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'Saving Private Ryan' wins critics' top award

Saving Private Ryan

January 25, 1999
Web posted at: 11:22 p.m. EST (0422 GMT)

By Paul Clinton

(Paul Clinton is a founding member of the BFCA)

LOS ANGELES -- The Broadcast Film Critics Association selected "Saving Private Ryan" as the film of the year Monday.

The BFCA luncheon is always reminiscent of a morning-after party following a wild New Years celebration. In this case the celebration referred to is always the Golden Globe Awards.

The BFCA luncheon is purposely held the day after the Golden Globes to take advantage of all the star power in town for that well-established event. Many of the same faces from the Golden Globes were at the fourth annual BFCA awards to meet and greet film reviewers from across the country.

The Broadcast Film Critics Association is the largest critics association in the nation, with 130 active members reviewing films on television, radio and the Internet.

Steven Spielberg picked up both best director and best film awards for "Saving Private Ryan."

"There are three movies that I am exceptionally proud of in my life," Spielberg said, "and I rarely commit to a list of films that I like, that I've made -- but these are the three films that I was passionately connected to -- the first was 'ET,' the second 'Schindler's List,' and third is 'Saving Private Ryan.'"

Nice change of pace

The best picture award was the only one of the BFCA winners that was not announced ahead of time. "Saving Private Ryan" beat out nine other candidates, including; "The Thin Red Line," "Gods & Monsters," and "Shakespeare In Love."

Spielberg kidded that he found this award, given by critics, to be a nice change of pace, "It's great being honored by critic organizations, because so often they dishonor you with bad reviews. So this is a wonderful change."

Spielberg was presented the director award by Drew Barrymore, who at the age of 6 starred in "ET." She said Spielberg was the father she always wanted. Spielberg in turn called her the child he always wanted (at the time of "ET," 1981, he had no children).

"I was really sad every time the shooting was over every day 'cause Drew went home with her mom, and I really wanted to be her dad," he said. "I just didn't want to have to marry her mom. So we worked things out and got around the mom thing, and we have been close, like father and daughter, ever since, and to receive this award from Drew is wonderful."

Australian actress Cate Blanchett won for her role as the title character in "Elizabeth." She dedicated her award to her director, Shekhar Kapur, "for trusting me," she said, "and for casting me. He cast me on instinct, not with any concern to box office, so I thank him eternally."

McKellen: 'It feels good'

Ian McKellen accepted his best actor award for both "Apt Pupil" and "Gods & Monsters" by saying, "Critics have always rather liked me, I don't know why." McKellen is getting a lot of attention this year for both of his current films. "It's rather late in the day, but I'm turning myself into a movie actor and it feels good," he said.

Joan Allen and Kathy Bates were tied for best supporting actress for their roles in "Pleasantville" and "Primary Colors."

In accepting, Allen said, "I think ties are great and Kathy Bates is an actress whose work I've admired tremendously over many years, and I feel a certain kinship with her, we both came from an extensive theater background."

She added that she felt very blessed just to get to do what she does for a living."

For her part, Kathy Bates said, "Thank you all for letting us know who won before we came. It's also good to lose -- it keeps you humble -- but it's also great to win." She pointed to her fellow cast members in the audience, and thanked John Travolta and Billy Bob Thornton for making the experience such a joy.

Thornton, wearing his usual baseball cap along with a leopard-printed shirt, won for best supporting actor for his roles in both "Primary Colors" and "A Simple Plan."

"Critics have been very, very good to me -- there are only two or three of them that really hate me, really bad," Thornton said. "I really appreciate this award, because you're fun folks."

After rambling a bit through his speech he laughingly added, "I haven't had a drink in two years. I swear."

Benigni charms room

Roberto Benigni, who won best foreign film for "Life Is Beautiful," bounced onto the stage to accept his award saying, "My heart is swollen over in gratitude, I am over- flowering joy for this gladness you gave to me." Needless to say the entire room was completely charmed.

Travolta, who was in the running for a Golden Globe for best actor/drama for "Civil Action," lost to Jim Carrey in "The Truman Show." But he was all smiles as he accepted the first Alan J. Pakula Award at the luncheon.

The award, named after the long-time director who died in a traffic accident last year, is designed to honor an actor or filmmaker whose work is judged by the BFCA's board of directors as having had the most significant social impact of the year.

Travolta, along with his wife Kelly Preston, was on hand to accept the award from Pakula's widow, Hannah. Before handing off the award she talked about her late husband, who directed such classics as "All The President's Men" and "Sophie's Choice."

"Alan's films were about a lot of things," she said, "but I'm particularly proud that your association has chosen to honor his initiatives in asking the really important questions of our time."

Travolta said, "When I first started making films like 'Saturday Night Fever' and 'Urban Cowboy,' those were accidents as far as social impact is concerned and we didn't know what we were doing as far as the effects they would have. But when you make decisions like 'Primary Colors' or 'A Civil Action,' those are bolder and kind of dangerous in a way because you can't be guaranteed that anyone will come to them. I really can't do it without you (the film critics) because these kind of films don't survive out there without your acknowledgment. We have to be a team here, otherwise we can't survive very well."

Other winners included Joseph Fiennes for breakthrough performer of the year in both "Elizabeth" and "Shakespeare In Love," and Ian Michael Smith as best child performer, for his title role in the film "Simon Birch." "A Bug's Life" and "The Prince of Egypt" tied for best animated film .

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