Prize-filled day for ‘The Hurt Locker’

Sunday was a big day for “The Hurt Locker,” the gripping wartime drama about a bomb diffusion unit in Iraq.

Within hours, the Los Angeles Film Critics Assn. and the American Film Institute both named the independent production the year’s best drama. L.A. critics bestowed the film’s director, Kathryn Bigelow, with a best director prize as well.

Movie awards: An article in Monday’s Calendar about the Los Angeles Film Critics Assn. and American Film Institute awards said “The Hurt Locker” is about a “bomb diffusion unit” in Iraq. The unit defuses bombs. —

The weekend announcements mark the first stages of the movie industry’s highly anticipated Hollywood award season, which culminates with the Oscars in March. Nominations for the Golden Globes Awards will be announced Tuesday.

Meanwhile, on Sunday, the L.A. critics also honored Jeff Bridges as best actor for his performance as Bad Blake, a hard-living, washed-up country singer in “Crazy Heart”; and Yolande Moreau as best actress for “Séraphine,” in which she plays Séraphine Louis, a devout housekeeper who was a self-taught painter.

In the other categories, Christoph Waltz won for best supporting actor for his role as the sadistic Nazi officer in “Inglourious Basterds”; and Mo’Nique took home best supporting actress for her portrayal of an abusive mother in “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire.”

In an unusually competitive category, Wes Anderson’s “Fantastic Mr. Fox” edged out “Up” for best animated film.

“Up,” the widely acclaimed tale of an old man and a young boy who embark on an unusual adventure in a balloon-powered house, is expected to be a serious contender for an Oscar best picture nomination.

Other awards from the L.A. critics included: best foreign film for the French drama “Summer Hours”; best screenplay, Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner for “Up in the Air”; best music/score, T Bone Burnett and Stephen Bruton for “Crazy Heart”; best cinematography, Christian Berger for “The White Ribbon.”

Last year, the critics gave the Disney/Pixar animated hit “Wall-E” best picture honors; “Slumdog Millionaire” went on to win the best picture Oscar. The last time the film critics group and the Academy Awards agreed on best picture was for 1993’s “Schindler’s List.”

The 35th annual L.A. Film Critics Assn. awards ceremony will be held Jan. 16 at the InterContinental Hotel, Los Angeles.

Besides “The Hurt Locker,” AFI’s top films for 2009 are “Coraline,” “The Hangover,” “The Messenger,” “Precious,” “A Serious Man,” “A Single Man,” “Sugar,” “Up” and “Up in the Air.”

In television, “The Big Bang Theory,” “Big Love,” “Friday Night Lights,” “Glee,” “Mad Men,” “Modern Family,” “The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency,” “Nurse Jackie,” “Party Down” and “True Blood” were chosen as the best of 2009.

The AFI Awards 2009 selections were made by a 13-person jury composed of scholars, film artists, critics and AFI trustees.

Two juries -- one for film and one for TV -- met for two days at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza Hotel.

Among the film jurors were director Norman Jewison, Oscar-winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black (“Milk”) and journalists Leonard Maltin and Claudia Puig of USA Today.

Television jurors included writer-producer Neal Baer, journalist Brian Lowry of Variety, writer-producer David Milch, actress CCH Pounder and John Shaffner, president of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.

AFI will honor the creative ensembles at an invitation-only luncheon at the Four Seasons in Los Angeles on Jan. 15.