'The Dead' Is Best Film, Says Group Of Critics

Posted: January 04, 1988

NEW YORK — The National Society of Film Critics voted John Huston's The Dead the best film of 1987 at its annual meeting yesterday. Based on the James Joyce short story, The Dead, which has not yet opened in Philadelphia, chronicles a holiday supper in 1904 Dublin.

Director John Boorman was named best director for Hope and Glory, his comic memoir of the London Blitz during World War II. Boorman and Hope and Glory were also cited for best screenplay, and the movie won the award for best cinematography.

Steve Martin earned a best-actor citation for his performance as the big- nosed fireman in Roxanne; Emily Lloyd was named best actress for her portrayal of the sexually curious 16-year-old in Wish You Were Here.

At the 22d annual meeting of the society, whose awards often presage Oscar nominations, 34 critics voted on last year's best achievements in film. Dave Kehr of the Chicago Tribune presided.

The supporting-actor awards both went to Jerry Schatzberg's sleeper Street Smart: Morgan Freeman won for his portrayal of a charismatic, though psychotic, pimp, with Kathy Baker cited for her performance as the hooker he brutalizes.

Unlike the locally based New York Critics' Circle and the Los Angeles Film Critics, the National Society of Film Critics is made up of film reviewers

from across the country. Its voting patterns are believed to influence the Oscar nominations, announced in February. In past years, for instance, the group has chosen as best film such movies as Blow Up (1966), M*A*S*H (1970), Annie Hall (1977), Atlantic City (1981) and Blue Velvet (1986).

If this year's votes revealed any trend, it is that comedies, rarely nominated for Oscars, may stand a chance next month. For his comic performance in Broadcast News, Albert Brooks was a close second to Martin in the voting. The two runners-up for best actress, Diane Keaton (Baby Boom) and Holly Hunter (Raising Arizona, Broadcast News), were, like winner Lloyd, cited for roles distinguished by their comic flair.

Humor set the tone for the meeting at the Algonquin Hotel as well. Yesterday's voting was free of the rancor that often flavors the annual proceedings. In past years, fistfights and venomous words have been exchanged; once, New York Times critic Roger Greenspun left the meeting and was admitted to a nearby hospital with a heart attack.

But yesterday, when Daryl Hannah was nominated as best actress, one critic wondered whether she were being cited for her co-starring role in Roxanne or for her small part in Wall Street. "Nominate her for the body of her work!" enthused Village Voice critic Jim Hoberman.

When Lillian Gish was nominated in the same category - for The Whales of August - Morris Dickstein of the Partisan Review murmured, "Remind me, what has D.W. Griffith directed lately?"

Also at yesterday's meeting, the society voted a citation to Richard Roud, the recently resigned director of the New York Film Festival. The critics honored Roud for "his invaluable contribution to the New York Film Festival and for his vital role of introducing international cinema to the U.S."

The society also worked on its forthcoming book of essays devoted to neglected movies, tentatively titled Produced and Abandoned or I Lust It at the Movies.

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