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
Let's hear it for the old guy who in this movie comes off sexier than his buff young accomplice (Dermot Mulroney). OK the old guy happens to be the gracefully aging icon Paul Newman -- as a feisty heistmeister who dodges a long prison sentence and then teams up with his equally conniving rest-home nurse (Linda Fiorentino) on a bank job gone wrong. "Where the Money Is" is breezy suspenseful and as much a love story as anything else -- if you call mentoring a new life in crime a kind of love. The mission-improbable caper is no more or less entertaining than a "Rockford Files" rerun but the film's swerving joyride takes its real thrills from the great escape that Fiorentino's Bonnie Parker makes from a dead-end life in the married lane.
Newman still hasn't lost it and as Henry Manning he doesn't miss any nuances in the edgy balance between streetwise wariness and amiable rapport with his sultry new colleague. The steam-powered Fiorentino has forged her career by making danger look casual and this is her most alluring work since "The Last Seduction" added another zero to her salary. Her chemistry with Newman a flirty twist on the idea of honor among thieves is really what makes this movie worth seeing. Mulroney is serviceable as the dim but lovable hubby a supporting role that's more foil than fully etched character.
We can all thank director Marek Kanievska for deciding not to have the May-December duo end up in the sack and leaving them simply professional cohorts. The director's admirable sense of comic timing works all the better by not letting the laughs get in the way of his leads' exploration of their characters -- although there's no denying the limits of this frothy genre. Perhaps Kanievska's greatest feat here is allowing Newman to retain his dignity in close-up.