'The Insider' Wins Top L.A. Film Critics Award

TIMES STAFF WRITER

"The Insider," a drama about the relationship between a "60 Minutes" producer and a tobacco executive turned whistle-blower, was voted best picture of 1999 on Saturday by the Los Angeles Film Critics Assn.

The Michael Mann-directed film, which stars Al Pacino as producer Lowell Bergman and Russell Crowe as whistle-blower Jeffrey Wigand, was the big winner Saturday, receiving four of the critics' awards. Crowe won for best actor, Christopher Plummer won for best supporting actor as newsman Mike Wallace and Dante Spinotti received best cinematography honors.

Sam Mendes won best director for "American Beauty," which was the critics' runner-up for best film.

Despite a lukewarm performance at the box office, "The Insider" is now a major contender for the 72nd annual Academy Awards, which will be presented on March 26. Last year's critics' pick, "Saving Private Ryan," went on to win five Academy Awards, including best director.

"The Insider" is based on the true story of problems encountered in airing a controversial segment on the "60 Minutes" TV show that chronicled efforts by the tobacco industry to entice people to smoke.

The award for best actress went to Hilary Swank for her performance in "Boys Don't Cry" as Brandon Teena, a young woman who lives as a man before she is brutally murdered. Chloe Sevigny, who plays Brandon's girlfriend, received the award for best supporting actress.

Spanish director Pedro Almodovar's "All About My Mother" won best foreign film honors.

Other winners included Charlie Kaufman for his screenplay for the innovative comedy "Being John Malkovich," and Wim Wenders and Ry Cooder for best documentary for "The Buena Vista Social Club."

The awards will be handed out by the Los Angeles critics on Jan. 19 at the Bel Age Hotel in West Hollywood. The New York Film Critics Circle will announce its best of 1999 Thursday.

The winners:

Best picture: "The Insider"; runner-up: "American Beauty."

Direction: Sam Mendes, "American Beauty"; runner-up, Michael Mann, "The Insider."

Actress: Hilary Swank, "Boys Don't Cry"; runner-up: Reese Witherspoon, "Election."

Actor: Russell Crowe, "The Insider"; runner-up: Richard Farnsworth, "The Straight Story."

Supporting actress: Chloe Sevigny, "Boys Don't Cry"; runner-up: Samantha Morton, "Sweet and Lowdown."

Supporting actor: Christopher Plummer, "The Insider"; runner-up: John Malkovich, "Being John Malkovich."

Screenplay: Charlie Kaufman, "Being John Malkovich"; runner-up, Alan Ball, "American Beauty."

Cinematography: Dante Spinotti, "The Insider"; runner-up: Conrad Hall, "American Beauty."

Music: Trey Parker and Marc Shaiman, "South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut"; runner-up: Gabriel Yared, "The Talented Mr. Ripley."

Production design: Rich Heinrichs, "Sleepy Hollow"; runner-up, Dante Ferretti, "Titus."

Documentary: "The Buena Vista Social Club," Wim Wenders and Ry Cooder; runner-up: "Mr. Death: The Rise and Fall of Fred A. Leuchter Jr.," directed by Errol Morris.

Foreign film: Pedro Almodovar's "All About My Mother" (Spain) runner-up: Erick Zonca's "The Dreamlife of Angels" (France).

Animation: "The Iron Giant," directed by Brad Bird (feature-length).

The Douglas Edwards/Independent/Experimental Film/Video Award: Owen Land for his body of work.

The New Generation Award: Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor for "Citizen Ruth" and "Election."

Special Citation: Rick Schmidlin and Roger Mayer of Turner Classic Movies for their work on the re-creation and presentation of Erich Von Stroheim's "Greed."

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