Stephen M. Silverman
January 08, 2004 10:21 AM

Three days after it nabbed the same title from the National Society of Film Critics, “American Splendor,” based on hospital file clerk Harvey Pekar’s cult comic book, has been named best picture by the Los Angeles Film Critics Association.

The two back-to-back citations could give the movie, from filmmakers Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini, a leg up in the Oscar nominations, which are due to be announced Jan. 27 — the morning after the L.A. Critics’ ceremony.

The critics also voted Bill Murray best actor for his performance in “Lost in Translation,” while Naomi Watts took best actress for “21 Grams.” Scarlett Johansson, Murray’s costar in “Lost” and the star of “Girl with a Pearl Earring” will receive a special “new generation” award from the association, while “Pearl” also took the cinematography prize

Both the L.A. scribes and the national critics’ group gave “American Splendor” the best screenplay award.

This year’s presumed Oscar heavyweight, “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King,” the final film in Peter Jackson’s fantasy trilogy, also received the L.A. critics’ approval for direction. Jackson, who is now at work on a remake of “King Kong,” also was nominated for outstanding directorial achievement by the Directors Guild of America this week.

The other DGA nominees are Sofia Coppola for “Lost In Translation,” Clint Eastwood for “Mystic River,” Gary Ross for “Seabiscuit” and Peter Weir for “Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World.”

The movie getting the cold shoulder in all these lists is the Civil War drama “Cold Mountain,” despite its best-in-show eight nominations for the Golden Globes — though, as has repeatedly been reported over the years, the Globes’ nominating group, the undefined Hollywood Foreign Press Association, sometimes favors star power over critical kudos.

Meanwhile, the Producers Guild of America has selected director Jim Sheridan’s “In America” to receive the Stanley Kramer Award, which recognizes a company, individual or production that addresses provocative social issues in an uplifting fashion.

Also not to be overlooked in this season of name-calling: Actress Alicia Silverstone has been named Cosmopolitan magazine’s Fun Fearless Female of the Year for 2004, while the Fun Fearless Male title went to Matthew Perry.

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