‘The Hurt Locker’ scores big with critic awards

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Who says you can’t put a movie out in June and still be a major player in the award game? There has to be a huge amount of Champagne-popping today at Summit Entertainment, which released ‘The Hurt Locker’ way back in late June, figuring it would make for great adult-oriented counterprogramming in the heat of summer, when the multiplexes are crowded with lunkheaded special-effects thrillers.

Summit bet that the movie had enough artistic firepower to be remembered at year’s end. And it was right. The Los Angeles Film Critics Assn. and the New York Film Critics Circle both gave ‘The Hurt Locker’ their best picture award, with filmmaker Kathryn Bigelow earning the best director nod from both organizations as well. The prestigious critics groups agreed on a couple of other fronts, with both organizations giving the best animated film award to ‘The Fantastic Mr. Fox’ and a best supporting actor nod to Christoph Waltz from ‘Inglourious Basterds.’

There will be a lot of debate about who the biggest losers were -- starting with the Weinstein Co., whose leading award-seasons contenders, ‘Nine’ and ‘The Road,’ both went home largely empty-handed. There wasn’t much love for ‘Invictus’ or ‘The Lovely Bones’ either. But for now, the big winner is Summit, which should be planning a major push for ‘The Hurt Locker,’ which proved -- at least with the top critics groups -- that it should be a major contender throughout the remainder of the award season.