L.A. Film Crits Pick Triplets

Finding Nemo seems to be losing some ground as the Oscar frontrunner as critics on both coasts choose the Sony Pictures Classics release The Triplets of Belleville as the best animated feature of 2003. The Los Angeles Film Critics Association has released its list of winners for its 29th annual achievement awards, following suit with the New York Critic’s Circle in naming Sylvain Chomet’s quirky 2D caper flick its top toon. The award will be presented at the ceremony on Monday, Jan. 26 at the St. Regis Hotel in Los Angeles.

The win is a major coup for the Triplets producers Les Armateurs. The LAFCA has historically been on the same page as Academy voters, picking both Miyazaki’s Spirited Away and DreamWorks’ Shrek in the past two animated feature showdowns. While Oscar chances are looking good for the French underdog, Nemo is still a force to be reckoned with, having garnered Best Picture nominations from the Hollywood Foreign Press (Golden Globes) and the Broadcast Film Critics Association. The Golden Globes will air live on NBC on Jan. 25 at 8:00 p.m. and the BFCA Critics’ Choice Awards will air their awards ceremony live on E! this Saturday evening.

The unique storytelling and gorgeous animation weren’t the only things L.A. critics like about Triplets. The group honors Benoit Charest and Mathieu Chedid with Best Music/Score for their work on the film. Runners-up are Christopher Guest, John Michael Higgins, Eugene Levy, Michael McKean, Catherine O’Hara, Annette O’Toole, Harry Shearer and Jeffrey C.J. Vanston for the musical mocumentary A Mighty Wind.

Also in the animation category, a special citation goes to the Disney restoration of the Walt Disney/Salvador Dali short, Destino. The six-minute film went into production in 1946, but was shelved when the Disney studio ran into financial difficulties. Fifty-seven years later, a team of Disney artists spearheaded by Walt’s nephew Roy E. Disney and producer Baker Bloodworth dusted it off and completed it in time to premiere at France’s Annecy Animation Festival in June. It has been making the festival rounds since.

Fine Line Features’ American Splendor, based on the life and career of underground cartoonist Harvey Pakar, was voted Best Picture of the Year. The indie effort, which features brief bits of animation, beat out a host of critically acclaimed films including runner-up Lost in Translation from Focus Features.

Splendor also took Best Screenplay, though writers/directors Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini lost Best Director to Peter Jackson for The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. Clint Eastwood took runner-up for Mystic River.

Return of the King’s Grant Major will accept the award for Best Production Design, edging out runner-Up William Sandell for Master And Commander: The Far Side Of The World.

Other LAFCA 2003 Winners:

Actress

Naomi Watts, 21 Grams

Runner-Up: Charlize Theron, Monster

Actor

Bill Murray, Lost In Translation

Runner-Up: Sean Penn, 21 Grams and Mystic River

Supporting Actress

Shohreh Aghdashloo, House Of Sand And Fog

Runner-Up: Melissa Leo, 21 Grams

Supporting Actor

Bill Nighy, Aka, I Capture The Castle, Lawless Heart, Love Actually

Runner-Up: Benicio Del Toro, 21 Grams

Foreign Language Film

The Man On The Train, directed by Patrice Laconte

Runner-Up: City of God, directed by Fernando Meirelles

Documentary/Non-Fiction Film

The Fog of War, directed by Errol Morris

Runner-Up: Capturing the Friedmans, directed by Andrew Jarecki

Cinematography

Eduardo Serra, Girl With A Pearl Earring

Runner-Up: Harris Savides, Elephant

New Generation

Scarlett Johansson