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    Broadcast Critics Eat Crowe

    The Oscar frontrunners are still anyone's guess, but broadcast film critics have found something to Crowe about.

    Specifically, Russell Crowe and Cameron Crowe in the epic swordplay flick Gladiator and the earnest rock nostalgia trip Almost Famous, which scored big with the Broadcast Film Critics Association Tuesday. Steven Soderbergh (who's working on a pre-Oscar awards sweep) got props for his work on Traffic and Erin Brockovich, and Oscar fave Julia Roberts scored some more best-actress kudos for her turn as Soderbergh's busty crimefighting protagonist.

    Russell Crowe, who was named best actor by the broadcast critics last year for his role in The Insider, won the award again Tuesday, this time for his turn as general-turned-slave Maximus in Ridley Scott's Gladiator. The film scored five honors at the group's Critics' Choice Awards, including best supporting actor for Joaquin Phoenix.

    Writer-director Cameron Crowe, meanwhile, won best screenplay, Frances McDormand scored best supporting actress and Kate Hudson was named "breakthrough performer" for Almost Famous, Crowe's autobiographical tale about his days as a teenage rock journalist.

    Both Gladiator and Almost Famous were among 11 nominees for best picture chosen by the country's largest critics group--one of several whose picks help shape the still-developing Oscar race. The awards will be handed out in a ceremony January 22 at the Beverly Hills Hotel.

    Also on the list of best picture nominees are Soderbergh's drug thriller Traffic and Erin Brockovich, a film that's won Roberts near-universal praise and made her one of the year's few Oscar no-brainers.

    Broadcast critics also named Soderbergh best director Tuesday for his work on both films, a double honor he's already racked up from the New York Film Critics Circle and Los Angeles Film Critics Association, among others.

    But so far, critics groups have failed to reach consensus on the best pics. Over the weekend, the Los Angeles Film Critics Association gave its top prize to the martial-arts romance Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. The New York Film Critics Circle chose Traffic as best picture, and the National Board of Review bestowed its honor on the Marquis de Sade drama, Quills. (Not to be forgotten, the Boston Society of Film Critics on Saturday handed its best picture award to Almost Famous.)

    The Hollywood Foreign Press Association could help shake things out Thursday when its nominees for the Golden Globe awards are announced.

    For the broadcast critics, even having a top 10 proved difficult. This year, the group nominated 11 films for best picture because of a tie in the final position. They are, in alphabetical order: Almost Famous, Billy Elliot, Cast Away, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Erin Brockovich, Gladiator, Quills, Thirteen Days, Traffic, Wonder Boys and You Can Count on Me.

    Other winners at the sixth annual Critics' Choice Awards:

    Best Supporting Actor: Joaquin Phoenix, Gladiator, Quills, The Yards
    Best Supporting Actress: Frances McDormand, Almost Famous, Wonder Boys
    Best Screenplay Adaptation: (tie) Stephen Gaghan, Traffic, and Steven Kloves, Wonder Boys
    Best Cinematography: John Mathieson, Gladiator
    Best Production Design: Arthur Max, Gladiator
    Best Child Performer: Jamie Bell, Billy Elliot
    Best Animated Feature: Chicken Run
    Best Family Film (live action): My Dog Skip
    Best Foreign Language Film: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
    Best Feature Documentary: The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg
    Best Song: Sting, "My Funny Friend and Me," The Emperor's New Groove
    Best Composer: Hans Zimmer, Gladiator, Mission: Impossible II, The Road to El Dorado And lastly, the broadcast critics chose to single out an extra special performer, handing its "Best Inanimate Object" award to Wilson, the volleyball that played Tom Hanks' best pal in Cast Away.

    Of course, we were rooting for the Julia Roberts' push-up bra in Erin Brockovich, but congratulations anyway.

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