Screen International has voted Pedro Almodovar's Talk To Her as its favourite film of 2002 in a global poll of its staff and correspondents.
It was a poll that by and large favoured small, personal stories that were toast of festivals this past year over the big budget spectacles that dominated the worldwide box office.
The choice of Almodovar lends further credence to his rising claims for some kind of Oscar consideration outside the foreign-language category, where he was overlooked as Spain's official entry.
Sony Pictures Classics is known to be mounting a best director campaign on Almodovar's behalf, hoping to capitalise on his media popularity in the US and recent triumphs at both the European Film Awards and the National Board Of Review.
Despite that momentum, Almodovar's margin of victory in the Screen poll was narrow enough to suggest that all bets are off when it comes to determining which films will achieve some kind of critical consensus in the months ahead. Particularly since so few of the heavyweight Oscar contenders have been seen outside Los Angeles and New York.
Fernando Meirelle's City Of God and Aki Kaurismaki's The Man Without A Past, both of which have been submitted as foreign-language candidates for next year's Academy Awards, were close runners-up in the affections of the paper's critics, staff members and international correspondents.
In fact, the Brazilian film was the individual top choice among so many of those who saw the film, but Talk To Her won out overall in the representative voting system by virtue of being more widely seen across the globe.
Reflective perhaps of the international zeitgeist right now, the most popular American film over the past year was Michael Moore's Bowling For Columbine, which takes broad aim at America's obsession with firearms and militarism. The pervading sense of geo-political unease can also be sensed in the choices of both The Quiet American and Bloody Sunday, two films that deal with territorial occupation.
Predictably, given the subject-matter, Moore's Canadian-backed documentary was financed outside of the US. But other than Steven Spielberg's Minority Report, in which his DreamWorks teamed up with 20th Century Fox, none of the other US films could be considered wholly American either. Insomnia, The Quiet American, Punch Drunk Love and Adaptation all relied on a combination of studio backing and overseas financing partners - and in two cases also, on ex-pat directors.
1. Talk To Her
2. City Of God
3. The Man Without A Past
4. Bowling For Columbine
5. Minority Report
7. Bloody Sunday
8. The Quiet American
9. The Magdalene Sisters
10= Punch Drunk Love