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San Diego Film Critics Reject Groupthink: Unique List of Winners + The Dixie Chicks & Freedom of Speech

Ken Takakura Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles: Surprise San Diego Film Critics pickKen Takakura in Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles. Zhang Yimou's psychological/family drama was a surprise double winner at the 2006 San Diego Film Critics Society Awards; Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles topped both the Best Foreign Language Film and the Best Actor categories. The latter's honoree was 75-year-old veteran Ken Takakura, whose screen credits – e.g., A Fugitive from the Past, Too Late the Hero, Black Rain – include nearly 170 titles in the last five decades.

Ken Takakura & 'The Dead Girl' among San Diego Film Critics' unusual picks

The San Diego Film Critics Society tends to go its own way during awards season. For instance, last year most critics' groups selected Ang Lee's gay cowboy romance Brokeback Mountain as Best Film. The San Diego Film Critics, for their part, opted for Peter Jackson's King Kong remake. Hardly a superior choice, but different nonetheless.

More esoteric picks include Cameron Crowe's Almost Famous and Mike Leigh's Vera Drake as their Best Film winners in, respectively, 2000 and 2004. To a large extent, the San Diego Film Critics' 2006 choices are evidence of their continuous success in avoiding awards season groupthink.

Although their Best Film, Best Director, and Best Actress slots were filled with by now expected names – Letters from Iwo Jima and its director, Clint Eastwood; Helen Mirren for The Queen – other top winners were total surprises.

San Diego Film Critics honor veteran Ken Takakura

Instead of U.S. critics' fave Forest Whitaker (The Last King of Scotland), the San Diego Film Critics went for veteran Ken Takakura (The Yakuza, Black Rain) as the Best Actor of 2006. Takakura was singled out for his performance in Zhang Yimou's Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles, in which he plays an elderly Japanese man who, in place of his estranged and deathly ill son (Kiichi Nakai), travels to China's Yunnan province to film the titular folk opera.

Zhang's drama also happened to be the San Diego Film Critics' equally surprising Best Foreign Language Film pick.

Besides, Ray Winstone was voted Best Supporting Actor for playing an unscrupulous police captain in John Hillcoat's period Australian Western The Proposition, while Lili Taylor was Best Supporting Actress for her 1940s Los Angeles barfly in Bent Hamer's Factotum, a Norwegian / German / U.S. co-production based on a story by, who else, Charles Bukowski.

'The Dead Girl' tops Best Original Screenplay category

Jason Reitman's Thank You for Smoking (adapted) screenplay has been honored elsewhere, but Karen Moncrieff's Best Original Screenplay win for The Dead Girl was a first. The all-star mystery drama revolves around those somehow or other linked to the titular deceased (Brittany Murphy). Also in the cast:

Rose Byrne. Mary Beth Hurt. Kerry Washington. James Franco. Giovanni Ribisi. Josh Brolin.

Best Supporting Actress Oscar nominee Toni Collette (The Sixth Sense, 1999).

Best Supporting Actress Oscar winner Marcia Gay Harden (Pollock, 2000).

Best Supporting Actress Oscar winner Mary Steenburgen (Melvin and Howard, 1980).

Three-time Oscar nominee Piper Laurie (Best Actress for The Hustler, 1961; Best Supporting Actress for Carrie, 1977; and Children of a Lesser God, 1986).

And finally, Edward Norton, whose films have been largely ignored by most U.S. critics' groups this awards season, was given the Body of Work Award for his performances in The Illusionist, Down in the Valley, and The Painted Veil.

Anyone for Penélope Cruz?

So far no luck, but maybe, who knows, there's still a chance that at least one U.S. critics' group will name Penélope Cruz the year's Best Actress.

True, Cruz could never have played Queen Elizabeth II in as stiff-upper-lippedly a fashion as Helen Mirren. But on the other hand, Helen Mirren could never have played Anna Magnani in as sensually exuberant a fashion as Penélope Cruz.

And between the Queen of England and the Queen of Italian Cinema, the latter is quite a bit more enthralling.

San Diego Film Critics' winners

The 2006 San Diego Film Critics Society winners were announced on Dec. 18.

Best Film: Letters from Iwo Jima.

Best Foreign Language Film: Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles.

Best Non-Fiction Film: Shut Up & Sing, directed by Barbara Kopple & Cecilia Peck.

