January 08, 2004 9:56am EST
The Los Angeles Film Critics Association on Wednesday named the quirky dramedy American Splendor best picture of 2003, and The Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson was voted best director. Trophies will be handed out at an awards ceremony Jan. 26 at the St. Regis Hotel in Los Angeles.
With no picture winning more than two awards, however, there was no runaway victor. The three double-winners include American Splendor, which also took the screenplay award for writer/directors Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini; The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, which was also honored for its production design; and the French-language cartoon Triplets of Belleville won prizes for animation and music/score.
Here is a complete list of winners and runner-ups:
Winner! American Splendor
Runner-up: Lost in Translation
Winner! Peter Jackson, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Runner-up: Clint Eastwood, Mystic River
Winner! Naomi Watts, 21 Grams
Runner-up: Charlize Theron, Monster
Winner! Bill Murray, Lost in Translation
Runner-up: Sean Penn, 21 Grams and Mystic River
Winner! Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini, American Splendor
Runner-up: Steve Knight, Dirty Pretty Things
Winner! Shohreh Aghdashloo, House of Sand and Fog
Runner-up: Melissa Leo, 21 Grams
Winner! Bill Nighy, AKA,I Capture the Castle, The Lawless Heart,Love Actually
Runner-up: Benicio Del Toro, 21 Grams
Foreign Language Film:
Winner! Man on the Train
Runner-up: City of God
Winner! The Fog of War
Runner-up: Capturing the Friedmans
Winner! 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
Winner! Sylvain Chomet, Triplets of Belleville
Special Citation to the Disney restoration of the Walt Disney/Salvador Dali short, Destino
Winner! Benoit Charest, Mathieu Chedid, Triplets of Belleville
Runner-up: Christopher Guest, John Michael Higgins, Eugene Levy, Michael McKean, Catherine Hara, Annette Toole, Harry Shearer, Jeffrey C.J. Vanston, A Mighty Wind
Winner! Eduardo Serra, Girl With A Pearl Earring
Runner-up: Harris Savides, Elephant
Winner! Scarlett Johansson
Winner! Robert Altman
Now that word is out of Dr. Dolittle's ability to talk to animals his business is booming. Distraught pet owners ambush him outside his home and furry critters tap on his window during dinner all wanting some sort of advice. Joey the Raccoon has a special request: he has been sent by the God Beaver to solicit the doctor's help in saving their forest from developers. Dolittle reluctantly agrees to look for endangered species living in the forest so that the law can be invoked to protect it. He discovers Ava a lone Pacific Western Bear living in the soon-to-be-demolished forest and sets out to find her a mate. Enter Archie a performing circus bear. Dolittle convinces Archie that he would be happier living in the wild and to help the bear adjust to the wilderness the doc relocates his own city-dwelling family to the forest much to his teenage daughter Charisse's (Raven-Symoné) dismay. But the match between the two bears is not exactly made in heaven and when the plan backfires the animals organize and plot a worldwide strike.
Murphy seems lately to have traded in his adult-oriented comedy of the past (Beverly Hills Cop 48 Hours) for one that appeals to a younger audience (Dr. Dolittle Shrek). In Dr. Dolittle 2 Murphy is funny and comfortable enough in his role as the doc who can talk to creatures big and small but it is the animals that generate the biggest laughs. Smooth-talking Joey the Raccoon voiced by Michael Rapaport ( Men of Honor) positively steals the show with lines like "Mafia? We don't know anything about no Mafia do we boys?" The flighty voice of Lisa Kudrow who plays the endangered bear Ava is appropriate enough for the part but you can't help but wonder if it's Phoebe Buffay wrapped in a bear pelt. Norm Macdonald narrates the entire film as Lucky the Dog but the lines are surprisingly vacuous and Lucky spends most of his on-screen time peeing on things and making passes at wolves. A grown-up Raven-Simoné (The Cosby Show) returns to her role as Charisse Dolittle and is convincing enough as the brooding rebellious teenager fed up with animals clambering up her balcony and vying for her father's attention.
As with the acting the animals easily steal the show. The filmmakers use different methods to achieve realistic animal interaction including motion-control cameras that filmed the animals separately and later created a composite shot. Digital animation techniques animate some of the animal's mouths and facial features while others like Joey the Raccoon are completely animatronic and required several people to operate them during filming. These special effects must have burnt up most of the budget however because the outdoor sets with their moss-covered Styrofoam rocks look totally fabricated. The animals were amusing to watch and delivered good one-liners but they were mostly about defecating and bestial libido. Sadly not even the animal kingdom is able to transcend social stereotypes like Pepito the Mexican chameleon who gets excited at the mention of tacos or the French beret-clad monkey who is perpetually drunk. The film also portrays the life of a circus bear in a curiously positive light--unless they really do take bubble baths in swank accommodations--that clashes with the whole animal rights theme.
A salty skipper sets sail with his motley crew on a three-hour tour ... oops actually on a commercial fishing expedition as storms collide to give the Andrea Gail and crew the cruise of their lives. Ten-story waves and a crumbling ocean cruiser threaten to cut those lives tragically short in this Weather-Channel-on-steroids disaster flick. Unfortunately "The Perfect Storm" starts with a drizzle dampened by cheesy subplots but strap yourself in because this film rocks when the waves get rolling.
Can we end the debate about George Clooney having what it takes to be a movie star right here? After kicking butt in "Out of Sight" and "Three Kings " the former "E.R." stud has amply proven himself. He's every bit the leading man here as a fisherman who's in over his head (literally). To say that Mark Wahlberg plays Gilligan to Clooney's skipper wouldn't be quite fair; he completely sheds his Calvin Klein-clad image as a seaman who's love of swordfishing could cost him his girl and his life. But beware: "Storm" is no "Titanic" disaster-glam here. Clooney and Wahlberg are seriously shaggy and grungy for the entire 2+ hours.
Wolfgang Petersen mercifully avoids the silliness of recent disaster spectacles such as "Twister" and "Volcano " instead attempting to tell this true story with dignity. He flounders with the maudlin "Men Who Fish Too Much and the Women Who Love Them" backstory but redeems himself with ocean storms so sensational you won't be able to cancel your Carnival Cruise quickly enough.
Peterson gives us glimpses of the boats deeper into the storm than the Andrea Gail showing us what's in store for our heroes and building a near-unbearable level of tension.