Hollywood epic and UK comedy vie for Berlin honors

Fri Feb 15, 2008 2:31am EST
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By Mike Collett-White

BERLIN (Reuters) - Dark Hollywood epic "There Will Be Blood," already awash with prizes and nominated for eight Oscars, takes on a light-hearted low-budget British comedy for top honors at the Berlin Film Festival this year.

Critics rate Mike Leigh's "Happy-Go-Lucky" as the strongest challenger to "Blood" for the coveted Golden Bear award for best film out of 21 competition entries, as the 11-day festival draws to a close with an awards ceremony on Saturday evening.

Also in the running is "Lake Tahoe," a Mexican study of a boy's grief, "The Elite Squad," about corrupt policemen in Brazil fighting drug crime, and "Standard Operating Procedure," a U.S. documentary about abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

It may be no coincidence that reviewers sitting through a typically dark selection of movies in Berlin were taken with "Happy-Go-Lucky," an unusually bright slice of life from a director more often described as "gritty."

Hollywood Reporter's review called it "a lovable film that ends like the best confections, leaving an immediate wish for more of the same, please."

A win for Leigh would mean he completes the hat-trick of top prizes at the three big European cinema festivals, having won the Palme d'Or in Cannes and Golden Lion in Venice.

In the lead role of Poppy, the infectiously optimistic London teacher who brings good cheer wherever she goes, is actress Sally Hawkins, among the favorites to win the best actress prize in Berlin.

Just ahead of the film in Screen International's unofficial critics' ranking is "There Will Be Blood," Paul Thomas Anderson's powerful drama of oil, cruelty and greed starring the Oscar-nominated Daniel Day-Lewis.   Continued...

<p>Daniel Day-Lewis poses during a photocall to present his film 'There Will Be Blood' running in competition at the 58th Berlinale International Film Festival in Berlin February 8, 2008. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch</p>