"The Artist", "The Help" big Critics' Choice winners

Thu Jan 12, 2012 11:26pm EST
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By Jill Serjeant

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Silent film "The Artist" was the top winner at the Critics' Choice Awards on Thursday, boosting its profile as the Hollywood season heats up ahead of the Oscars.

The comedy, shot in black and white, picked up four awards, including best picture and best director for Frenchman Michel Hazanavicius, who called it "a love letter to American cinema."

Comedy/drama box office hit "The Help" was the night's other big, and surprise, victor. The tale of black maids and their white employers in the 1960s U.S. South brought acting honors for both Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer in their roles as maids. The movie also won best ensemble cast.

George Clooney was voted best actor for his role as a distracted dad in family drama "The Descendants" and female romp "Bridesmaids" won the award for best comedy.

The Critics' Choice Awards were given by the 250-member Broadcast Film Critics Association, the largest film critics organization in the United States and Canada.

The awards were handed out in Los Angeles before the Golden Globes ceremony on Sunday and a slew of other award shows that narrow the field for the Oscars - the movie industry's top honors - on February 26.

"The Artist," the story of a famous silent movie actor whose star crashes when talking pictures come in, is considered a front-runner for Oscar glory.

"I made a silent movie. I don't like to speak much," Hazanavicius said on accepting the best picture trophy.   Continued...