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'Slumdog Millionaire' Awards: Critics' Best Film Favorite + Heath Ledger Obvious Top Pick

Slumdog Millionaire awards. Dev Patel stars in critics favorite and year's most notable sleeper hitSlumdog Millionaire awards: After winning a number of Best Picture awards from various U.S.-based critics groups while on its way to becoming 2008's most notable sleeper hit, Danny Boyle's Bollywood-inspired mix of drama, music, and social commentary is the odds-on favorite for the 2009 Best Picture Oscar. Dev Patel (pictured) stars as the former Mumbai slum dweller who may succeed in becoming a millionaire and getting the girl. Moviedom's Cinderella story – both on and off screen – Slumdog Millionaire also features Freida Pinto, Anil Kapoor, and Irrfan Khan.

'Slumdog Millionaire' awards: U.S. critics' top 2008 Best Picture

Last year, the clear Best Picture favorite was Joel and Ethan Coen's violent thriller No Country for Old Men. This awards season, the clear – even if not as overwhelming – fave is Danny Boyle's Slumdog Millionaire.

The Bollywood-inspired sleeper hit was the top choice of four of the six U.S.-based critics groups' listed in this post: the Phoenix Film Critics Society, the Dallas-Ft. Worth Film Critics Association, the Detroit Film Critics Society, and the Oklahoma Film Critics Circle.

The two exceptions found below are the Houston Film Critics Society and the Utah Film Critics Association. The former went for David Fincher's age-reversal drama The Curious Case of Benjamin Button; the latter picked Christopher Nolan's Batman blockbuster The Dark Knight.

Slumdog Millionaire director Danny Boyle seems to be even more popular than his film. Five of the six groups listed below selected him as the year's Best Director. The one exception were the Utah Film Critics, who chose instead Andrew Stanton for the animated feature WALL-E.

Simon Beaufoy's adaptation of Vikas Swarup's novel was 2008's Best Adapted Screenplay (or just plain Best Screenplay) according to three of those critics groups: Phoenix, Houston, and Oklahoma. Additionally, Slumdog Millionaire was the runner-up in Dallas-Ft. Worth.

'Slumdog Millionaire' cast

The story of a Mumbai teenager whose memories of his slum childhood are awakened after he is accused of cheating on the Indian version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, Slumdog Millionaire features the following:

Dev Patel. Freida Pinto. Anil Kapoor. Irrfan Khan. Ayush Mahesh Khedekar. Sanchita Choudhary. Madhur Mittal. Feroze Khan (as Amitabh Bachchan).

More critics' favorites: Best Actress field remains wide open

Among the other critics' favorites this 2008/2009 awards season are:

  • Best Foreign Language Film Let the Right One In / Låt den rätte komma in, a Swedish-made mix of psychological drama, horror, and vampire romance directed by Tomas Alfredson from John Ajvide Lindqvist's screenplay based on his own novel. Kåre Hedebrant and Lina Leandersson star.
  • Unlike last year, which had two clear favorites – Julie Christie for Away from Her and Marion Cotillard for La Vie en Rose – the 2008 Best Actress competition remains wide open. The lists found below are a clear indication of the array of options this awards season: Meryl Streep for Doubt, Kate Winslet for Revolutionary Road, Anne Hathaway for Rachel Getting Married (with two wins), Melissa Leo for Frozen River, and Sally Hawkins for Happy-Go-Lucky.
  • Best Actor Sean Penn and Mickey Rourke – with three wins each further below – as, respectively, the title characters in Gus Van Sant's Milk and Darren Aronofsky's The Wrestler.
  • Best Supporting Actor Heath Ledger as The Joker for The Dark Knight. Ledger, who died from an accidental prescription drug overdose last January, is the odds-on favorite for the Academy Awards.
  • In this post, the top Best Supporting Actress choice is Marisa Tomei, with three wins for playing a pole dancer in The Wrestler. Kate Winslet, however, is the likely top 2009 SAG Award and Academy Award contender in this category for her performance in Stephen Daldry's Holocaust-themed The Reader, which doesn't seem to have had many screenings for U.S. critics located outside the Los Angeles/New York City axis. Penélope Cruz, for Woody Allen's Vicky Cristina Barcelona, would be no. 2.

See below the full list of winners – and sometimes runners-up – of the critics groups mentioned further up.

And further down, you'll find the results of the indieWIRE and LA Weekly / Village Voice's 2008 critics' polls covering the best films released this year in the United States.

See also: “Academy Award Predictions: Meryl Streep & Clint Eastwood + Posthumous Best Supporting Actor Nomination” & “Predictions Part II: Cinderella Tale + Slain Gay Politician & Veteran Jan Troell Returns.”

