'Milk' pours it on

N.Y. critics add to Focus film's laurels

"Milk," director Gus Van Sant's portrait of gay activist Harvey Milk, was hailed by the New York Film Critics Circle on Wednesday as the best film of 2008.

Focus Features' "Milk" also earned awards for Sean Penn in the title role as best actor and Josh Brolin, who plays Harvey Milk's political rival Dan White, as best supporting actor.

The honors contribute to the growing awards momentum behind the film, which also led the field, alongside "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," when the Broadcast Film Critics Assn. announced its noms a day earlier.

Among the New York critics, Miramax's "Happy-Go-Lucky" also emerged as a multiple winner: Mike Leigh was named best director and Sally Hawkins was singled out as best actress.

It's the second time the New Yorkers have rewarded Leigh, whom they named best director in 1999 for "Topsy-Turvy."

The best supporting actress nod went to Penelope Cruz for her fiery performance in the Weinstein Co.'s "Vicky Cristina Barcelona." Disney/Pixar's "WALL-E" was chosen best animated film.

James Marsh's "Man on Wire," a Magnolia rlease, was selected as best documentary, while Cristian Mungui's abortion drama "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days" from IFC Films emerged as best foreign film.

The awards will be presented Jan. 5. (partialdiff)