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Mountain High 

Acclaimed film wins top SEFCA honor

The Southeastern Film Critics Association (SEFCA) recently named Brokeback Mountain the Best Picture of 2005 in its 14th annual voting. The acclaimed drama about a love affair between two cowboys (played by Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal) also earned awards from the group for Best Director (Ang Lee) and Best Adapted Screenplay (Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana, working from Annie Proulx's short story).

Junebug, an indie feature from two Winston-Salem filmmakers, director Phil Morrison and screenwriter Angus MacLachlan, was the only other movie to win more than one award. Amy Adams copped the Best Supporting Actress honor for her spirited turn as a pregnant chatterbox, while the film itself earned the newly formed Wyatt Award. 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. Junebug, set mostly in Pfafftown, NC, won by a large margin over seven other films submitted for consideration, including Hustle & Flow, which takes place in Memphis, TN, and Loggerheads, filmed in Kure Beach, Eden and Asheville. (Needless to say, The Dukes of Hazzard was not among the films deemed a contender.)

Among the year's other acting accolades, Philip Seymour Hoffman won Best Actor for his uncanny portrayal of author Truman Capote in Capote, Felicity Huffman snagged Best Actress for her bold work as a transsexual in Transamerica, and Paul Giamatti copped Best Supporting Actor for his sympathetic turn as boxer James Braddock's manager in Cinderella Man.

The writing team of Paul Haggis and Bobby Moresco received Best Original Screenplay for their ensemble drama Crash, while the French thriller Cache, starring Juliette Binoche and Daniel Auteuil, won as Best Foreign-Language Film. The sleeper hit March of the Penguins barely beat out Werner Herzog's Grizzly Man as Best Documentary, while the victor in the new category of Best Animated Film was the delightful Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit.

George Clooney proved to be this year's eternal bridesmaid, emerging as first runner-up in no less than three categories: Best Director for Good Night, and Good Luck, Best Original Screenplay (shared with Grant Heslov) for the same picture, and Best Supporting Actor for Syriana.

In addition to naming its Best Picture, SEFCA also releases its Top 10 for the year. Following Brokeback Mountain were (in order) Good Night, and Good Luck; Capote; Crash; A History of Violence; The Constant Gardener; Syriana; Cinderella Man; King Kong; and Walk the Line.

While most of the winning titles have already played Charlotte, Brokeback Mountain won't open here until January 13. There are no local release dates yet for either Transamerica or Cache.

With this latest victory, Brokeback Mountain has clearly emerged as the critical favorite as well as an Oscar front-runner. The movie has now taken top honors from seven critics' groups, including the New York Film Critics Circle and the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, and leads the Golden Globe race with seven nominations. About the only voice of dissension has come from the National Board of Review, which gave its Best Picture prize to Good Night, and Good Luck.

SEFCA comprises 46 film reviewers living in nine states, with three of its members here in Charlotte: Creative Loafing movie reviewer (and SEFCA Vice President) Matt Brunson, Charlotte Observer film critic Lawrence Toppman, and Harvey Burgess, a contributor to the annual DVD & Video Guide.

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