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by Peter Knegt
December 10, 2008 9:59 AM
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AWARDS WATCH '08 | "Milk," "Lucky" Big Winners With New York Critics

Gus Van Sant's Harvey Milk biopic, "Milk," led the 2008 New York Film Critics' Circle awards, taking awards for best picture, best actor Sean Penn and best supporting actor Josh Brolin. "Happy-Go-Lucky" was also a major winner, with awards for best director Mike Leigh and best actress Sally Hawkins. Penn, Hawkins and best supporting actress Penelope Cruz are all repeat winners from yesterday's LA critics' announcement. The full list of winners is below.

Other major winners included Cristian Mungiu's "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days" for best foreign-language film. Despite being honored by numerous critics' groups last year (including the Los Angeles Film Critics' Association, which also awarded it best supporting actor), the NYFCC chose to include the film in this year's honors.

"It's a mark of a healthy culture that people want to read and engage in the debate on movies on a serious level," Entertainment Weekly critic Lisa Schwarzbaum told indieWIRE today. The chair of the New York Film Critics Circle this year, she noted that the awards were spread among a number of films.

"Earlier in the year people were saying it's no a strong year, but there is such a variety this year." Specifically, Schwarzbaum singled out the many strong performances this year, adding that a number of actors -- Penelope Cruz, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Kate Winslet -- were worth considering for their performances in multiple films.

"Wall-E," the LA critics' best picture, was awarded best animated film, "Rachel Getting Married"'s Jenny Lumet best screenplay, while James Marsh's "Man on Wire" took the another honor for best documentary of the year and Courtney Hunt won best first film for "Frozen River."

Last year, the NYFCC honored "No Country For Old Men" for best picture, director, screenplay and supporting actor, all of which translated to Academy Award wins. Though only twice in the past fifteen years (the other instance being 2003's "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King"), has NYFCC's best picture gone on to win an Oscar.

The Circle added three critics to their membership this year, including two from online publications. Schwarzbaum explained that the move was a shift to embrace the changing nature of film criticism. "We are in a changing time, but what doesn't change is that they are upholding the best in film criticism and the best in film and the best in film, not based on commercial consideration but on aesthetic quality."

The 2008 New York Film Critics' Circle Award Winners:

Best Picture: "Milk"
Best Director: Mike Leigh, "Happy-Go-Lucky"
Best Actor: Sean Penn, "Milk"
Best Actress: Sally Hawkins, "Happy-Go-Lucky"
Best Supporting Actor: Josh Brolin, "Milk"
Best Supporting Actress: Penelope Cruz, "Vicky Cristina Barcelona"
Best Screenplay: Jenny Lumet, "Rachel Getting Married"
Best Foreign Film: "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days"
Best Documentary: "Man on Wire"
Best Animated Film: "Wall-E"
Best Cinematography: Anthony Dod Mantle, "Slumdog Millionaire"
Best First Film: Courtney Hunt, "Frozen River"

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