'American Splendor' wins top prize from film critics

The story of a grumpy filing clerk who achieved cult celebrity status in America by becoming a comic-book writer has beaten the Oscar favourites to win one of the most prestigious annual film awards.

American Splendor was voted best picture by the influential National Society of Film Critics at a ceremony in New York.

The film is based on the life of Harvey Pekar, a hospital clerk who spent his spare time scouring thrift shops, poring over his huge collection of books and listening to jazz. He published his thoughts on American working-class culture in 1976, and in the 1980s, his comic magazine American Splendor earned him cult fame.

The film, directed by Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini, also won the best screenplay prize. Another tale of US working-class life, Clint Eastwood's crime drama Mystic River, was runner-up in the best picture category. Eastwood was named best director.

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