Best Director: Clint Eastwood, Letters from Iwo Jima.

Best Actor: Ken Takakura, Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles.

Best Actress: Helen Mirren, The Queen.

Best Supporting Actor: Ray Winstone, The Proposition.

Best Supporting Actress: Lili Taylor, Factotum.

Best Ensemble Performance: Babel.

Best Original Screenplay: Karen Moncrieff, The Dead Girl.

Best Adapted Screenplay: Jason Reitman, Thank You for Smoking.

Best Animated Film: Cars, directed by John Lasseter and co-director Joe Ranft.

Best Cinematography: Dick Pope, The Illusionist.

Best Editing: Christopher Rouse, Richard Pearson, and Clare Douglas, United 93.

Best Score: Gustavo Santaolalla, Babel.

Best Production Design: Owen Paterson, V for Vendetta.

Body of Work Award: Edward Norton for The Illusionist, Down in the Valley, and The Painted Veil.

Shut Up and Sing the Dixie Chicks vs George W. Bush: Curious Spirit of the South Award pickShut Up & Sing with The Dixie Chicks and U.S. President George W. Bush. Curiously, the Southeast Film Critics Association selected Barbara Kopple and Cecilia Peck's political documentary Shut Up & Sing as the recipient of this year's Wyatt Award, which is given to “the film that best captures the 'spirit of the South' ”. Why curious? U.S. right-wingers – a number of them in the, in large part, extremely conservative American Southeast – were outraged after The Dixie Chicks' vocalist Natalie Maines publicly criticized Bush for his – and, however tacitly, his supporters' – deadly, out-of-control war in Iraq.

One single 'curious' choice among Southeastern Film Critics winners

The Southeastern Film Critics Association, which consists of reviewers from nine southern U.S. states, announced this past Dec. 17 their choices for 2006's best in film.

As can be attested further below, unlike the San Diego Film Critics' list there were neither major nor minor surprises. Martin Scorsese's mafia thriller The Departed was named Best Film, Scorsese was Best Director, Helen Mirren was Best Actress for The Queen, Guillermo del Toro's dark fantasy Pan's Labyrinth was Best Foreign Language Film, and so on.

'Shut Up & Sing': The Dixie Chicks & freedom of speech fight

Yet there was one very curious choice: the Southeastern Film Critics' Wyatt Award, “for the film that best captures the 'spirit of the South,' ” went to the documentary Shut Up & Sing – which, coincidentally, happened to be the San Diego Film Critics' Best Non-Fiction Film.

Directed by two-time Oscar-winning veteran Barbara Kopple (Harlan County U.S.A., 1976; American Dream, 1990) and Cecilia Peck (Gregory Peck's daughter), Shut Up & Sing chronicles the vicious, right-wing-led firestorm that engulfed the Dallas-born country music band Dixie Chicks following singer Natalie Maines' anti-George W. Bush remarks – “Just so you know, we're ashamed the president of the United States is from Texas” – at a 2003 London concert.

Maines, of course, was referencing the Bush administration-engendered Iraq War that to date has led to the deaths of up to 150,000 civilians.

But why would singling out Shut Up & Sing be a curious choice as a representation of the “spirit of the South”? Well, bear in mind that countless Dixie Chicks accusers, detractors, vilifiers, and boycotters were from the highly conservative American South.

Southeastern Film Critics winners & Best Film runners-up

Best Film: The Departed.

Letters from Iwo Jima.
The Queen.
United 93.
Little Miss Sunshine.
Notes on a Scandal.
Pan's Labyrinth.
Little Children.
Thank You for Smoking.

Best Foreign Language Film: Pan's Labyrinth, directed by Guillermo del Toro.

Best Documentary: An Inconvenient Truth, directed by Davis Guggenheim.

Best Actress: Helen Mirren, The Queen.

Best Actor: Forest Whitaker, The Last King of Scotland.

Best Supporting Actress: Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls.

Best Supporting Actor: Jackie Earle Haley, Little Children.

Best Director: Martin Scorsese, The Departed.

Best Original Screenplay: Michael Arndt, Little Miss Sunshine.

Best Adapted Screenplay: William MonahanThe Departed.

Best Animated Film: Cars.

Wyatt Award (for the film that best captures the “spirit of the South”): Shut Up & Sing.