Heath Ledger The Dark Knight. The Joker is critics absolute favorite Best Supporting Actor portrayalHeath Ledger in The Dark Knight. U.S.- based critics groups' absolute favorite Best Supporting Actor for his performance as The Joker in Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight, Heath Ledger, who died at age 28 from a prescription pill overdose on Jan. 22, is the odds-on 2009 Academy Award winner in that category – even though Ledger is about as much a lead as Christian Bale in the blockbuster sequel to Batman Begins. Three years ago, Heath Ledger delivered another critically acclaimed performance – and received a Best Actor Oscar nomination for it – in Ang Lee's Brokeback Mountain, in which he plays a gay cowboy/sheepherder married to Michelle Williams but in love with Jake Gyllenhaal.

Phoenix Film Critics winners: 'Slumdog Millionaire' tops

2008 Phoenix Film Critics Society winners: Dec. 16.

Best Picture: Slumdog Millionaire.

Top Ten Films (in alphabetical order):
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.
The Dark Knight.
In Bruges.
The Reader.
Slumdog Millionaire.
The Visitor.
The Wrestler.

Best Foreign Language Film: Let the Right One In.

Best Actress: Meryl Streep, Doubt.

Best Actor: Sean Penn, Milk.

Best Supporting Actor: Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight.

Best Supporting Actress: Marisa Tomei, The Wrestler.

Best Director: Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire.

Best Acting Ensemble: The cast of Milk.

Best Documentary: Man on Wire, dir.: James Marsh.

Best Animated Film: WALL-E.

Best Original Screenplay: In Bruges.

Best Adapted Screenplay: Slumdog Millionaire.

Best Cinematography: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

Best Film Editing: Slumdog Millionaire.

Best Original Score: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

Best Original Song: “The Wrestler” from The Wrestler.

Best Production Design: The Dark Knight.

Best Costume Design: The Duchess.

Best Visual Effects: The Dark Knight.

Best Stunts: The Dark Knight.

Breakout on Camera: Dev Patel, Slumdog Millionaire.

Breakout Behind the Camera: Martin McDonagh, In Bruges.

Best Performance by a Youth - Male: Ayush Mahesh Khedekar, Slumdog Millionaire.

Best Performance by a Youth - Female: Dakota FanningThe Secret Life of Bees.

Overlooked Film: In Bruges.

Best Live Action Family Film: High School Musical 3: Senior Year.


Houston Film Critics Awards

2008 Houston Film Critics Society winners: Dec. 17.

Best Picture: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

Best Foreign Language Film: Mongol.

Best Actress: Anne Hathaway, Rachel Getting Married.

Best Actor: Sean Penn, Milk.

Best Supporting Actor: Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight.

Best Supporting Actress: Viola Davis, Doubt.

Best Director: Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire.

Best Ensemble Cast: Doubt.

Best Screenplay: Simon Beaufoy, Slumdog Millionaire.

Best Documentary Feature: Man on Wire.

Best Animated Film: WALL-E.

Best Cinematography: Claudio Miranda, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

Best Original Score: Terence Blanchard, Miracle at St. Anna.

Best Original Song: “Down to Earth,” WALL-E.

Outstanding Achievement in Cinema: Andrea Grover and the Aurora Picture Show.

Outstanding Achievement in Film Programming: Marian Luntz and the Museum of Fine Arts Houston's Film Department.


Dallas-Ft. Worth Film Critics winners

The 2008 Dallas-Ft. Worth Film Critics Association winners were announced on Dec. 17.

Best Film: Slumdog Millionaire.

Top Ten Films (Runners-up):
The Dark Knight.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.
The Wrestler
The Visitor

Best Foreign Language Film: Tell No One / Ne le dis à personne.

Runners-up: Waltz with BashirLet the Right One In. I've Loved You So Long. Gomorrah.

Best Actress: Anne Hathaway, Rachel Getting Married.

Runners-up: Meryl Streep, Doubt. Sally Hawkins, Happy-Go-Lucky. Kristin Scott Thomas, I've Loved You So Long. Kate Winslet, Revolutionary Road.

Best Actor: Sean Penn, Milk.

Runners-up: Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler. Frank Langella, Frost/Nixon. Brad Pitt, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Richard Jenkins, The Visitor.

Best Supporting Actor: Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight.

Runners-up: Josh Brolin, Milk. Eddie Marsan, Happy-Go-Lucky. Philip Seymour Hoffman, Doubt. Robert Downey Jr., Tropic Thunder.

