Ang Lee's Chinese-language epic Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon increased its chances for consideration in major Oscar categories when it was named Best Picture of 2000 last night (Saturday) by the Los Angeles Film Critics Association. Curtis Hanson's Wonder Boys was runner-up for best picture.

However, not even Ang Lee could beat Steven Soderbergh who was named best director for both Traffic and Erin Brockovich. The win completes a clean sweep for Soderbergh after similar citations from the National Board Of Review and the New York Film Critics Circle. Lee was runner-up in the director category.

Julia Roberts won Best Actress for Erin Brockovich, an honour also bestowed by The National Board Of Review. She failed to win the New York critics' award which went instead to Laura Linney for You Can Count On Me. Linney was runner-up to Roberts here, suggesting that both will be frontrunners for Oscar consideration.

Meanwhile Michael Douglas won the Best Actor gong from the LA critics for Wonder Boys; Javier Bardem was runner-up for Before Night Falls.

Another consistent winner - Kenneth Lonergan won the screenplay prize for his work on You Can Count On Me; Steve Kloves was runner-up for his adaptation of Michael Chabon's novel Wonder Boys. Lonergan won the best screenplay nod from the New York Film Critics Circle and a special film-making achievement award from the National Board Of Review.

Meanwhile You Can Count On Me was again cited by the LA critics for actor Mark Ruffalo, who won the New Generation award for his performance.

Other winning actors were Willem Dafoe, best supporting actor for Shadow Of The Vampire, and Frances McDormand best supporting actress for both Wonder Boys and Almost Famous. Runners-up in those categories were Benicio Del Toro in Traffic and Zhang Ziyi in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

The night's big winner Crouching Tiger also took awards for production design (Tim Yip), music (Tan Dun) and cinematography (Peter Pau). Runners-up in those categories were Don Taylor for House of Mirth, Bjork for Dancer In The Dark and Peter Andrews for Traffic. Peter Andrews is a pseudonym for Steven Soderbergh, who was both director and director of photography on Traffic.

Crouching Tiger, having copped the top trophy of the evening, failed to snare the foreign language film prize which went to Edward Yang's Yi Yi (aka A One And A Two). Patrice Leconte's The Girl On The Bridge was runner-up.

Mark Singer's Sundance favourite Dark Days was named best documentary, with Aviva Kempner's The Life And Times Of Hank Greenberg runner-up.

And continuing a sweep in the best animation category was Nick Park and Peter Lord's Chicken Run, also best animated film according to the National Board Of Review and the New York Film Critics Circle.

Special award winners were cinematographer Conrad Hall who was cited for his career achievement and film critic Charles Champlin who won a special citation.