Satellite Awards: Meryl Streep & Leonardo DiCaprio among winners

The 2006 International Press Academy's Satellite Award nominations were announced on Nov. 30. The winners were announced on Dec. 17 at the Imperial Ballroom of le Méridian in Beverly Hills.


Motion Picture, Drama
Half Nelson.
* The Departed.
Flags of Our Fathers.
The Queen.
The Last King of Scotland.
Little Children.

Motion Picture, Comedy or Musical
Little Miss Sunshine.
Thank You for Smoking.
The Devil Wears Prada.
Stranger Than Fiction.
* Dreamgirls.

Motion Picture, Foreign Language
The Lives of Others, Germany.
* Volver, Spain.
Changing Times, France.
Water, Canada.
The Syrian Bride, Israel.
Apocalypto, U.S.

Motion Picture, Animated or Mixed Media
Ice Age: The Meltdown.
Happy Feet.
Flushed Away.
* Pan's Labyrinth.

Motion Picture, Documentary
* Deliver Us from Evil.
Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple.
An Inconvenient Truth.
The U.S. vs. John Lennon.
Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man.
The War Tapes.

Best Director (tie)
Martin Scorsese, The Departed.
* Clint Eastwood, Flags of Our Fathers.
Pedro Almodóvar, Volver.
Stephen Frears, The Queen.
Alejandro González Iñárritu, Babel.
* Bill Condon, Dreamgirls.

Best Actor in a Motion Picture, Drama
Derek Luke, Catch a Fire.
Joshua Jackson, Aurora Borealis.
* Forest Whitaker, The Last King of Scotland.
Ryan Gosling, Half Nelson.
Patrick Wilson, Little Children.
Leonardo DiCaprio, Blood Diamond.

Best Actress in a Motion Picture, Drama
Penélope Cruz, Volver.
* Helen Mirren, The Queen.
Judi Dench, Notes on a Scandal.
Gretchen Mol, The Notorious Bettie Page.
Maggie Gyllenhaal, Sherrybaby.
Kate Winslet, Little Children.

Best Actor in a Motion Picture, Comedy or Musical
* Joseph Cross, Running with Scissors.
Aaron Eckhart, Thank You for Smoking.
Sacha Baron Cohen, Borat: Cultural Learnings of America For Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.
Peter O'Toole, Venus.
Will Ferrell, Stranger Than Fiction.

Best Actress in a Motion Picture, Comedy or Musical
Julie Walters, Driving Lessons.
Annette Bening, Running with Scissors.
* Meryl Streep, The Devil Wears Prada.
Toni Collette, Little Miss Sunshine.
Jodie Whitaker, Venus.
Beyoncé Knowles, Dreamgirls.

Best Actor in a Supporting Role
Donald Sutherland, Aurora Borealis.
Adam Beach, Flags of Our Fathers.
* Leonardo DiCaprio, The Departed.
Alan Arkin, Little Miss Sunshine.
Brad Pitt, Babel.
Jack Nicholson, The Departed.

Best Actress in a Supporting Role
Abigail Breslin, Little Miss Sunshine.
Lily Tomlin, A Prairie Home Companion.
Blythe Danner, The Last Kiss.
Rinko Kikuchi, Babel.
Cate Blanchett, Notes on a Scandal.
* Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls.

Best Screenplay, Original
André Téchiné, Laurent Guyot, and Pascal Bonitzer, Changing Times.
Elena Soarez, Luiz Carlos Barreto, and Andrucha Waddington, House of Sand.
Guillermo Arriaga, Babel.
Pedro Almodóvar, Volver.
* Peter Morgan, The Queen.
Paul Laverty, The Wind That Shakes the Barley.

Best Screenplay, Adapted
William Broyles Jr., Paul Haggis, Flags of Our Fathers.
Jason Reitman, Thank You for Smoking.
* William Monahan, The Departed.
Todd Field, Tom Perrotta, Little Children.
Garrison Keillor, A Prairie Home Companion.
Bill Condon, Dreamgirls.

Best Cinematography
Ricardo Della Rosa, House of Sand.
* Tom Stern, Flags of Our Fathers.
Vilmos Zsigmond, The Black Dahlia.
Philippe Le Sourd, A Good Year.
Dante Spinotti, X-Men: The Last Stand.
Matthew Libatique, The Fountain.
Zhao Xiaoding, Curse of the Golden Flower.

