We have a winner - finally: 'Brokeback' hold on year-end awards broken

Last Saturday, Jan. 7, the National Society of Film Critics voted "Capote," a portrait of author Truman Capote during the time he was preparing to write his "nonfiction novel" "In Cold Blood," the best picture of 2005.

The awards voting occurred at Sardi's restaurant in New York City, and determining a winner took longer than almost any other decision in the NSFC's 40-year existence. "Capote" edged out "A History of Violence" by a single point in a head-to-head contest on the sixth ballot. Wong Kar-wai's "2046" had been the next-highest-polling title below those two films on ballot number five.

"A History of Violence" did win in two other categories: David Cronenberg for best direction and Ed Harris as best supporting actor. Philip Seymour Hoffman was named best actor for his work in the title role of "Capote," which he also co-produced. That was one of only two first-ballot victories this year.

Reese Witherspoon was judged best actress for her performance as June Carter (Cash) in the Johnny Cash biopic "Walk the Line." Amy Adams took best supporting actress for "Junebug."

Best cinematography went to Christopher Doyle, Kwan Pun-leung and Lai Yiu-fai for "2046." Noah Baumbach received the best screenplay award for "The Squid and the Whale."

In the category of foreign-language film, the powerful "Head-On" ("Gegen die Wand," Germany-Turkey), by Fatih Akin, prevailed over "2046" and Michael Haneke's "Caché." Werner Herzog's "Grizzly Man" achieved the only other first-ballot victory of the day, scoring way ahead of runners-up "Darwin's Nightmare" and "Ballets russe" in the nonfiction category.

Special awards were voted to experimental/avant-garde filmmakers William Greaves and James Benning. The Film Heritage award went to "Unseen Cinema," the seven-disc DVD box set of pre-1942 American avant-garde cinema. NSFC member Kevin Thomas was honored with a special citation for his 44 years' championing of offbeat and experimental films at the Los Angeles Times.

Chiming in late in the awards-voting season, the NSFC often breaks ranks with other critics organizations, and this year is a cardinal example. Ang Lee's "Brokeback Mountain," which has dominated the field heretofore, went home with its saddlebags empty. The closest it came to showing up in the results was Heath Ledger's not quite tying "The Squid and the Whale"'s Jeff Daniels as runner-up for best actor.

The 57-member National Society of Film Critics uses a weighted ballot system to determine winners. There are no nominations; each voter votes in each category for up to three candidates he or she deems appropriate. Proxy votes are allowed, but after the first ballot in any category, proxies drop out and the people in the room continue voting.

Two Seattle-based critics belong to the organization: Seattle Weekly's Sheila Benson and Queen Anne News' Richard T. Jameson.[[In-content Ad]]