NEW YORK — “L.A. Confidential” and its director Curtis Hanson were named favorites of the New York Film Critics Circle, adding to their momentum in the Oscar derby.
The film and its helmer are now two for two, since the National Board of Review on Tuesday also named them the year’s best. Los Angeles film critics will vote on their awards tomorrow.
The group of Gotham-based crix also honored Warner Bros.’ noir thriller for its screenplay, by Brian Helgeland and Hanson.
In the lead acting categories, the New York critics honored two 1960s icons. Peter Fonda copped the actor award for his portrayal of a stoic Florida beekeeper in Victor Nunez’s “Ulee’s Gold,” whose distributor Orion has been subsumed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Julie Christie was named best actress for her perf in Alan Rudolph’s “Afterglow,” a Sony Pictures Classics release that has not yet been released commercially.
Burt Reynolds, an icon from the 1970s, snared the supporting actor award for his role as a paternalistic pornographer in New Line’s “Boogie Nights.” Joan Cusack was named top supporting actress for Paramount’s “In & Out.”
WB and Sony Classics won three awards apiece. In addition to Christie’s win, the arthouse division of Sony Pictures Entertainment also nabbed the first-film award for Neil LaBute’s chilling corporate tale “In the Company of Men” and the nonfiction film award for Errol Morris’ “Fast, Cheap & Out of Control.”
The cinematography award went to Roger Deakins for Martin Scorsese’s Dalai Lama biopic “Kundun,” a release of Walt Disney’s Buena Vista.
Jacques Doillon’s “Ponette” won the critics’ prize for foreign-language film. Pic, which chronicles a young girl’s reaction to her mother’s death, is being distribbed Stateside by Arrow Releasing.
Daniel Talbot of New Yorker Films will be recognized with a special tribute award. Talbot owns the Lincoln Plaza Cinemas arthouse in Gotham and is a longtime champion of foreign and American independent cinema.
“I feel elated about the New York critics awards, particularly about the screenplay award,” Hanson told Daily Variety. “To whatever degree this film worked, it was because of the script. The happiest call I made all day was to Brian.”
Hanson called his film “a labor of love that is its own reward.” However, he noted that the awards from the critics and the National Board “give us a whole new weapon to get people to go see this movie.”
Despite its critical acclaim, “L.A. Confidential,” adapted from James Ellroy’s novel about the seamy side of 1950s Hollywood, has grossed a modest $36 million to date.
Founded in 1935, the New York Film Critics Circle includes crix from major Gotham-based newspapers and magazines. Its membership recently expanded to include Janet Maslin and Stephen Holden of the New York Times, Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly, Joe Morgenstern of the Wall Street Journal and Leah Rozen of People.
The awards were announced Thursday by org chairman Thelma Adams of the New York Post and vice chairman Godfrey Cheshire of the New York Press and Variety. The group’s annual awards dinner will be held Jan. 4 at the Rainbow Room in Rockefeller Center.