Gay cowboy movie "Brokeback Mountain," the favorite in the Oscars race, roped in three Critics' Choice Awards yesterday, while darkhorse "Crash" showed unexpected strength - a sign perhaps of the fight to come.
The U.S.' broadcast film critics voted "Brokeback" its best picture at its 11th Critics' Choice Awards and also named the film's creator, Taiwanese-born Ang Lee, as the year's best director. Michelle Williams, who plays an emotionally ignored wife in the movie, tied for best supporting actress with Amy Adams of "Junebug."
But "Crash," a tale of endemic racism in America, took two major awards, an indication that this may be the film that could challenge Ang Lee's drama of forbidden love between two married men on the road to the March 5 Oscars.
Some Oscar pundits are insisting that "Brokeback's" theme of homosexual love will ultimately be rejected by mainstream Oscar voters.
Director Lee and producer Diana Ossama insisted that the movie's theme was about loneliness and the different paths love can take. "We trusted the tale and it led us to where it wanted to go ... we are getting a better reception than we thought," Lee told reporters after the awards.
The lead acting prizes honored portrayals of historical characters. Philip Seymour Hoffman was named best actor for portraying novelist Truman Capote in "Capote," while Reese Witherspoon was cited for her role as country music matriarch June Carter Cash in "Walk the Line."
Other key winners included Paul Giamatti for his supporting role in "Cinderella Man," a film whose Oscar chances have been handicapped by poor box office and star Russell Crowe's misdemeanor conviction for throwing a telephone at a hotel clerk.
Giamatti went to great pains to tell reporters that acting with Crowe was one of the joys of his life.
"We were like one," he said.
George Clooney received the Freedom Award, a special tribute "for illuminating our shared values of freedom, tolerance and democracy" through "Good Night, and Good Luck," his film about television reporter Edward R. Murrow and the McCarthy era. Oscar winner Julia Roberts, making her first public appearance since having twins, presented the award.
Freddie Highmore won his second award for best young actor for his role in "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory." Last year, it was for "Finding Neverland."
The Critics' Choice Awards was organized by the Broadcast Film Critics Association. Up until last year, the Critics' Choice had an enviable record of picking eventual Oscar winners: its last five best picture winners went on to take the top prize at the Academy Awards, as did eight of the last nine directors. But last year, voters chose "Sideways" for best picture, and Martin Scorsese for director, while the Oscar went with "Million Dollar Baby" and its director, Clint Eastwood.
The list of winners
Picture: "Brokeback Mountain"
Actor: Philip Seymour Hoffman, "Capote"
Actress: Reese Witherspoon, "Walk the Line"
Supporting Actor: Paul Giamatti, "Cinderella Man"
Supporting Actress: (tie) Amy Adams, "Junebug," and Michelle Williams, "Brokeback Mountain"
Acting Ensemble: "Crash"
Director: Ang Lee, "Brokeback Mountain"
Writer: Paul Haggis and Bobby Moresco, "Crash"
Young Actor: Freddie Highmore, "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory"
Young Actress: Dakota Fanning, "War of the Worlds"
Comedy: "The 40 Year-Old Virgin"
Foreign Language Film: "Kung Fu Hustle"