NEW YORK — The National Society of Film Critics named “Out of Sight” best picture of the year Sunday in a meeting at the Algonquin Hotel.
The only film to win multiple awards, Steven Soderbergh’s adaptation of Elmore Leonard’s popular crime novel also captured best director for Soderbergh and best screenplay for Scott Frank. Universal’s summer release has received strong critical support but did not perform particularly well at the box office.
Spielberg’s war drama “Saving Private Ryan,” earlier named best picture by both the New York and L.A. critics, was shut out. Runner-up for best picture was Paul Schrader’s moody “Affliction,” from Lions Gate, based on Russell Banks’ novel.
Nick Nolte was cited as best actor for his performance in “Affliction,” an examination of male violence as it passes from one generation to the next. Following the L.A. critics, the group cited Ally Sheedy as best actress for her modulated portrait of a troubled photographer in “High Art,” an indie picked up by October at Sundance.
Murray, Dench win support
In the supporting leagues, Bill Murray won acting honors for Wes Anderson’s charming school comedy “Rushmore,” and famous Brit stage actress Judi Dench won for her authoritative portrayal of Queen Elizabeth in the smart romantic comedy “Shakespeare in Love,” which Miramax is releasing domestically and Universal is handling internationally.
Reflecting a strong year for both studio and independent fare — and lack of consensus among critics — the voting session lasted over four hours. For most categories, a number of ballots were required until a clear winner emerged. It took three ballots before Soderbergh was declared best director as Spielberg and Terrence Malick, who directed “The Thin Red Line,” tied as runners-up. Malick’s contemplative war drama won only for John Toll’s cinematography.
In an extremely strong year for foreign language film, it took three rounds before Iranian Abbas Kiarostami’s “Taste of Cherry,” co-winner of the l997 Cannes Palm D’Or, emerged to take the category. Cult Japanese director Takeshi Kitano’s “Fireworks,” was a close second.
‘Mother’ moved critics
Composed of 51 reviewers from all over the country, the National Society of Film Critics also cited Aleksandr Sokurov’s Russian film “Mother and Son” as best experimental pic for its powerful and moving exploration, through nontraditional narrative means, of the relationship between a son and his dying mother. Sundance-premiered docu “The Farm: Angola U.S.A.,” co-directed by Liz Garbus and Jonathan Stack, was honored in the nonfiction category for its investigation into conditions at a Louisiana prison.
A special citation was awarded to the team that restored Orson Welles’ classic “Touch of Evil” (released by October), Walter Murch, Rick Schmidlin, Bob O’Neil, and critic Jonathan Rosenbaum.
Finally, the group cited the publication of Manny Farber’s “Negative Space,” an expanded edition of one of the seminal collections of film criticism, originally printed in the ’70s.
The following is a list of winners and runners-up:
Picture: “Out of Sight”; runner-up: “Affliction”
Director: Steven Soderbergh (“Out of Sight”); runners-up: (tie) Terrence Malick, (“The Thin Red Line”; Steven Spielberg, “Saving Private Ryan”)
Screenplay: Scott Frank (“Out of Sight”); runner-up: Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard (“Shakespeare in Love”)
Actor: Nick Nolte (“Affliction”); runner-up: Ian McKellen (“Gods and Monsters”)
Actress: Ally Sheedy (“High Art”); runner-up: Cate Blanchett (“Elizabeth”)
Supporting Actor: Bill Murray (“Rushmore”); runner-up: Donald Sutherland (“Without Limits”)
Supporting Actress: Judi Dench (“Shakespeare in Love”); runner-up: Patricia Clarkson (“High Art”)
Cinematography: John Toll (“The Thin Red Line”); runner-up: Januscz Kaminski (“Saving Private Ryan”)
Foreign Language Film: “Taste of Cherry”; runner-up: “Fireworks”
Nonfiction film: “The Farm: Angola U.S.A.”; runner-up: “Public Housing”
Experimental film: “Mother and Son”
Restoration of Orson Welles’ “Touch of Evil”
Publication of Manny Farber’s “Negative Space”