Crix’ favorite ‘Confidential’ nabs two wins

Oscar shadow lifts noir pic to $100 mil int'l bo

It was Oscar night in the city of angels, and while decent citizens slept the sleep of the righteous, Academy members awarded “L.A. Confidential” wins in only two out of nine categories.

The New Regency/Warners paean to film noir finished the evening with Oscars for best supporting actress (Kim Basinger) and best adapted screenplay (Brian Helgeland and Curtis Hanson.)

The wins, among the few bright spots in the evening for Warner Bros., crowned a season of accolades for the film that had become the darling of film critics from coast to coast.

Still, the Hanson-helmed “L.A. Confidential” could have understandably expected more, following the numerous awards from critics’ groups for best picture, director and screenplay.

But Hanson’s complex ensemble piece about police corruption in 1950s Los Angeles was no match for Fox/Paramount’s billion-dollar “Titanic,” which beat out “L.A. Confidential” in categories of best pic, director and others.

“L.A. Confidential” was also up for Oscars in cinematography (Dante Spinotti), original dramatic score (Jerry Goldsmith), art direction, editing and sound.

Despite coming up empty-handed in seven of the categories, “L.A. Confidential” has nevertheless benefited roundly from Oscar’s golden gaze.

Back in February, after the Academy tilted a surprising nine nominations toward the pic, distributor Warner Bros. broadly widened release, more than doubling the number of screens to 800. That helped the film reach current cumes of more than $55 million in domestic grosses — and approximately $100 million internationally.

Recognizing that “L.A. Confidential” couldn’t be marketed like a blockbuster event movie, Warners started out with strategy designed around careful courting of the critics.

The campaign paid off, bringing the pic a stack of best picture, director and screenplay awards from regional film critics associations in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles and New York, as well as the Broadcast Film Critics Assn., the National Society of Film Critics and the National Board of Review.

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