News, Jan. 5: “Splendor” Makes Crix List, Britney on NRA Enemy List, Irwin Defends Bringing Baby to Croc Feeding, More…

Top Story: Splendor Tops Nat’l Film Critics List

The National Society of Film Critics named the cult indie fave American Splendor–a film about the life of file clerk-turned-comic creator Harvey Pekar–as 2003’s best picture at its annual best-of Saturday in New York at the showbiz haunt Sardi’s, Reuters reports. They also tapped the film’s creators Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini as best screenwriters. Bill Murray picked up another award as best actor for his work in Lost in Translation, while Charlize Theron took best actress honors for her portrayal as serial killer Aileen Wuornos in Monster. Splendor narrowly beat out Clint Eastwood‘s Mystic River, Reuters reports, but Eastwood took home the best director prize, in a decisive vote that left The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King helmer Peter Jackson and Translation‘s director Sofia Coppola as runners-up.

In More Awards News…

Meanwhile, the Broadcast Film Critics will give Eastwood a lifetime achievement award at their awards ceremony Saturday in Los Angeles, Reuters reports. Mystic River earned a record eight nominations from the group, including nods for Eastwood both as director and composer. The group will also bestow its Passion in Film Award on Peter Weir, director of Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, which received three nominations.

In More Spears News…

Pop princess Britney Spears, who isn’t in the news enough what with her spur-of-the-moment Las Vegas wedding/annulment, is among the hundreds of celebrities, organizations and companies on the National Rifle Association’s roster of entities it considers hostile to gun ownership rights, The Associated Press reports. The Fairfax-based NRA has compiled a 15-page list of supporters of the Brady law–which requires federally licensed gun dealers to do background checks on gun buyers–and other gun control measures. NRA spokesman Ted Novin told AP the list was solely for “informational purposes and that it’s nothing new.” Others on the list included Barbra Streisand, George Clooney, Michael Moore, the St. Louis Rams and Cardinals sports teams, and Hallmark Cards.

Irwin Defends How He’s Bringing Up Baby

Steve Irwin, the wacky host of Animal Planet’s Crocodile Hunter, snapped back at critics who have accused him of endangering his month-old son’s life by holding the baby while feeding a crocodile. Proclaiming he’d do it again, AP reports Irwin told the Australia’s Network Nine TV show A Current Affair, “What I would do differently is I would make sure there were no cameras around.” Child welfare advocates have said the TV hero endangered his son, Robert, in the incident Friday, drawing comparisons with pop star Michael Jackson who dangled his infant out of a hotel window in Berlin in November 2002, AP reports. “To hear people say that it was a publicity stunt, that I’m just like Michael Jackson, well, it just tears me up. It makes me sick to my stomach to be compared in that way.” Irwin told Australia’s Sunday Telegraph. Police told AP Sunday that Irwin would not be charged with violating any laws.

And Speaking of Jackson…

Finding a fair and impartial jury of one’s peers may prove to be difficult in the child molestation case against Michael Jackson. AP reports that due to the lack of racial minorities being summoned and low response to the jury summonses, Jackson‘s lawyer may decide to challenge Santa Barbara County’s jury-selection process. For example, Hispanics, who work as farm laborers around the Santa Maria, where the case is being tried, do not return jury summons because they can’t afford to take time off for jury duty. As well, the problem is compounded by the demographic of Santa Maria, where census figures show blacks represent just 2.3 percent of Santa Barbara County’s population. “You wind up with a self-selecting jury pool,” Santa Barbara attorney James Herman told AP.

Jolie Donates Money to Cambodian Farmers

Actress Angelina Jolie is donating $1.5 million to a program to help poverty-stricken Cambodian farmers, AP reports. About 300 families will get one cow each to help them earn money and dissuade them from logging and hunting wildlife for a living. The program is being organized by the Cambodian Vision in Development in its efforts to protect the environment.

Singer Hospitalized After Accident

Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Daniel Bedingfield, best known for his dance album Gotta Get Thru This, is in stable condition after his car rolled off a rural road Friday in a remote area near Whangarei, New Zealand, AP reports. “He won’t be well enough to travel, so he’ll be recuperating in New Zealand for two or three months,” Alison Lees, a Whangarei Base Hospital spokeswoman told reporters. “He’s damaged vertebrae in his neck but it hasn’t affected his motor or sensory capabilities. He’s a fairly lucky guy.” Bedingfield was driving back from a music festival in Whangarei, AP reports.

Southwest Airlines Subject of New Reality Show

Ever wonder what goes on behind the scenes at a popular airlines? A&E Network thinks enough people do to justify Airline, a new reality show which gives audiences an inside look at Southwest Airlines, following employees as they deal with weather delays, blackouts and passengers who are running late or too drunk or too smelly to board the plane, AP reports. “Everyone…wants to share their travel stories–the love-hate relationship we have with air travel,” Nancy Dubuc, vice president of documentary programming at A&E, told AP. “It’s that common connection.” The show begins Monday night on A&E, which plans to air 18 half-hour episodes.