Circle voted Andrew Dominik’s “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford” as best feature film.

Last year, the S.F. crix voted best pic to “Little Children,” which didn’t receive much support for best film from other voting bodies.

Also from “Jesse James,” Casey Affleck — as irksome yet pathetic boy-man Ford, a real-life figure popularly pilloried for shooting folk-heroic James — was tabbed top supporting actor.

Epic feature, which divided many U.S. crix into love it or hate it camps, has proven an expensive commercial nonstarter thus far, grossing about $3.8 million domestic, or little more than one-tenth its estimated budget. Late-starting kudos momentum could conceivably brighten Warner Bros.’ prospects for foreign, DVD and perhaps even reprised Stateside theatrical play.

Otherwise, principal winners announced Monday night echoed similar judgments coming down the awards pike: the Coen Brothers nabbed top director for “No Country for Old Men”; Julie Christie was pronounced top lead actress as a wife succumbing to Alzheimer’s in “Away From Her”; George Clooney as morally conflicted corporate fixer “Michael Clayton” won for lead actor. Supporting actress was grabbed by Amy Ryan’s crude, slovenly mother of a missing child in “Gone Baby Gone.”

Screenplay nods went to two female writer-directors: Adapted category went to thesp Sarah Polley’s behind-the-camera feature debut “Away From Her” (from an Alice Munro short story) while original screenplay honors were given to Tamara Jenkins’ belated soph feature “The Savages.”

Foreign-language film went to Julian Schnabel’s France/U.S. co-prod “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.” Docu was “No End in Sight,” Charles Ferguson’s merciless indictment of the Bush Administration’s policy decisions toward Iraq.

The Marlon Riggs prize — named after the late gay African-American filmmaker to honor “courage and innovation” by a Bay Area artist — was bestowed upon Lynn Hershman-Leeson. Her latest feature, “Strange Culture,” mixed documentary and dramatic elements to probe a recent case of U.S. government “anti-terror” hysteria.

Special Citation for “an overlooked gem” was granted director Richard Wong and scenarist-songwriter-actor H.P. Mendoza’s delightful no-budgeter “Colma: The Musical.” The locally shot original pop-rock tunefest has just been released on DVD by Lionsgate, following eye-blink urban arthouse runs.

The San Francisco Film Critics Circle is comprised of critics in the Bay Area from local publications.

2007 winners of the San Francisco Film Critics Circle:

PICTURE
“The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford”

DIRECTOR
Joel and Ethan Coen for “No Country for Old Men”

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
“The Savages”

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
“Away from Her”

ACTOR
George Clooney for “Michael Clayton”

ACTRESS
Julie Christie for “Away from Her”

SUPPORTING ACTOR
Casey Affleck for “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford”

SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Amy Ryan for “Gone Baby Gone”

FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly”

DOCUMENTARY
“No End in Sight”

MARLON RIGGS AWARD FOR COURAGE & VISION IN THE BAY AREA FILM COMMUNITY
Lynn Hershman-Leeson director of 2007’s “Strange Culture,” “Conceiving Ada” and “Teknolust”

SPECIAL CITATION FOR UNDER-LOOKED INDEPENDENT FILM
“Colma: The Musical”

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