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"Hurt Locker" sweeps the field in Chicago Film Critics' Awards

Readers of Roger Ebert's Journal chose their favorites from the list of Chicago Film Critics Association nominees. 

"The Hurt Locker," Kathryn Bigelow's compelling film about a death-defying bomb disposal unit in Iraq, swept the field Monday as the 57 members of the Chicago Film Critics Association revealed their 2009 awards.

The film won every category it was nominated in: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Jeremy Renner), Best Original Screenplay (Mark Boal), and Best Cinematography (Barry Ackroyd).

The Chicago victories, seen in the context of other big-city critics groups and the Golden Globe nominations, bring a few pre-Oscar trends into focus:

* "The Hurt Locker," moderately-budgeted at $11 million and produced independently, is in a horserace with "Up in the Air" in the Best Picture Category.

* Bigelow is the possible front-runner for Best Director. No woman has ever won in the category, and only three have been nominated: Lina Wertmüller ("Seven Beauties," 1976); Jane Campion ("The Piano," 1993), and Sofia Coppola ("Lost in Translation," 2003). That will work in her favor. Ironically, if her ex-husband James Cameron is nominated for his "Avatar," that may help her. Oscar voters love drama.

* Jeremy Renner, a comparative unknown who is electrifying in "The Hurt Locker," now joins Jeff Bridges ("Crazy Heart") and George Clooney ("Up in the Air") as probable nominees in the category.

* The Chicago critics joined what seems to en nearly unanimous agreement that the supporting categories are a lock for Mo'Nique ("Precious") and Christoph Waltz ("Inglourious Basterds").

There were two double winners: Pixar's animated “Up, a popular and critical hit, won for Best Animated Feature and Best Original Score, and Carey Mulligan was named both Most Promising Performer and Best Actress for her performance in the coming-of-age drama “An Education.”

In the Supporting Actor categories. Christoph Waltz and Mo'Nique continued to dominate the year-end critics' awards with their wins for “Inglourious Basterds” and “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push” by Sapphire.”

Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner received the Best Adapted Screenplay award for the “Up in the Air.” “The White Ribbon,” Michael Haneke's gripping drama about mysterious goings-on in a small village in pre-war Germany was named Best Foreign-Language Film. “Anvil! The Story of Anvil,” a real-life “This is Spinal Tap” following a long-surviving but obscure heavy metal band as they make one final attempt at achieving stardom, won the award for Best Documentary.

As Most Promising Filmmaker, Neill Blomkamp received the award for his debut feature, “District 9.”

I conducted a separate survey among my own readers to find out how they voted on the CFCA nominees. The results are here: http://j.mp/5ShnCv

THE CFCA WINNERS

BEST PICTURE: "The Hurt Locker"

BEST DIRECTOR: Kathryn Bigelow -- "The Hurt Locker"

BEST ACTOR: Jeremy Renner -- "The Hurt Locker"

BEST ACTRESS: Carey Mulligan -- "An Education"

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Christoph Waltz -- "Inglourious Basterds"

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Mo'Nique -- "Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push' by Sapphire"

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: Mark Boal -- "The Hurt Locker"

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner -- "Up in the Air"

BEST FOREIGN-LANGUAGE FILM: "The White Ribbon"

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE: "Up"

BEST DOCUMENTARY: "Anvil! The Story of Anvil"

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY: Barry Ackroyd -- "The Hurt Locker"

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE: "Up" -- Michael Giacchino

MOST PROMISING PERFORMER: Carey Mulligan -- "An Education"

MOST PROMISING FILMMAKER: Neill Blomkamp -- "District 9"

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