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Gromit Cracking with Critics

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Gromit Cracking with Critics

Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, the latest animated feature from Aardman Animations and DreamWorks Animation is emerging as the awards season frontrunner. Over the weekend, the clay-animated screwball comedy was named animated movie of the year by both the Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA) and the New York Film Critics Online.

Directed by Nick Park and Steve Box of Aardman, the first feature-length outing for cheese-craving Wallace and his canine compadre, Gromit, did boffo business overseas, especially in the U.K. However, the film made a modest $55 million in the U.S., where moviegoers plunked down more cash for DreamWorks’ Madagascar and Disney’s Chicken Little. Perhaps a successful awards-season run capped off by an Oscar win will inspire more love for the big-screen extension of Park’s Academy Award-winning short film series and translate to robust home video sales and maybe a sequel.

Critics in Los Angeles also gave Best Score to Joe Hisaishi’s and Youmi Kimura’s score for Howl’s Moving Castle, the latest traditionally animated feature from celebrated filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki.

On the live-action side, LAFCA chose director Ang Lee’s tragic cowboy love story, Brokeback Mountain (Focus Features) as the year’s top film, while New York Film Critics Online went with director Noah Baumbach’s dark comedy The Squid and the Whale from Samuel Goldwyn Films. Relationship stories ruled the roost as both organizations shut out big-budget effects films such as Peter Jackson’s King Kong. However, the giant ape pic did get some love this weekend from the American Film Institute, which named the film among the top 10 motion pictures of 2005.

The Los Angeles Film Critics Association’s 31st annual awards ceremony will take place Jan. 17 at the Park Hyatt in Century City. A full list of winning films can be viewed at www.lafca.net/Home/News/2005_lafca_awards_winners.html. The list of New York Film Critics Online picks is available at www.nyfco.org (requires login). The New York Film Critics Circle will weigh in with its choices later today.

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