Best Film Editing
* Mark Helfrich, Mark Goldblatt, Julia Wong, X-Men: The Last Stand.
Joel Cox, Flags of Our Fathers.
Stephen Mirrione, Douglas Crise, Babel.
William Goldenberg, Miami Vice.
Virginia Katz, Dreamgirls.

Best Original Score
Gabriel Yared, The Lives of Others.
Clint Eastwood, Flags of Our Fathers.
Philip Glass, Notes on a Scandal.
Nathan Johnson, Brick.
Hans Zimmer, The Da Vinci Code.
* Gustavo Santaolalla, Babel.

Best Art Direction & Production Design
K.K. Barrett, Marie Antoinette.
* Henry Bumstead, Jack G. Taylor Jr., Richard C. Goddard, Flags of Our Fathers.
John Myhre, Tomas Voth, Nancy Haigh, Dreamgirls.
Eugenio Caballero, Pan's Labyrinth.
Owen Paterson, Marco Bittner Rosser, Sarah Horton, Sebastian T. Krawinkel, Stephan O. Gessler, V for Vendetta.

Best Costume Design
Milena Canonero, Marie Antoinette.
Jenny Beavan, The Black Dahlia.
Chung Man Yee, Curse of the Golden Flower.
Sharen Davis, Dreamgirls.
* Patricia Field, The Devil Wears Prada.

Best Original Song
“Upside Down” – Jack Johnson, Curious George.
* “You Know My Name” – Chris Cornell, Casino Royale.
“Never Let Go” – Bryan Adams, Trevor Rabin, Eliot Kennedy, The Guardian.
“Till the End of Time” – Nick Urata, Devotchka, Little Miss Sunshine.
“Love You I Do” – Henry Krieger, Siedah Garrett, Dreamgirls.
“Listen” – Henry Krieger, Anne Previn, Scott Cutler, Beyoncé Knowles, Dreamgirls.

Best Visual Effects
Michael Owens, Matthew E. Butler, Bryan Grill, Steve Riley, Flags of Our Fathers.
* John Knoll, Hal Hickey, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest.
John Bruno, X-Men: The Last Stand.
Dan Glass, V for Vendetta.
Jeremy Dawson, Dan Schrecker, The Fountain.
Everett Burrell, Edward Irastorza, Pan's Labyrinth.
Kevin Ahern, The Da Vinci Code.

Best Sound (Editing & Mixing)
Steve Maslow, Doug Hemphill, John A. Larsen, Rick Kline, X-Men: The Last Stand.
Alan Robert Murray, Bub Asman, Walt Martin, John T. Reitz, David E. Campbell, Gregg Rudloff, Flags of Our Fathers.
José Antonio García, Jon Taylor, Christian P. Minkler, Martín Hernández, Babel.
* Willie D. Burton, Michael Minkler, Bob Beemer, Richard E. Yawn, Dreamgirls.
Anthony J. Ciccolini III, Kevin O'Connell, Greg P. Russell, The Da Vinci Code.

Best Ensemble
The Departed.

Mary Pickford Award (“for outstanding artistic contribution to the entertainment industry”):
Martin Landau.

Nikola Tesla Award (“in recognition for visionary achievements in filmaking technology”):
Richard Donner.

Auteur Award (“In Memoriam”):
Robert Altman (1925–2006).



Best Miniseries
* To the Ends of the Earth.
Elizabeth I.
Bleak House.

Best Motion Picture Made for Television
* A Little Thing Called Murder.
High School Musical.
In from the Night.
Mrs. Harris.
Gideon's Daughter.

Best Television Series – Drama
* House.
The Wire.
Rescue Me.

Best Television Series – Comedy or Musical
The Office.
The Colbert Report.
Everybody Hates Chris.
* Ugly Betty.

Best Actor in a Miniseries or Motion Picture Made for Television
André Braugher, Thief.
Ben Kingsley, Mrs. Harris.
Hugh Dancy, Elizabeth I.
Charles Dance, Bleak House.
* Bill Nighy, Gideon's Daughter.

