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New Release 'Topsy-Turvy' Wins N.Y. Critics' Top Honors

Movies * 'Malkovich' snags three awards; 'South Park' a surprise pick for best animated feature.

December 17, 1999|JOHN ANDERSON | NEWSDAY

NEW YORK — Closing out the '90s by going its own way as usual, the New York Film Critics Circle Thursday voted Mike Leigh's just-released Gilbert and Sullivan movie "Topsy-Turvy" the best film of 1999.

The critics picked Leigh as best director and honored the idiosyncratic "Being John Malkovich" with three awards--best first feature (director Spike Jonze), best supporting actress (Catherine Keener) and best supporting actor (Malkovich himself).

In another surprise, "South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut" squeezed out top contenders ("Toy Story 2" and "The Iron Giant") to win the all-new category of best animated film.

Screen veteran Richard Farnsworth, the lawnmower-driving pilgrim of David Lynch's "The Straight Story," was named best actor (the film's cinematographer Freddie Francis was also honored). And Hilary Swank, who has already won awards from the Los Angeles and Boston film critics, was again named best actress for her star turn as cross-dressing murder victim Brandon Teena in Kimberly Peirce's "Boys Don't Cry."

"All About My Mother," the bittersweet Spanish comedy that won best director honors for Pedro Almodovar at the Cannes Film Festival this year, was selected as best foreign-language feature. "Election," director Alexander Payne's caustic metaphor about politics and personality in a suburban high school, won the award for best screenplay, written by Payne and Jim Taylor. And "The Buena Vista Social Club," Wim Wenders' travelogue-performance film about guitarist Ry Cooder's collaboration with Cuban musicians, was selected best nonfiction film.

With little or no discussion and only the usual number of vitriolic asides, the critics' voting went to multiple ballots on most of the categories, although "Topsy-Turvy" eventually got twice the number as its nearest competitors ("Malkovich," "Boys Don't Cry" and "American Beauty"). Farnsworth won out over Russell Crowe ("The Insider"), Jim Broadbent ("Topsy-Turvy") and Kevin Spacey ("American Beauty"). Closest to Swank were Julianne Moore ("The End of the Affair"), Janet McTeer ("Tumbleweeds") and Kate Winslet ("Holy Smoke"). Leigh's victory in the directing category--over Lynch, Sam Mendes ("American Beauty") and Almodovar--was the easiest of the day.

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