Triply rewarding a film that was ignored by their New York counterparts, the Los Angeles Film Critics Assn. selected “Secrets & Lies,” Mike Leigh’s warmly humorous look at the coming together of a fractured London family, as the best film of 1996. Leigh also took the nod for best director, while Brenda Blethyn was named best actress for her work as the emotionally vulnerable mother at the center of the British comedy-drama.
The L.A. crix concurred with the Gotham scribes, who voted last Thursday, on best actor – Geoffrey Rush as the tormented Aussie pianist in ”Shine” – and best documentary – Leon Gast’s ”When We Were Kings,” a retrospective look at the Ali-Foreman Rumble in the Jungle.
Otherwise, the choices were different. The Gotham best picture winner, ”Fargo,” won in L.A. only for its screenplay by Ethan and Joel Coen, although it was the runner-up in the picture, director and actress categories. The supporting actor nod went to newcomer Edward Norton for his work in three films – ”Primal Fear,” ”Everyone Says I Love You” and ”The People vs. Larry Flynt” – while Barbara Hershey was declared best supporting actress for her performance in ”The Portrait of a Lady.”
Vet French director Claude Chabrol’s low-key domestic crime story, ”La Ceremonie,” was named best foreign-language film, edging out Gianni Amelio’s ”Lamerica.” Both are New Yorker Films releases.
Best cinematography honors were bestowed upon two achievements, Chris Menges’ for ”Michael Collins” and John Seale’s for ”The English Patient.” Production design category also produced a tie, between Brian Morris for ”Evita” and Janet Patterson for ”The Portrait of a Lady.”
Award for best music went to the jazz score for ”Kansas City,” specifically to music producer Hal Willner and the Hey Hey Club Musicians. Runner-up was Elliot Goldenthal for ”Michael Collins.”
In other categories, Eddie Murphy in ”The Nutty Professor” came in second for best actor behind Rush, Stanley Tucci and Joseph Tropiano’s script for ”Big Night” was the runner-up for screenplay, Courtney Love in ”Larry Flynt” was the No. 2 choice for supporting actress, and Armin Mueller-Stahl in ”Shine” placed for supporting actor. Runner-up for best documentary was Bruce Sinofsky and Joel Berlinger’s ”Paradise Lost: The Child Murders At Robin Hood Hills.”
Big winners among distributors were Gramercy, which tallied four awards – screenplay, supporting actress, shared production design and documentary – and October Films, which scored with its three wins for ”Secrets & Lies,” a Ciby 2000 production that won the Palme d’Or at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. Fine Line tallied two wins, for actor and music. Miramax registered with the tie for cinematography and its share of Norton’s supporting actor nod, while the best any of the major distribs could do were Paramount and Sony’s portions of Norton’s three-pic win, Warner Bros. for its cinematography tie and Disney’s half-share of production design honors.
In special categories, Emily Watson, the star of ”Breaking the Waves,” who was named best actress in New York, won the New Generation Award. The Independent/Experimental Award was bestowed upon Craig Baldwin’s ”Sonic Outlaws,” while no single feature was deemed worthy of the special Animation Award. Instead, animator Nick Park was singled out for the body of his work.
Thirty-eight voting members were present at the meeting on Saturday, and an additional six members voted by proxy. Awards will be presented at a luncheon at Le Bel Age Hotel on Jan. 15.