Steven Spielberg's "Schindler's List," an epic dramatization of the Holocaust, was voted best picture of 1993 by the Los Angeles Film Critics Assn., establishing it as a front-runner for the 66th annual Academy Awards to be presented March 21.
The film, which doesn't open until Wednesday, is a 195-minute drama in black and white with such respected, but non-star actors as Liam Neeson and Ben Kingsley. Spielberg defied many commercial conventions with its serious themes and format and it probably could not have been produced without his clout. The initial release will be limited to Los Angeles and other major cities.
It has been widely discussed in Hollywood circles that 1993 could well be Spielberg's year for awards. Spielberg's Amblin Entertainment company produced, and he directed, the world's all-time box-office champ, "Jurassic Park," and "Schindler's List" this year.
The critics' choice often foreshadows how the voting of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences may go for the Oscars. Last year, the critics named Clint Eastwood's "Unforgiven" as best picture and that Western eventually won the Oscar for best picture. However, in 1991, the critics chose "Bugsy" as best picture, and the film went on to receive 10 Oscar nominations but did not win the best picture Oscar.
In the past, the prolific Spielberg has been virtually shut-out when it came to industry honors. Even in Saturday's voting, Spielberg did not win the prize for best director.
That award went to Jane Campion for "The Piano," her intense, intimate tale of a mail-order wife in early-day New Zealand. Campion also was honored for best screenplay and the film's female lead, Holly Hunter, was named best actress.
While "Schindler's List" won three of the critics' awards, "The Piano" was the numerical winner, taking bests in three categories, tying in two others and placing second in two more.
Campion's film tied for best cinematography, with Stuart Dryberg sharing the honor with Janusz Kaminski for his work on "Schindler's List."
Anthony Hopkins was voted best actor for his work in "Shadowlands" and "The Remains of the Day." (Unlike the Academy Awards, critics' award voters can cite a single performance or more than one.)
Anna Paquin, who played Hunter's preteen daughter in "The Piano," shared the best supporting actress award with Rosie Perez from "Fearless."
Best supporting actor was Tommy Lee Jones for his widely praised work as the relentless deputy U.S. marshal Sam Gerard in the popular summer movie, "The Fugitive."
Named best foreign film was Chen Kaige's "Farewell My Concubine," which reflected China's turbulent modern times through the lives of two members of the Peking Opera. Runner-up was Krzysztof Kieslowski's "Blue."
The first Douglas Edwards Independent/Experimental Film and Video award went to "Silverlake Life: The View From Here" by Peter Friedman and the late Tom Joslin, a moving record of Joslin's last months before he died of AIDS.
The career achievement award went to the Hungarian-born cinematographer John Alton, now 92, who won an Oscar for his work on "An American in Paris" and whose work on low-budget films noir in the 1940s was widely influential. He also photographed Richard Brooks' "Elmer Gantry" among many other films.
The new generation award went to teen-age actor Leonardo Di-Caprio, who appeared in "This Boy's Life" and the soon-to-be-released "What's Eating Gilbert Grape."
The L.A. critics' awards will be followed Wednesday by voting of the New York-based critics.
The Los Angeles awards will be presented at a luncheon Jan. 18.
* Picture: "Schindler's List"; runner-up, "The Piano."
* Director: Jane Campion, "The Piano"; runner-up, Robert Altman, "Short Cuts."
* Actress: Holly Hunter, "The Piano"; runner-up, Debra Winger, "Shadowlands" and "A Dangerous Woman."
* Actor: Anthony Hopkins, "The Remains of the Day" and "Shadowlands"; runner-up, Daniel Day-Lewis, "The Age of Innocence" and "In the Name of the Father."
* Supporting actress: Tie. Anna Paquin, "The Piano," and Rosie Perez, "Fearless." No runner-up.
* Supporting actor: Tommy Lee Jones, "The Fugitive"; runner-up, Ralph Fiennes, "Schindler's List."
* Screenplay: Jane Campion, "The Piano"; runners-up, Robert Altman and Frank Barhydt, "Short Cuts."
* Cinematography: Tie: Stuart Dryberg, "The Piano," and Janusz Kaminski, "Schindler's List." No runner-up.
* Music: Zbigniew Preisner, "Blue," "The Secret Garden" and "Olivier, Olivier"; runner-up, Michael Nyman, "The Piano."
* Production design: Allan Starski, "Schindler's List"; runner-up, Dane Ferretti, "The Age of Innocence."
* Documentary: the late Orson Welles, his late associate Richard Wilson, Bill Krohn and Myron Meisel, "It's All True." No runner-up.
* Foreign film: Chen Kaige's "Farewell My Concubine"; runner-up, Krzysztof Kieslowski's "Blue."
* Animation: Frederic Back, "The Mighty River." No runner-up.