Is 'Unforgiven' sweep of L.A. Film Critics awards just start of round-up of honors?

December 15, 1992|By David J. Fox | David J. Fox,Los Angeles Times

HOLLYWOOD -- Hollywood's annual film awards marathon got under way last weekend as the Los Angeles Film Critics Association chose Clint Eastwood's "Unforgiven" as the best movie of 1992.

As the first of the major awards competitions, the selection by the Los Angeles critics instantly elevates the movie's chances for nominations in the Golden Globe Awards, to be presented in January by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, and in the film industry's own Academy Awards, to be announced in March.

The New York Film Critics will vote on Thursday, and the National Society of Film Critics casts its ballots in early January.

The Eastwood movie so dominated the 40-member Los Angeles critics' awards that one film insider dubbed them "the Clint Eastwood awards." Mr. Eastwood won as best director and for best actor. In all, "Unforgiven" won in five of the nine categories in which it qualified. And it took a runner-up prize in a sixth category.

Mr. Eastwood's movie, which debuted in August, was a rare return to the Western genre in today's Hollywood. It was very well-received by critics and became a commercial success, having earned about $75 million at the U.S. and Canadian box office to date.

From the time of its premiere, it was clear that critics greatly admired Mr. Eastwood's auteurism in the film -- the personal quality a director can bring to a project. That admiration was reflected in the way "Unforgiven" swept the awards, as well as in the critics' selection of another highly personalized movie, director Robert Altman's "The Player," as runner-up best picture. Mr. Altman's film, satirizing the movie business, also won him runner-up in direction.

"Unforgiven's" other awards went to Gene Hackman as the genial but sadistic sheriff and to screenwriter David Webb Peoples. The movie's runner-up award was for Jack N. Green's cinematography.

British actress Emma Thompson was voted best actress for her role in the Merchant-Ivory production of "Howards End," and Alfre Woodard was runner-up for John Sayles' "Passion Fish."

Australian actress Judy Davis was named best supporting actress in Woody Allen's "Husbands and Wives." English actress Miranda Richardson was runner-up for her body of work for the year, including "Enchanted April," "The Crying Game" and "Damage."

Neil Jordan's suspense film "The Crying Game," about the Irish Republican Army, was voted best foreign-made film. China's "Raise the Red Lantern," directed by Zhang Yimou, came in second.

Very often the critics' choices serve as an indicator for further awards. Last year's L.A. critic's choice, "Bugsy," went on to collect 10 Academy Award nominations but only two prizes, and it won a Golden Globe for best dramatic picture.

Among the movies widely believed to figure importantly in the Academy Awards race, the Los Angeles group only cited Robert Redford's "A River Runs Through It," in the runner-up spot for its score; Spike Lee's "Malcolm X," for a runner-up prize for actor Denzel Washington; and Ms. Thompson for her work in "Howards End." Potential contenders that were ignored: "Chaplin," "Glengarry Glen Ross," "A Few Good Men," "Hoffa," "The Last of the Mohicans" and "Bram Stoker's Dracula."

The critics passed two resolutions, one condemning recent instances in which major studios have brought pressure to bear on publications to punish or silence critics or reporters regarded as having written unflattering pieces. The other urged the National Endowment for the Arts to continue funding the annual gay and lesbian film festivals in Los Angeles and other major cities on grounds that the festivals are significant aspects of film culture. The L.A. festival recently lost its NEA support.

The organization's awards will be presented at a luncheon Jan. 19.

The complete list of winners and runners-up:

* Picture: "Unforgiven." Runner-up: "The Player."

* Director: Clint Eastwood, "Unforgiven." Runner-up: Robert Altman, "The Player."

* Actress: Emma Thompson "Howards End." Runner-up: Alfre Woodard, "Passion Fish."

* Actor: Clint Eastwood, "Unforgiven." Runner-up: Denzel Washington, "Malcolm X."

* Foreign film: "The Crying Game," director Neil Jordan. Runner-up: "Raise the Red Lantern," director Zhang Yimou.

* Cinematography: Zhao Fei, "Raise the Red Lantern." Runner-up: Jack N. Green, "Unforgiven."

* Supporting actress: Judy Davis, "Husbands and Wives." Runner-up: Miranda Richardson, for "The Crying Game," "Damage" and "Enchanted April."

* Supporting actor: Gene Hackman, "Unforgiven." Runner-up: Sydney Pollack, "Husbands and Wives" and roles in "Death Becomes Her" and "The Player."

* Screenplay: David Peoples, "Unforgiven." Runner-up: Neil Jordan "The Crying Game."

* Score: Zbigniew Preisner, "Damage." Runner-up: Mark Isham, "A River Runs Through It."

* Animation: "Aladdin," directed by Ron Clements and John Musker.

* Independent and experimental film award: Sadie Benning, 17, whose video shorts (in which she sometimes plays all the roles) include the current, "It Wasn't Love."

* Documentary : A tie between "The Threat," about the poisoning of Arctic reindeer by the fallout from Chernobyl, a film by the Swedish filmmaker Stefan Jarl; and "Black Harvest," by the Australian team of Kevin Connolly and Robin Anderson, about the devastating effects of modern economics and technology on a primitive tribe in New Guinea.

* Career achievement: director Budd Boetticher, a former bullfighter whose films include "The Bullfighter and the Lady" and "Arruza."

* New generation award: director Carl Franklin for "One False Move."

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