B'cast Critics flag planted in neo-Western 'No Country'

Three nods including best picture

The Coen brothers' "No Country for Old Men" stole top honors at the Broadcast Film Critics Assn.'s 13th annual Critics' Choice Awards, held Monday at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium.

The Critics Choice Awards isn't a guild signatory, so the WGA did not picket the event, which enabled stars to attend as both nominees and presenters.

"No Country," the modern-era Western about a drug deal gone fatally bad, was named best picture. It also picked up trophies for the filmmaking team of Joel and Ethan Coen, who together were named best director, and Javier Bardem, whose role as an implacable killing machine earned him the award for best supporting actor.

"This is a real surprise — not that it doesn't deserve it but that it should be me collecting this award," said Daniel Battsek, president of Miramax, which co-produced "No Country" with Paramount Vantage.

Bardem accepted on behalf of the Coens, who weren't in attendance. As for his own win, he said: "I feel like I won the lottery. All the performers here are truly heartbreaking. I'm just a lucky guy, that is all." He also offered a special shout-out to his co-star Josh Brolin, calling him "a great actor and a best friend."

George Clooney presented a new prize, the Joel Siegel Award — honoring those in the film community whose work "both on- and offscreen inspires and contributes to the good of humanity" — to his "Ocean's Thirteen" co-star, Don Cheadle. Observing that Los Angeles is a one-industry town and that the strike was affecting businesses ranging from agencies to restaurants and hotels, Clooney said, "Our hope is that all the players will lock themselves in a room and not come out until they are done."

The top acting nods went to Daniel Day-Lewis, who plays a misanthropic oil man in "There Will Be Blood," and Julie Christie, who stars as a woman drifting into Alzheimer's in "Away from Her." The supporting actress prize went to Amy Ryan, who appears as a tough single mom in "Gone Baby Gone."

Day-Lewis, who received a standing ovation, joked: "It's moments like this that I wish that George Clooney was my speech writer. You haven't a spare speech that I can borrow, have you?"

The group, which represents more than 200 critics from TV, radio and online outlets across North America, prides itself on serving as a harbinger of eventual Oscar wins.

The musical "Hairspray" danced away with two awards at the ceremony, hosted by D.L. Hughley and broadcast live on VH1. It earned the prize for best acting ensemble, while newcomer Nikki Blonsky was chosen best young actress.

In addition to Day-Lewis' best acting award, "Blood" also earned the best composer trophy for Jonny Greenwood.

"Juno" also was a double winner — it was named best comedy, and Diablo Cody won for best writer.

Disney/Pixar's "Ratatouille" took top honors in the animation category, while Disney's "The Enchanted" was singled out as best live-action family film.

The documentary prize went to Michael Moore's "Sicko"; Julian Schnabel's French-language "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" was voted best foreign-language film; and "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee," which aired on HBO, was chosen best picture made for television.

Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova took home the award for best song for "Falling Slowly" from the film "Once."

Ahmad Khan Mahmidzada of the "The Kite Runner" was named best young actor. Mahmidzada was one of the young Afghan actors who relocated to an undisclosed location before the film was released to avoid any fallout. William Horberg, one of the producers, said he'd recently seen Mahmidzada in Dubai and said, "This is a fantastic thing for him and for Afghanistan."
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