Best Supporting Actress: Viola Davis, Doubt.

Runners-up: Penélope Cruz for Vicky Cristina Barcelona. Marisa Tomei, The Wrestler. Taraji P. Henson, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Rosemarie DeWitt, Rachel Getting Married.

Best Director: Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire.

Runners-up: David Fincher, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Christopher Nolan, The Dark Knight. Gus Van Sant, Milk. Ron Howard, Frost/Nixon.

Best Screenplay: Dustin Lance Black, Milk.

Runner-up: Simon Beaufoy, Slumdog Millionaire.

Best Cinematography: Wally Pfister, The Dark Knight.

Runner-up: Claudio Miranda, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

Best Documentary: Man on Wire.

Runners-up: Waltz with Bashir. Young @ Heart. Standard Operating Procedure. Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father.

Best Animated Film: WALL-E.

Runners-up: Kung Fu Panda.

Russell Smith Award (“Best Low-Budget or Cutting-Edge Independent Film”): Wendy and Lucy.


Utah Film Critics Awards

2008 Utah Film Critics Association winners: Dec. 19.

Best Picture: The Dark Knight.

Runner-up: Rachel Getting Married.

Best Non-English Language Feature: Let the Right One In.

Runner-up: Waltz with Bashir.

Best Actress: Melissa Leo, Frozen River.

Runner-up: Anne Hathaway, Rachel Getting Married.

Best Actor: Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler.

Runners-up: Richard Jenkins, The Visitor. Sean Penn, Milk.

Best Supporting Actor: Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight (no runner-up).

Best Supporting Actress: Rosemarie DeWitt, Rachel Getting Married.

Runners-up: Frances McDormand, Burn After Reading. Misty UphamFrozen River. Evan Rachel WoodThe Wrestler.

Best Director: Andrew Stanton, WALL-E.

Runner-up: Christopher Nolan, The Dark Knight.

Best Screenplay: Jenny Lumet, Rachel Getting Married.

Runner-up: Robert Siegel, The Wrestler.

Best Documentary Feature: Man on Wire.

Runners-up: Encounters at the End of the WorldWaltz with Bashir.

Best Animated Feature: WALL-E.

Runner-up: Kung Fu Panda.


Detroit Film Critics winners and nominations

The 2008 Detroit Film Critics Society nominations were announced on Dec. 10. The winners were announced on Dec. 19.

Best Film
The Dark Knight.
* Slumdog Millionaire.
The Wrestler.

Best Director
Darren Aronofsky, The Wrestler.
* Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire.
Ron Howard, Frost/Nixon.
Christopher Nolan, The Dark Knight.
Andrew Stanton, WALL-E.

Best Actor
Josh Brolin, W.
Leonardo DiCaprio, Revolutionary Road.
Frank Langella, Frost/Nixon.
Sean Penn, Milk.
* Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler.

Best Actress
Anne Hathaway, Rachel Getting Married.
Sally Hawkins, Happy-Go-Lucky.
Melissa Leo, Frozen River.
Meryl Streep, Doubt.
* Kate Winslet, Revolutionary Road.

Best Supporting Actor
Robert Downey Jr., Tropic Thunder.
James Franco, Milk.
* Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight.
Eddie Marsan, Happy-Go-Lucky.
Michael Sheen, Frost/Nixon.

Best Supporting Actress
Amy Adams, Doubt.
Elizabeth Banks, W.
Penélope Cruz, Vicky Cristina Barcelona.
Rosemarie DeWitt, Rachel Getting Married.
* Marisa Tomei, The Wrestler.

Best Ensemble
Burn After Reading.
* Frost/Nixon.
Rachel Getting Married.
Revolutionary Road.
Tropic Thunder.

Best Newcomer
Rosemarie DeWitt, actress, Rachel Getting Married.
Rebecca Hall, actress, Frost/Nixon and Vicky Cristina Barcelona.
Danny McBride, actor, Pineapple Express.
* Martin McDonagh, writer/director, In Bruges.
Dev Patel, actor, Slumdog Millionaire.
Catinca Untaru, actress, The Fall.


Oklahoma Film Critics Awards

2008 Oklahoma Film Critics Circle winners: Dec. 23.

Best Film: Slumdog Millionaire.

Top Ten Films (listed alphabetically):
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.
The Dark Knight.
Rachel Getting Married.
Slumdog Millionaire.
The Wrestler.

Best Foreign Language Film: Let the Right One In.

Best Actress: Sally Hawkins, Happy-Go-Lucky.

Best Supporting Actress: Marisa Tomei, The Wrestler.

