LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - “The Hurt Locker,” a low-budget movie about an American bomb-disposal unit in Iraq, was named best picture on Friday at the Critics’ Choice Awards, an event that has an uncanny knack of foreshadowing Oscar success.
The movie’s director, Kathryn Bigelow, also was honored, beating a high-profile field that included her ex-husband, “Avatar” filmmaker James Cameron — a duel she described as “sorta surreal.”
“Avatar,” which scored nine nominations, was named best action movie, and picked up five other awards in newly established technical categories to lead the overall field.
Jeff Bridges was named best actor for playing a drunken country singer in “Crazy Heart,” while the actress award was a tie between Meryl Streep for “Julie & Julia” and Sandra Bullock for “The Blind Side.”
The supporting actor awards went to a pair of on-screen villains: Austrian actor Christoph Waltz for his turn as a malevolent Nazi in “Inglourious Basterds” and comedienne Mo’Nique who played an abusive mother in “Precious.”
“Inglourious Basterds” won two other awards: for director Quentin Tarantino’s original screenplay and for best ensemble. Along with the all-star musical “Nine,” it led the field with 10 nominations. “Nine,” a major box-office bomb, went home empty-handed.
Other winners included Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner for their adapted screenplay for “Up in the Air,” and Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodovar’s Broken Embraces” for foreign-language film.
The Critics’ Choice Awards, organized by the 235 members of the Broadcast Film Critics Association in the United States and Canada, have established a reputation as the leading barometer of Oscar success. In the past 10 years, 80 percent of its best-picture winners went on to take Oscar gold. The success rate for director, best actor and actress is 70 percent.
Backstage, the winners were decidedly cagey about their Oscar chances ahead of the February 2 nominations announcement.
Bridges, who has been nominated for four Oscars but never won, simply hoped the awards attention would boost the commercial prospects of “Crazy Heart” — a country version of last year’s Oscar hopeful “The Wrestler.”
“It’s really wonderful to get the tip of the hat by the guys that do what you do,” he said. “So if that should happen it would be wonderful.”
Bullock and Streep shared the platform backstage and traded glowing assessments of each other. Bullock’s eyes welled up when Streep hailed her rival’s “amazing” facility for on-screen charm and compassion.
Reporting by Dean Goodman; Editing by Chris Wilson and Bill Trott