Local film critics vote awards

Seattle's contribution to the annual awards-season frenzy was finalized Dec. 28 when the 14 print critics participating in the 2004 Seattle Film Critics Awards tendered their second and final ballots. It was announced on Dec. 29 that the group's top honors went to "Million Dollar Baby" as best picture and Clint Eastwood as its director.

Rarely at a loss for the right words, awards-voting organizer Robert Horton observed for the SFC, "We are pleased to encourage this fresh young face in his filmmaking endeavors." (Eastwood, 74, also produced the film, stars in it and is the composer of its music score.) Released in Los Angeles and New York in time to qualify for awards consideration as a 2004 film, "Million Dollar Baby" opens in the greater Seattle area this Friday.

The group voted Jamie Foxx best actor for his biopic portrait of Ray Charles in "Ray," and Imelda Staunton best actress as the charwoman-abortionist mum of "Vera Drake." Supporting awards went to Thomas Haden Church and Virginia Madsen, both of "Sideways," the American-indie film that has won the most critics-group awards this year and is considered a front runner for the Oscar. (Foxx also received votes for his performance in Michael Mann's "Collateral.")

Also honored by the fab 14 were Alexander Payne and Bellevue's own Jim Taylor for their screenplay of "Sideways" (in the adaptation category) and Charlie Kaufman for "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" (an original). "Eternal Sunshine" was surprise runner-up for best picture.

Australia's Christopher Doyle won best cinematography for his work on the Chinese/Hong Kong film "Hero," and Howard Shore's music for "The Aviator" was singled out in its category.

There was a tie in the documentary branch, between "Control Room" and "Touching the Void." To the surprise of no one, best animated film went to Pixar's "The Incredibles." Best foreign-language film was claimed by "Maria Full of Grace," an American movie whose characters speak Spanish.

The Seattle Film Critics have an awards category all their own: "Living Treasure," a recognition of someone in the art and business of film for lifetime achievement. The latest honoree is Henry Bumstead, veteran art director of "Vertigo" and "To Kill a Mockingbird," among many others, and a mainstay of Clint Eastwood's Malpaso team.

The group also voted a special citation saluting Richard Schickel and Brian Jamieson for the reconstruction of Samuel Fuller's 1980 World War II picture "The Big Red One."

Participating in the 2004 Seattle Film Critics Awards were: Soren Andersen, Tacoma News Tribune; Tim Appelo, Sheila Benson and Brian Miller of Seattle Weekly; William Arnold, Sean Axmaker and Paula Nechak of Seattle Post-Intelligencer; John Hartl, Moira Macdonald and Mark Rahner, The Seattle Times; Robert Horton, The Herald; Richard T. Jameson, Queen Anne News; Derich Mantonela (Mike Anderton), Seattle Gay News; Bradley Steinbacher, The Stranger.

Each critic was asked to submit an open-field first ballot on Dec. 27 with up to three candidates, in preferential order, in each category. The top five vote-getters in each area on that ballot became the slate for the second and final ballot, with critics indicating preference for up to three candidates in each category.

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