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SEFCA honors Coens' crime thriller

The Southeastern Film Critics Association (SEFCA) recently named No Country for Old Men the Best Picture of 2007 in its 16th annual voting. The powerful crime thriller, based on Cormac McCarthy's novel, earned a total of four awards, its other victories coming in the categories of Best Director (Joel & Ethan Coen), Best Adapted Screenplay (also the Coens) and Best Supporting Actor (Javier Bardem).

No Country for Old Men proved to be the only multiple winner, as the rest of the association's awards were split up among several pictures.

Daniel Day-Lewis won Best Actor for his mesmerizing turn as a ruthless oil baron in There Will Be Blood, while Julie Christie earned Best Actress for her poignant performance as an Alzheimer's patient in Away from Her.

In the closest race of the day, Amy Ryan snagged the Best Supporting Actress award for her work in Gone Baby Gone; she beat runner-up Cate Blanchett (competing for I'm Not There) by one point.

In other contests, Diablo Cody received Best Original Screenplay for Juno, while the French production The Diving Bell and the Butterfly was cited as Best Foreign Language Film. The Best Documentary prize went to the Iraq War analysis No End In Sight, and Pixar's summer blockbuster Ratatouille nabbed the honors as Best Animated Film.

In its third year, the Wyatt Award went to Waitress, a comedy-drama by the late writer-director-actress Adrienne Shelly. Named after the late SEFCA member Gene Wyatt, the prize seeks to honor one film each year that best embodies the essence of the South.

In addition to naming its Best Picture, SEFCA also releases (in order) its Top 10 for the year. The list is as follows:

1. No Country for Old Men

2. There Will Be Blood

3. Atonement

4. Juno

5. Michael Clayton

6. Zodiac

7. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

8. Gone Baby Gone

9. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

10. Into the Wild

While most of the aforementioned titles have already played Charlotte, a couple have yet to reach the Queen City: The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is scheduled to open locally on Jan. 11, while There Will Be Blood is slated to start its run on Jan. 18.

So far, No Country for Old Men appears to be the Oscar front-runner. In addition to its SEFCA victory, it's been named Best Picture by the National Board of Review, the New York Film Critics Circle, the Chicago Film Critics and the Boston Film Critics. The Los Angeles Film Critics Association bucked the trend by choosing There Will Be Blood for their top honor. Meanwhile, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association handed the most Golden Globe nominations -- seven -- to Atonement, followed by five for Charlie Wilson's War and four apiece for Michael Clayton, No Country for Old Men and Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. (The Golden Globes ceremony revealing the winners will be held Jan. 13.)

This year, 46 SEFCA members (spread out across nine states) sent in ballots, including four from Charlotte: Creative Loafing movie reviewer (and SEFCA Vice President) Matt Brunson, Charlotte Observer film critic Lawrence Toppman, Charlotte Weekly film reviewer Sean O'Connell, and Harvey Burgess, a past contributor to the annual DVD & Video Guide.

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