"Secrets & Lies," a British drama about a young black woman's search for her birth mother, was voted best picture of 1996 on Saturday by the Los Angeles Film Critics Assn.
The movie by Mike Leigh captured three of the critics' awards. Brenda Blethyn won for best actress for her role as the mother and Leigh received the award for best direction. Previously, "Secrets & Lies" won the Palme d'Or at Cannes and Blethyn was named best actress.
Geoffrey Rush was named best actor for his performance as a troubled Australian concert pianist in the drama "Shine." Comedian Eddie Murphy was a surprise runner-up in this category for his multiple-role performance in the comedy "The Nutty Professor." Joel and Ethan Coen won for their screenplay of "Fargo."
Last week, "Fargo" received the New York Film Critics' Circle award for best picture and Rush won for best actor.
With its strong L.A. showing, "Secrets & Lies" is a contender for the 69th annual Academy Awards, to be presented March 24. The L.A. Critics' big winner last year, "Leaving Las Vegas," was nominated for four Oscars and Nicolas Cage won for best actor.
Other major winners Saturday included Barbara Hershey, who was named best supporting actress for Jane Campion's "The Portrait of a Lady," and rocker Courtney Love, runner-up for "The People vs. Larry Flynt." Edward Norton took supporting actor honors for his body of work in Milos Forman's "The People vs. Larry Flynt," Woody Allen's musical "Everyone Says I Love You" and the thriller "Primal Fear."
Veteran French director Claude Chabrol's "La Ceremonie" captured the best foreign film award. Best documentary honors went to Leon Gast's boxing film "When We Were Kings" and Oscar-winning Nick Park received a special animation award for his work to date.
At an earlier critics' meeting, director-producer Roger Corman was announced as this year's recipient of the career achievement award.
The Douglas Edwards Independent/Experimental Film/Video award went to Craig Baldwin for "Sonic Outlaws."
Emily Watson, who won the New York Critics' award for best actress, received the new generation award for "Breaking the Waves."
The Los Angeles critics' awards will be presented Jan. 15 at the Bel Age Hotel.
The winners Saturday:
* Picture: "Secrets & Lies"; runner-up: "Fargo"
* Direction: Mike Leigh, "Secrets & Lies"; runner-up: Joel Coen, "Fargo"
* Actress: Brenda Blethyn, "Secrets & Lies"; runner-up: Frances McDormand, "Fargo"
* Actor: Geoffrey Rush, "Shine"; runner-up: Eddie Murphy, "The Nutty Professor"
* Supporting actress: Barbara Hershey, "The Portrait of a Lady"; runner-up: Courtney Love, "The People vs. Larry Flynt."
* Supporting actor: Edward Norton for his body of work in "The People vS. Larry Flynt, "Primal Fear" and "Everyone Says I Love You"; runner-up: Armin-Mueller Stahl, "Shine."
* Screenplay: Joel and Ethan Coen, "Fargo"; runner-up: Stanley Tucci and Joseph Tropiano, "Big Night"
* Cinematography (tie): John Seale, "The English Patient"; Chris Menges, "Michael Collins."
* Music: Hal Willner, music producer, and the Hey Hey Club Musicians, "Kansas City"; runner-up: Elliot Goldenthal, "Michael Collins"
* Production design (tie): Brian Morris, "Evita"; Janet Patterson, "The Portrait of a Lady."
* Documentary: "When We Were Kings," directed by Leon Gast; runner-up: "Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills," directed by Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky.
* Foreign Film: Claude Chabrol's "La Ceremonie"; runner-up Gianni Amelio's "Lamerica."
* Animation: A special award to Nick Park for his body of work to date.