NY film critics name "United 93" best picture

news.yahoo.com "United 93," a tense drama focusing on one of the hijacked planes used in the September 11 attacks, won the best picture prize on Monday in the New York Film Critics Circle Awards.

Helen Mirren took out the best actress honor for her role as ruling Queen Elizabeth II in "The Queen," while Forest Whitaker won best actor for his portrayal of Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in "The Last King of Scotland."

The awards, voted on by New York film critics, are among the early major
awards at the start of the Oscar season. The results put Mirren and Whitaker as early front-runners to win film's top honors at the Academy Awards in February after two other award wins in the past week.

Best director went to Martin Scorsese for the crime thriller "The Departed." The New York-born director has famously never won an Oscar despite several nominations.

Jennifer Hudson won the best supporting actress award for her show-stealing role in "Dreamgirls," the movie adaptation of the famed Broadway musical. Jackie Earle Haley won best supporting actor for playing a convicted sexual molester in "Little Children."

Critics picked Peter Morgan's screenplay for "The Queen" as the best of the year for his story of how the death of Princess Diana in 1997 threw the British royal family into crisis.

Penguin cartoon and box-office hit "Happy Feet" won the best animation film category. The film has earned $137.7 million so far at the U.S. box office.

Best foreign film went to the French film "Army of Shadows" by French director Jean-Pierre Melville, while "Deliver Us from Evil" was cited best nonfiction film.

Guillermo Navarro won the cinematography award for "Pan's Labyrinth" set in Spain.

The awards can help narrow the field of contenders for the Oscars and follow other major film awards in Los Angeles and New York. In those awards, Mirren and Whitaker also took out the top honors and

Clint Eastwood's war film "Letters from Iwo Jima" won best picture.

Chairman of the New York Film Critics Circle Marshall Fine said the choice of the smaller budget film "United 93," might surprise people, but was well deserved as "one of the most harrowing dramas I have seen in a long time."

"United 93" was released by Universal Pictures, a unit of General Electric Co.'s NBC Universal Inc.

Last year, the New York Film Critics Circle's best film choice was the gay cowboy love story "Brokeback Mountain," which lost the Oscar to "Crash."

In 2004 it named "Sideways" as the year's best picture, while the Oscar went to the another Clint Eastwood film, "Million Dollar Baby."

Clint Eastwood's war film "Letters from Iwo Jima" won best picture.

Chairman of the New York Film Critics Circle Marshall Fine said the choice of the smaller budget film "United 93," might surprise people, but was well deserved as "one of the most harrowing dramas I have seen in a long time."

"United 93" was released by Universal Pictures, a unit of General Electric Co.'s NBC Universal Inc.

Last year, the New York Film Critics Circle's best film choice was the gay cowboy love story "Brokeback Mountain," which lost the Oscar to "Crash."

In 2004 it named "Sideways" as the year's best picture, while the Oscar went to the another Clint Eastwood film, "Million Dollar Baby."

Next on the awards calendar are the Golden Globe Award nominations on Thursday.

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