A mountain of praise for `Brokeback'

Film is the early leader in awards and nominations


Brokeback Mountain continues to be the dominant force early in this movie awards season, being named yesterday as best picture of 2005 by the New York Film Critics Circle. The Western chronicling the love affair between two cowboys also won best director for Ang Lee and best actor for Heath Ledger.

Over the weekend, Brokeback Mountain was chosen as the year's best film by the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, earned top honors from the American Film Institute and also garnered the lion's share of nominations from the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

The 30-member New York Film Critics Circle selected Reese Witherspoon as best actress for her performance as June Carter Cash in Walk the Line, and honored William Hurt and Maria Bello for their supporting roles in A History of Violence.

"Nothing was unanimous," New York Film Critics Circle president Gene Seymour said. "Every category, especially the acting ones, were very competitive."

As for the groundswell for Brokeback Mountain, he said: "A lot of people sort of think of Brokeback as a gay cowboy movie, but once you see it you stop thinking about that - it becomes a very traditional Hollywood romance with this very unusual twist."

Best foreign film and cinematography honors went to 2046. Noah Baumbach was awarded best screenplay for The Squid and the Whale.

The oldest critical group in the United States will present its 71st annual awards at a dinner in New York on Jan. 8.

Though the National Board of Review chose Brokeback Mountain as one of the 10 best films of 2005, the group, which consists of film professionals, educators, students and historians, picked Goodnight, and Good Luck for its top honors yesterday.

The board chose Philip Seymour Hoffman as best actor for Capote and Desperate Housewives star Felicity Huffman as best actress for her gender-bending role in Transamerica. Best director honors went to Lee for Brokeback; Jake Gyllenhaal was named best supporting actor for the film. Gong Li was chosen best supporting actress for Memoirs of a Geisha. Breakthrough performance honors were given to Terrence Howard for Hustle & Flow, Crash and Get Rich or Die Tryin', and to 15-year-old Q'orianka Kilcher for her work in The New World.

Stephen Gaghan was singled out for best adapted screenplay for Syriana, and Baumbach was chosen for original screenplay. Foreign language film honors went to Paradise Now.

Memoirs of a Geisha, The New World and Paradise Now have yet to open in Baltimore.

Traditionally, the National Board of Review hands out the first major movie awards of the year, but was delayed this year because of an eligibility-list dispute. The 150-member group has drawn the ire of critics' organizations over the years because of its secretive selection process. Last month, former members even sent a complaint letter to New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, although a spokesman for Spitzer called the dispute a "private" one that did not merit investigation. The board will hand out its awards Jan. 10.

Susan King writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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