Best Actor: Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler.

Best Supporting Actor: Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight.

Best Director: Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire.

Best Original Screenplay: Robert D. Siegel, The Wrestler.

Best Adapted Screenplay: Simon Beaufoy, Slumdog Millionaire.

Best First Feature: Synecdoche, New York, dir.: Charlie Kaufman.

Best Documentary: Man on Wire.

Best Animated Film: WALL-E.

Obviously Worst Film: The Love Guru.

Not-So-Obviously Worst Film: Mamma Mia!.

Flight of the Red Balloon Juliette Binoche: Critics fave film of the year so why no awards?Flight of the Red Balloon with Juliette Binoche. Directed by Taiwanese filmmaker Hou Hsiao-Hsien, who also co-wrote the screenplay with François Margolin, Flight of the Red Balloon / Le voyage du ballon rouge stars Best Supporting Actress Oscar winner Juliette Binoche (The English Patient, 1996) as the puppeteer mother of a boy (Simon Iteanu) whose college-attending nanny (Fang Song) is working on an homage to Albert Lamorisse's Best Original Screenplay Oscar-winning 1956 short The Red Balloon / Le Ballon rouge. The year's best movie according to indieWIRE's Critics Poll, Flight of the Red Balloon has been all but ignored by U.S.-based critics groups this awards season.

indieWIRE Critics' Poll curiosity: Why aren't critics favorites winning critics groups awards?

The most curious thing about indieWIRE's 2008 poll of 105 American and Canadian film critics is that thus far only six of those critics' Top Ten films have gone on to win awards (Best Film, Best Foreign Language Film, Best Animated Feature, Best Director, or Best Screenplay) from U.S.- and Canada-based critics' groups.

  • Disney/Pixar's Andrew Stanton-directed blockbuster WALL-E (no. 3 on the list) has been the top choice in the Best Animated Feature category and was even voted the Best Film of 2008 by the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, which, somewhat incongruously, also gave Ari Folman's Waltz with Bashir (no. 10) their Best Animated Feature prize.
  • Kelly Reichardt's Wendy and Lucy (4), starring Michelle Williams and the canine Lucy, was the Toronto Film Critics' Best Film.
  • Mike Leigh's Happy-Go-Lucky (5) received Best Director and Best Screenplay honors from, respectively, the New York and the Los Angeles Film Critics.
  • Jia Zhangke's Still Life (7) was chosen Best Foreign Language Film in Los Angeles.
  • Starring Philip Seymour Hoffman and Catherine Keener, Charlie Kaufman's Synecdoche, New York (9) was the Oklahoma Film Critics' Best First Film.

That pretty much covers it.

'Flight of the Red Balloon' mysteriously missing

Even stranger, the indieWIRE critics' top film, Hou Hsiao-Hsien's Flight of the Red Balloon / Le voyage du ballon rouge – toplining Juliette Binoche, Hippolyte Girardot, and Simon Iteanu – hasn't won anything so far, while Arnaud Desplechin's A Christmas Tale / Un conte de Noël (no. 2), Gus Van Sant's Paranoid Park (6), and Carlos Reygadas' Silent Light / Stellet Licht (8) have earned only scattered mentions.

Go figure.

Now, what about critics' 2008/2009 awards season favorite, the Fox Searchlight-distributed Slumdog Millionaire? Well, scroll down to the no. 28 spot. Danny Boyle, for his part, is listed in seventh place in the Best Director category.

Of course, discrepancies due to different ways of weighing each vote are understandable; besides, the indieWIRE survey surely includes critics that don't belong to any of the various groups and associations and societies and circles that hand out awards at the end/beginning of each year.

Yet a chasm that wide between this particular Best Film list and the top choices of the various critics groups' is mind-boggling.

The Oscar effect

One possibility for the discrepancy is that when handing out awards, U.S. and Canadian critics feel that if they select little-known, non-Hollywood (or non-U.S.-studio-distributed) films – six and a half of the Top Ten picks on the indieWIRE list are non-U.S. (Paranoid Park is a France/U.S. co-production) – their choices would be deemed irrelevant.

After all, both people in general and the media, mainstream or otherwise, seem to only care about which groups' choices will most accurately predict Hollywood's Academy Awards.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the strong contenders for next year's Best Picture Oscar are found way down the indieWIRE Critics' Poll list. Besides Slumdog Millionaire at no. 28, there are Milk (15), The Wrestler (18), The Dark Knight (22), The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (34), Gran Torino (51), Frost/Nixon (75), Revolutionary Road (94), Doubt (99).

