L.A. film critics honor 'Hurt Locker'

Named best picture, director; 'Avatar' shut out of top awards

"The Hurt Locker," a tense drama about a U.S. bomb disposal unit in Baghdad that explores how the experience turns a young sergeant into an adrenaline junkie, emerged as the big winner in voting by the Los Angeles Film Critics Assn. on Sunday.

The film, released by Summit Entertainment in June, was voted best picture, while its director, Kathryn Bigelow, was honored as best director.

The runner-up for best picture was Paramount's edgy comedy "Up in the Air."

Finishing second as best director was Austrian auteur Michael Haneke for "The White Ribbon," a socio-political portrait of an early 20th-century Protestant village in northern Germany.

If there was any surprise in the LAFCA voting, it was the shutout of the most expensive movie of 2009, James Cameron and 20th Century Fox's "Avatar." The closest that film came to an honor was as runner-up in production design.

After lauding "The Hurt Locker," the critics scattered their votes among many pictures, with Fox Searchlight's "Crazy Heart," directed by Scott Cooper, being the only other picture winning more than a single award.

In the best actor category, the critics celebrated Jeff Bridges' eye-catching turn as an alcoholic, nearly washed-up singer-songwriter in "Crazy Heart." Colin Firth's performance as a prep-school teacher grieving mightily over the loss of his lover of many years in Tom Ford's "A Single Man" was runner-up.

And again, for best film music, the critics cited T-Bone Burnett and Stephen Bruton for "Crazy Heart's" country-music-infused score. Alexandre Desplat was the runner-up for his music in the animated film "Fantastic Mr. Fox."

Belgian actress Yolande Moreau won the group's best actress winner for her portrayal of French painter Seraphine de Senlis in "Seraphine," distributed domestically by Music Box Films. The runner-up was Carey Mulligan for her performance as a schoolgirl caught up in an affair with a much older man in 1960s Britain in Sony Pictures Classics' "A Education."

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The best supporting actress award went to Mo'Nique for her portrayal of a deeply scarred, wildly dysfunctional mother in Lionsgate's "Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire."

Anna Kendrick was runner-up for her role of an eager though somewhat naive young businesswoman in Paramount Pictures' "Up in the Air."

As best supporting actor, Christoph Waltz as the wily Nazi colonel in Quentin Tarantino's "Inglourious Basterds" from the Weinstein Co. took top honors. Peter Capaldi finished second for his portrayal of a foul-mouthed British government official in "In the Loop."

For best screenplay, comedy veering toward satire won the day.

Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner's screenplay for Paramount's "Up in the Air" was voted best screenplay. The film takes a sharp-eyed, humorous look at people who spend most of their time traveling on airlines and who weirdly prefer a life in transit to one of commitment and stability.

Finishing second was Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci and Tony Roche's script for "In the Loop," a British satire about governmental snafus in the lead-up to the Iraq invasion.

The film's annual New Generation, where the critics try to select a filmmaker or actor with a bright future, went to writer-director Neill Blomkamp, whose first feature, the science-fiction drama "District 9," received rave reviews and terrific boxoffice business following its August release.

For best animated film, the critics voted 20th Century Fox's "Fantastic Mr. Fox" over Pixar/Disney's "Up."

For best foreign-language film, the group went with Olivier Assayas' "Summer Hours" from France, a story about the break-up of a family home with significant heirlooms and memories, over "The White Ribbon" from Germany.

For cinematography, Christian Berger's black-and-white portrait of a small pre-World War I German town in Sony Pictures Classics' "White Ribbon" took LAFCA honors over Barry Ackroyd for his work on "The Hurt Locker."

Best production design was a battle of science-fiction films, with the award going to Phillip Ivey for his dystopian Earth in TriStar Pictures' "District 9" over Rick Carter and Robert Stromberg for their imagined planet in "Avatar."

The award for best documentary was a tie between Louie Psihoyos' "The Cove," a gripping look at the annual slaughter of dolphins in a small Japanese fishing village, and Agnes Varda's "The Beaches of Agnes," a guided tour of her favorite beaches.

The Douglas E. Edwards Independent/Experimental Film/Video award went to Anders Edstrom and C.W. Winter's U.S./Swedish experimental production "The Anchorage"

LAFCA previously announced it was honoring veteran French actor Jean-Paul Belmondo with is Career Achievement award.

The banquet where the honors will be handed out occurs Jan. 16 at the InterContinental Hotel in Century City.

A complete list of winners can be found on the next page.

Los Angeles Film Critics Assn. 2009 Award Winners

"The Hurt Locker"
Runner-up: "Up in the Air"

Kathryn Bigelow, "The Hurt Locker"
Runner-up: Michael Haneke, "The White Ribbon"

Yolande Moreau, "Seraphine"
Runner-up: Carey Mulligan, "An Education"

Jeff Bridges, "Crazy Heart"
Runner-up: Colin Firth, "A Single Man"

"Fantastic Mr. Fox"
Runner-up: "Up"

Foreign-language film
"Summer Hours"
Runner-up: "The White Ribbon"

New Generation
Neill Blomkamp, "District 9"

T-Bone Burnett and Stephen Bruton, "Crazy Heart"
Runner-up: Alexandre Desplat, "Fantastic Mr. Fox"

Production design
Philip Ivey, "District 9"
Runner-up: Rick Carter and Robert Stromberg, "Avatar"

Christian Berger, "The White Ribbon"
Runner-up: Barry Ackroyd, "The Hurt Locker"

Supporting actress
Mo'Nique, "Precious"
Runner-up: Anna Kendrick, "Up in the Air"

Supporting actor
Christoph Waltz, "Inglourious Basterds"
Runner-up: Peter Capaldi, "In the Loop"

Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner, "Up in the Air"
Runner-up: Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci and Tony Roche, "In the Loop"

Documentary/nonfiction film
"The Beaches of Agnes" and "The Cove" (tie)

Douglas E. Edwards independent/experimental film/video
Anders Edstrom and C.W. Winter, "The Anchorage"