'Lars,' 'Diving Bell' top Humanitas honors

'Wounded Knee,' 'John Adams' take TV categories

"Lars and the Real Girl" and "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" edged out "Juno" to tie for top feature film honors at the 34th annual Humanitas Prize Awards, handed out Wednesday at the Beverly Hills Hotel.

"Lars" writer Nancy Oliver gave an emotional acceptance speech during the ceremony, which honors film and TV writing that explores the human condition. She discussed the difficulty of "trying to sell a story about loss and grief and aggravation that's a comedy."

"Diving Bell" writer Ronald Harwood was unable to make the event.

Each Humanitas award carries a cash prize, with a total of $95,000 handed out Wednesday.

In the TV categories, writers on two historical-themed HBO projects were recognized: "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee," written by Daniel Giat, in the 90-minute category, and "John Adams (Part 1)," written by Kirk Ellis, in the 60-minute category. Ellis -- following remarks by a couple of presenters onstage in reference to a "hockey mom," i.e., vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin -- also brought up politics in his acceptance speech.

"We don't want to have a beer with (our political leaders); we want them to lead," he said. "We don't want them to 'be like me' but to be as exceptional as the men and at least one woman, Abigail Adams, who founded this country." He went on to say that "John Adams" depicted "a time when intelligent men spoke complex thoughts in complete sentences."

"Scrubs" writer David Tennant won in the 30-minute TV category for an episode titled "My Long Goodbye" that dealt with a character's death. After joking that he won over his fellow nominees "because God likes me better," he turned serious, telling the audience that he felt like when he was writing the episode, he was really writing his own goodbye to his late father via one character's dialogue.

Other winners included Paris Qualles for ABC's "A Raisin in the Sun" in the Sundance feature film category; Brian Hohlfeld for Playhouse Disney's "My Friends Tigger & Pooh (Eeyore's Sad Day)" in the children's animation category; and Ann Austen, Douglas Sloan, Max Enscoe and Annie DeYoung for Disney Channel's "Johnny Kapahala (Back on Board)" in the children's live-action category.

A new documentary award, underwritten by The Hollywood Reporter, also was handed out for the first time this year. THR publisher Eric Mika presented the honor to "Young @ Heart" director Stephen Walker. The award carries a $5,000 cash prize.

Author Dave Eggers also was on hand to accept a $10,000 check for his 826 Valencia, a writing workshop that aims to help students 6-18 years old with their writing skills. The organization, founded in 2002, has grown from a dozen to 1,400 volunteers with locations across the country.

Writer-producer John Wells, newly installed Humanitas Prize president, also addressed the crowd during the event.
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