National Film Critics Vote 'Capote' Best

Times Staff Writer

"Capote" upset "Brokeback Mountain" on Saturday when the biographical drama was chosen best picture by the National Society of Film Critics.

To date, the majority of critics' groups had named "Brokeback Mountain" as the top picture of 2005, but the western drama about two cowboys in love didn't even place among the three main contenders for best film during Saturday's vote. In fact, "Brokeback" was shut out by the 57-member National Society of Film Critics.

It took an unprecedented six ballots for "Capote" to be selected by the group at its 40th annual meeting, held at Sardi's restaurant in New York City. And "Capote" won by the slimmest of margins -- only one vote separated it from the runner-up for best picture, "A History of Violence." Third was the foreign film "2046," from Hong Kong writer-director Wong Kar-Wai.

Besides nabbing best film honors, "Capote" star Philip Seymour Hoffman, in the title role, was chosen as best actor. Hoffman is shaping up as the front-runner for the Academy Award, having been selected by several critics' groups, including Los Angeles, Boston and Toronto. He was also nominated for a Golden Globe, two Screen Actors Guild awards and an Independent Spirit award for his performance as writer Truman Capote.

"History of Violence" also won two awards, for best director David Cronenberg and best supporting actor Ed Harris.

The critics named Reese Witherspoon best actress for her performance as country singer June Carter in the musical drama "Walk the Line." Last month, Witherspoon won the best actress award from the New York Film Critics Circle; she's also nominated for Golden Globe and SAG awards.

Amy Adams was selected supporting actress for her turn as a young pregnant wife in "Junebug." Adams, who won a special grand jury prize at the Sundance Film Festival for her work in "Junebug," was nominated for a SAG award.

Noah Baumbach received best screenplay honors for "The Squid and the Whale," a semiautobiographical examination of two boys coping with their parents' divorce. Baumbach was nominated for a Writers Guild Award.

Nonfiction film honors went to German director Werner Herzog for "Grizzly Man." Christopher Doyle, Kwan Pun Leung and Lai Yiu Fai were named best cinematographers for "2046." Best foreign film went to "Head-On" by Turkish-German director Fatih Akin.

The National Society of Film Critics has always been eclectic in its choices and is rarely in agreement with Oscar nominations by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

The National Society of Film Critics also handed out several special awards Saturday, including one to Times film critic Kevin Thomas, who retired recently after more than 40 years of service.

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