"Million Dollar Baby" a darling with Seattle critics

"Million Dollar Baby," Clint Eastwood's drama about a determined young boxer (Hilary Swank) and her reluctant trainer (Eastwood), has been named best picture in the 2004 Seattle Film Critics Awards. The awards are voted upon by 14 print critics (including myself) in the Puget Sound area. Eastwood's film will open in Seattle on Jan. 7 at the Meridian but is already playing in other cities and is eligible for this year's Oscars. Eastwood was also named best director in the Seattle poll, and was runner-up in the music category (won by Howard Shore for "The Aviator") for the score he composed for his film.

Acting awards went to Jamie Foxx ("Ray") and Imelda Staunton ("Vera Drake") in the lead-acting categories, and Thomas Haden Church and Virginia Madsen (both of "Sideways") in the supporting categories.

Best original screenplay was Charlie Kaufman's "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," and best adapted screenplay was Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor's "Sideways."

"Control Room" and "Touching the Void" tied for best documentary; "Maria Full of Grace" was named best foreign-language film; "The Incredibles" won for best animated film; and best cinematography was Christopher Doyle's work in "Hero."

The Seattle Critics Awards also include a Living Treasure award, in recognition of a long, cherished and possibly overlooked career in the movies. The year's winner is production designer/art director Henry Bumstead, whose stellar credits include "Vertigo," "To Kill a Mockingbird," "Topaz," "The Sting" and dozens more — and who at 89 is still at work, having most recently designed "Mystic River" and "Million Dollar Baby." Also announced was a Special Citation for a work of film restoration, to Richard Schickel and Brian Jamieson for their efforts in restoring 50 minutes of previously unseen footage to Samuel Fuller's 1980 film "The Big Red One."

Elsewhere, that humming sound you'll be hearing from downtown on Sunday is the return of a holiday-week tradition: the annual "Sound of Music" sing-along at the 5th Avenue Theatre. Wear a costume (there'll be a contest), wave your edelweiss (provided in a handy prop bag, free with admission), and sing along with Maria, the Captain, and all those various kids and nuns. Don't worry — there'll be subtitles, just in case you stumble during "The Lonely Goatherd." 1:30 p.m. Sunday at the 5th Avenue Theatre, 1308 Fifth Ave., Seattle; 206-292-ARTS or www.5thavenuetheatre.org. Tickets are $22 adults/$17 children 12 and under.

And Thursday, a splendid film series begins at Seattle Art Museum: "The Heart of England: A Centennial Celebration of Michael Powell." The weekly series, which continues through mid-March, includes 10 films from the British master, including "The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp" (shown in Martin Scorsese's restored 35mm print), "I Know Where I'm Going!," "Black Narcissus" and the sublime ballet movie "The Red Shoes." Thelma Schoonmaker, Powell's widow (and Scorsese's longtime editor), will visit the series. This is a rare opportunity to see some classic films rarely shown on the big screen — and at a bargain price. Series tickets are still available at $60 ($53 museum members); call the museum box office to order at 206-654-3121.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com