Best Actress in a Miniseries or Motion Picture Made for Television
* Judy Davis, A Little Thing Called Murder.
Helen Mirren, Elizabeth I.
Gillian Anderson, Bleak House.
Annette Bening, Mrs. Harris.
Miranda Richardson, Gideon's Daughter.

Best Actor in a Television Series – Drama
Denis Leary, Rescue Me.
Bradley Whitford, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.
Bill Paxton, Big Love.
* Hugh Laurie, House.
Matthew Perry, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.
Michael C. Hall, Dexter.

Best Actress in a Television Series – Drama
Sarah Paulson, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.
* Kyra Sedgwick, The Closer.
Kristen Bell, Veronica Mars.
Emily Deschanel, Bones.
Jeanne Tripplehorn, Big Love.
Amanda Peet, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.

Best Actor in a Television Series – Comedy or Musical
Steve Carrell, The Office.
* James Spader, Boston Legal.
Ted Danson, Help Me Help You.
Stephen Colbert, The Colbert Report.
Jason Lee, My Name Is Earl.
James Roday, Psych USA.

Best Actress in a Television Series – Comedy or Musical
America Ferrera, Ugly Betty.
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, The New Adventures of Old Christine.
Lisa Kudrow, The Comeback.
Mary-Louise Parker, Weeds.
* Marcia Cross, Desperate Housewives.
Laura Kightlinger, Minor Accomplishments of Jackie Woodman.

Best Actor in a Supporting Role in a Series, Miniseries, or Motion Picture Made for Television
Robert Knepper, Prison Break.
Forest Whitaker, The Shield.
Jeremy Piven, Entourage.
Michael Emerson, Lost.
* Tony Plana, Ugly Betty.
Philip Baker Hall, The Loop.

Best Actress in a Supporting Role in a Series, Miniseries, or Motion Picture Made for Television
Vanessa Williams, Ugly Betty.
Elizabeth Perkins, Weeds.
Jean Smart, 24.
Fionnula Flanagan, Brotherhood.
* Julie Denz, Dexter.
Laurie Metcalf, Desperate Housewives.

Best Ensemble
Grey's Anatomy.

Outstanding Guest Star
Jerry Lewis, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit



Best Overall DVD
* Superman Ultimate Collector's Edition.
Pandora's Box / Die Büchse der Pandora.
Good Night and Good Luck.
A History of Violence.
Seven Samurai.
Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take 2 1/2.
Changing Times / Les Temps qui changent.
V for Vendetta.

Best DVD Extras
Harry Potter Years 1–4.
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
Corpse Bride.

The Da Vinci Code.
Good Night and Good Luck.
* Mission: Impossible III.
The New World.
The Omen.
The Poseidon Adventure.
The Towering Inferno.

Best Youth DVD
Akeelah and the Bee.
Eight Below.
The Greatest Game Ever Played.
Ice Age: The Meltdown.
Lady and the Tramp.
* The Little Mermaid.
Nanny McPhee.
Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit.

Best Documentary DVD
Thinking XXX.
* An Inconvenient Truth.
Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room.
Dave Chappelle's Block Party.
The Aristocrats.
Marie Antoinette.
49 Up.
Andy Warhol: A Documentary Film.
Pornography: A Secret History of Civilisation.

Best Classic DVD
Sam Peckinpah's Legendary Westerns Collection.
The Rogers and Hammerstein Box Set Collection.
Wicker Man.
Breakfast at Tiffany's Anniversay Edition.
Valley of the Dolls.
* The Conformist.
1900 / Novecento.
Astaire & Rogers Ultimate Collector's Edition.
Cabin in the Sky.

Best DVD Release of a TV Show
Alias – The complete fifth season.
Desperate Housewives – The complete second season.
Slings and Arrows – season two.
Six Feet Under – The complete series gift set.
Police Squad! – The complete series.
* The Simpsons – The complete eighth season.
Liza with a “Z” – A concert for television (collector's edition).
Mission: Impossible – The Complete first season.


San Diego Film Critics Society website.

Image of San Diego Film Critics Best Actor winner Ken Takakura in Best Foreign Language Film winner Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles: Sony Pictures Classics.

Image of the Dixie Chicks and U.S. President George W. Bush in the San Diego Film Critics' Best Non-Fiction Film winner and the Southeast Film Critics' Wyatt Award winner Shut Up & Sing: The Weinstein Company.

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