"Yi yi" ("A One and a Two"), Edward Yang's humanistic comedy of manners from Taiwan, was named best picture of 2000 Saturday by the National Society of Film Critics, a group known for its eclectic tastes.
Steven Soderbergh was voted best director for both of his films that were released last year, the drug thriller "Traffic" and the popular drama "Erin Brockovich." Runners-up for director were Yang, and Ang Lee for "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon."
"Traffic," which had been in limited release in Los Angeles and New York since late December, opened nationwide Friday.
Nominated for Golden Globes for best director on both his pictures, Soderbergh had already taken the directing prize from the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures, as well as the L.A. Film Critics Assn. and the New York Film Critics Circle.
The National Society of Film Critics, which consists of 51 of the country's leading movie critics, held its 35th annual award voting meeting at Sardi's restaurant in Manhattan. The society dedicated this year's awards to the memory of Vincent Canby, longtime film critic for the New York Times and former chairman of the society. Canby died last year.
Best actor honors went to Javier Bardem in the role of the late Cuban poet and novelist Reinaldo Arenas in director Julian Schnabel's "Before Night Falls." Also nominated for a Golden Globe, the Spanish actor earlier was voted best actor by the National Board of Review.
Laura Linney was named best actress for her role as a single mom coping with her younger brother in "You Can Count on Me." A Golden Globe nominee, Linney was previously chosen best actress by the New York Film Critics Circle. Her co-star Mark Ruffalo was runner-up for best actor. Gillian Anderson came in second for best actress for "The House of Mirth."
Benicio Del Toro received best supporting actor for his role as a Mexican police detective in "Traffic." Also a Golden Globe nominee, he previously received supporting actor honors from the New York Film Critics Circle. Fred Willard was runner-up supporting actor for "Best in Show."
Veteran comedy actress/writer/director Elaine May was named best supporting actress for her performance as a sweet but dense friend of an ex-con in Woody Allen's "Small Time Crooks." Frances McDormand came in second for her work in "Almost Famous" and "Wonder Boys."
Kenneth Lonergan was singled out for best screenplay for "You Can Count on Me." The Golden Globe nominee also won both New York and L.A. critics honors last month. Steve Kloves was runner-up for his "Wonder Boys" script.
Compared with other critics organizations as well as Oscar and Golden Globe voters, the National Film Society has always been eclectic in its preferences, especially for best picture. Last year, the group picked both "Being John Malkovich" and "Topsy-Turvy" as the best of 1999. Soderbergh's noirish thriller "Out of Sight" was chosen the best film of 1998. The last time the society and the Academy Awards agreed on best film was 1993's "Schindler's List."
Because "Yi yi" took the best film honors, there was no best foreign language film winner.
Yang had won best director for "Yi yi" at the Cannes Film Festival in May, and last month, "Yi yi" was selected best foreign-language film by the New York and L.A. critics groups.
Other winners include:
Best cinematography: Agnes Godard, "Beau Travail"
Best nonfiction film: "The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg," directed by Aviva Kempner
Best experimental film: Guy Maddin's "The Heart of the World"
Film heritage award: The National Film Preservation Foundation for its DVD anthology of 53 films