L.A. Critics Laud 'Private Ryan'

Saving Private Ryan took its first critical beachhead Saturday, winning three prizes from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, including best picture.

DreamWorks' World War II saga also received kudos for director Steven Spielberg and for Janusz Kaminski's cinematography.

The L.A. critics previously cited Spielberg for E.T. and named that film and Schindler's List the best of their respective years.

This year's winners' slate embraced both mainstream and niche players that ranged from Warren Beatty and Bill Murray to up-and-comer Wes Anderson. While a number of independent titles were cited, the list of honorees was dominated by established talent that included Ian McKellen and Ally Sheedy. The L.A. critics will bestow its awards at a dinner Jan. 20 at the Wyndham Bel Age in West Hollywood.

McKellen, cited last week by the National Board of Review, repeated with the L.A. critics for his portrayal of film director James Whale in Gods and Monsters. The only other common winner was veteran Brazilian actress Fernanda Montenegro of Central Station who tied for the actress prize with Sheedy, who won for High Art.

This year's voting (with 41 members in attendance) saw no clear winners and a preponderance of close calls that left a handful of much-admired pictures such as Shakespeare in Love (runner-up for screenplay) and The General (runner-up for director) awardless and others, including The Butcher Boy and A Simple Plan, garnering prizes in secondary categories. In addition to the best actress category, supporting actor honors wound up in a tie vote between Murray, cited for both Rushmore and Wild Things, and Billy Bob Thornton for his work in A Simple Plan.

The Los Angeles critics employ a two-ballot system in which first-round voting involves a weighted point system to determine the top two titles or artistic contributions for the final runoff.

The only other film to earn multiple awards was Pleasantville, which took top prizes for Jeanine Oppewall's production design and for Joan Allen (a prior winner for Nixon in 1995) in the supporting actress category.

Composer Elliot Goldenthal, who previously was cited for Michael Collins, was once again honored for a Neil Jordan picture, The Butcher Boy.

Warren Beatty won the screenplay category with co-writer Jeremy Pikser for the political satire Bulworth.

Wes Anderson, the writer-director of the current Rushmore, was named the New Generation honoree, and the organization cited veteran screenwriters Julius Epstein and Abraham Polonsky as career achievement winners at an earlier meeting.

The group will also present special citations to the filmmakers responsible for the restoration of Orson Welles' Touch of Evil, and to Barbara Smith for realizing the vision that has resulted in a pemanent home for the American Cinematheque.

Here is a list of the L.A. Film Critics winners:

  • Picture: Saving Private Ryan (DreamWorks)
  • Director: Steven Spielberg, Saving Private Ryan
  • Screenplay: Warren Beatty, Jeremy Pikser, Bulworth (Fox)
  • Foreign-language: The Celebration, Denmark (October)
  • Actor: Ian McKellen, Gods and Monsters (Lions Gate)
  • Actress: Fernanda Montenegro, Central Station (Sony Classics), and Ally Sheedy, High Art (October)
  • Supporting Actor: Bill Murray, Rushmore (Buena Vista) and Wild Things (Sony); and Billy Bob Thornton, A Simple Plan, (Paramount)
  • Supporting Actress: Joan Allen, Pleasantville (New Line)
  • Production Design: Jeanine Oppewall, Pleasantville
  • Music: Elliot Goldenthal, The Butcher Boy
  • Cinematography: Janusz Kaminski, Saving Private Ryan
  • Documentary: The Farm: Angola USA, Jonathan Stack, Liz Garbus, Wilbert Rideau
  • Animation: A Bug's Life, John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton, (Buena Vista); T.R.A.N.S.I.T., Piet Kroon.

    Written by Leonard Klady