L.A. Critics Keen on Crouching Tiger

Momentum is growing for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, as the Los Angeles Film Critics Association selected the Ang Lee-directed epic as its choice for movie of the year, making it the first foreign-language film to be so honored by the group.

The Chinese film, which stars Asian superstars Chow Yun-Fat (Hard Boiled) and Michelle Yeoh (Tomorrow Never Dies), and newcomer Zhang Ziyi, swept Taiwan's equivalent of the Oscars and was just named as best foreign film by the National Board of Review. It is currently playing only in New York and Los Angeles, where it's pulled in an impressive $2.2 million in only two weeks.

Soderbergh Best Director, Roberts Best Actress The L.A. critics echoed their New York colleagues in naming Stephen Soderbergh as director of the year for both Erin Brockovich and Traffic, with Tiger director Ang Lee a close second. Soderbergh has also been honored by the National Board of Review for his back-to-back directorial efforts.

Erin Brockovich lead Julia Roberts was named as best actress by L.A. critics, an honor the superstar has already earned from the National Board of Review.

Douglas Honored for Wonder Boys There's still no consensus on the best actor of 2000, as Angelenos favored Michael Douglas in Wonder Boys (the film itself was selected as the runner-up for film of the year).

Best actor runner-up was Spanish actor Javier Bardem for Before Night Falls, while You Can Count on Me's Laura Linney was named as a runner-up for best actress.

Writer-director Kenneth Lonergan's script for You Can Count on Me was named as best screenplay and lead Mark Ruffalo was given the New Generation Award.

Dafoe, McDormand Recognized Willem Dafoe was selected as best supporting actor for his role in Shadow of the Vampire, and Frances McDormand, an Oscar winner for Fargo, was named as best supporting actress for her work in two films, Almost Famous and Wonder Boys. Runners-up in the supporting categories were Traffic's Benicio Del Toro and Tiger's Zhang Ziyi.

The favorite foreign film award went to Edward Yang's Yi Yi (A One and a Two …) and the best documentary award was given to Marc Singer's Dark Days.

Los Angeles critics concurred with the National Board of Review and with New York critics that Chicken Run, directed by Nick Park, of Wallace and Gromit fame, is the year's best animated film.

Look for more awards fever on Thursday, as the Hollywood Foreign Press Association announces nominees for its annual Golden Globe awards, which, like the L.A. critics' awards, will be handed out in January.