‘Splendor’ is L.A. critics’ best film

Times Staff Writer

“American Splendor,” Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini’s quirky look at the life and times of Cleveland underground comic book writer Harvey Pekar, was voted best picture of 2003 by the Los Angeles Film Critics Assn. Wednesday. The two directors also won for their screenplay.

It’s been a big week for “American Splendor.” On Saturday, the National Society of Film Critics chose the Fine Line/HBO Films release as its best of the year and awarded Berman and Pulcini best screenplay honors. “American Splendor,” though, is nominated for only one Golden Globe -- a best actress nod for Hope Davis.

Peter Jackson was named best director for “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.” Jackson is also nominated for a Golden Globe and a Directors Guild of America Award for his final installment in the J.R.R. Tolkien trilogy.


Unlike some of the other critics awards, the L.A. group releases the runners-up in various categories. Sofia Coppola’s offbeat, jet-lag comedy “Lost in Translation” was runner-up in the best picture category, and Clint Eastwood was runner-up as director for “Mystic River.”

Australian actress Naomi Watts was voted best actress for her performance as a grieving mother and widow in “21 Grams”; Charlize Theron, winner of the National Society of Film Critics award and a Golden Globe nominee, was the runner-up choice for “Monster.”

Former “Saturday Night Live” regular Bill Murray continues his winning streak for “Lost in Translation.” The L.A. group added its vote for the funnyman as best actor for his performance as a U.S. movie star working on a TV commercial in Tokyo. Murray, who is nominated for a Golden Globe, has also been chosen best actor by the New York Film Critics Circle and the National Society of Film Critics. Runner-up for best actor was Sean Penn for his performances in “21 Grams” and “Mystic River.”

Supporting actress nod went to Shohreh Aghdashloo for “House of Sand and Fog”; runner-up was Melissa Leo for “21 Grams.”

Bill Nighy, who gained attention most recently as a devil-may-care aging rocker in “Love Actually,” was named best supporting actor for his roles in “AKA,” “I Capture the Castle,” “Lawless Heart” and “Love Actually.” Benecio Del Toro was the runner-up for “21 Grams.”

Patrice Laconte’s “The Man on a Train” was named best foreign language film, with Fernando Meirelles’ “City of God” the runner-up.


Last year, the critics’ group picked “About Schmidt” for best film; the dark comedy, though, received Oscar nominations only for best actor and supporting actress. Two years ago, the group chose “In the Bedroom” as the best of the year. That intimate drama went on to receive several Oscar nominations including best film, actress, actor and supporting actress.

The 29th annual achievement awards ceremony will be held Jan. 26 at the St. Regis Hotel in Los Angeles

The L.A. critics’ other winners are:

Documentary/nonfiction film: “The Fog of War,” directed by Errol Morris; runner-up: “Capturing the Friedmans,” directed by Andrew Jarecki.

Production design: Grant Major, “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King”; runner-up: William Sandell, “Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World.”

Animation: Sylvain Chomet, “The Triplets of Belleville,” with a special citation given to the restoration of the Walt Disney/Salvador Dali short, “Destin.”

Music/score: Benoit Charest, Mathieu Chedid, “The Triplets of Belleville’; runner-up: Christopher Guest, John Michael Higgins, Eugene Levy, Michael McKean, Catherine O’Hara, Annette O’Toole, Harry Shearer, Jeffrey C.J. Vanston, “A Mighty Wind.”


Cinematography: Eduardo Serra, “Girl With a Pearl Earring”; runner-up: Harris Savides, “Elephant.”

New generation: Scarlett Johansson.