Better matches in the acting categories

The list featuring the Best Lead Performances of 2008 matches more closely the U.S.- & Canada-based critics' award winners, perhaps because six of the Top Ten performers starred in English-language productions.

The list includes top choice Mickey Rourke (The Wrestler), Sean Penn (Milk), Sally Hawkins (for the British-made Happy-Go-Lucky), Anne Hathaway (Rachel Getting Married), and Melissa Leo (Frozen River).

Wendy and Lucy star Michelle Williams did win in Toronto and remains a possibility for a Best Actress Oscar nomination, but the inclusion of Asia Argento (Boarding Gate, Mother of Tears, The Last Mistress), Juliette Binoche (Flight of the Red Balloon), and the recently deceased Guillaume Depardieu (The Duchess of Langeais) was, admittedly, a bit surprising.

And finally, the indieWIRE lists include the polled critics' top picks in these other categories:

  • Best Supporting Performance: Critics awards' fave Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight.
  • Best Director: Hou Hsiao-Hsien, Flight of the Red Balloon.
  • Best Screenplay: Charlie Kaufman, Synecdoche, New York.
  • Best Documentary: Critics awards' fave Man on Wire.
  • Best First Film: Ballast, dir.: Lance Hammer.
  • Best Undistributed Film: The Headless Woman / La mujer sin cabeza, dir.: Lucrecia Martel.
WALL-E: Critics Poll surprising winner made history at Los Angeles Film Critics awardsWALL-E. A Disney/Pixar release directed and written by Andrew Stanton, LA Weekly / Village Voice Critics Poll winner WALL-E has been not only a worldwide blockbuster, but also a, obviously, critical favorite. So much so that earlier this month it became the first animated film to take home the Los Angeles Film Critics Association's Best Picture award. Needless to say, WALL-E is the odds-on favorite for the 2009 Best Animated Feature Oscar; it's also a shoo-in Best Original Screenplay contender and it's a possibility in the Best Picture category as well.

Animated blockbuster tops 'LA Weekly/Village Voice' Critics Poll

First there was the Los Angeles Film Critics Association. Now comes the LA Weekly / Village Voice Critics Poll naming Disney/Pixar's blockbuster WALL-E, directed by Andrew Stanton, as 2008's Best Picture.

Well, perhaps they still make 'em like they used to. At least some of the time.

A total of 80 ballots were cast. The list below has much more in common with the indieWIRE poll – no less than eight titles in common among their respective Top Ten picks – than with the various lists of critics groups' award winners.

'LA Weekly/Village Voice' Critics Poll

Best Film
1. WALL-E (237 points, 35 mentions).
2. Flight of the Red Balloon (163 points, 26 mentions).
3. Happy-Go-Lucky (159 points, 26 mentions).
4. Still Life (147 points, 23 mentions).
5. A Christmas Tale (146 points, 24 mentions).
6. Waltz with Bashir (140 points, 22 mentions).
7. Milk (123 points, 21 mentions).
8. Wendy and Lucy (122 points, 25 mentions).
9. Let the Right One In (113 points, 20 mentions).
10. Synecdoche, New York (106 points, 18 mentions).

Best First Film
Ballast (20 points/mentions).

Best Documentary
Man on Wire (16 points/mentions).

Best Actress
1. Sally Hawkins, Happy-Go-Lucky (83 points, 34 mentions).
2. Michelle Williams, Wendy and Lucy (60 points, 28 mentions).
3. Juliette Binoche, Flight of the Red Balloon (55 points, 26 mentions).

Best Actor
1. Sean Penn, Milk (86 points, 36 mentions).
2. Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler (74 points, 36 mentions).
3. Benicio Del Toro, Che (25 points, 12 mentions).

Best Supporting Actor
1. Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight (75 points, 29 mentions).
2. Eddie Marsan, Happy-Go-Lucky (43 points, 19 mentions).
3. Josh Brolin, Milk (30 points, 13 mentions).

Best Supporting Actress
1. Penélope Cruz, Vicky Cristina Barcelona (42 points, 21 mentions).
2. Viola Davis, Doubt (35 points, 14 mentions).
3. Rosemarie DeWitt, Rachel Getting Married (30 points, 14 mentions).

Worst Film
The Love Guru (5 points/mentions).

Best Undistributed Films
1. The Headless Woman (15 points/mentions).
2. Tony Manero (11 points/mentions).
3. Four Nights with Anna (10 points/mentions).


Dev Patel Slumdog Millionaire image: Fox Searchlight Pictures.

Heath Ledger The Dark Knight image: Warner Bros.

WALL-E image: Walt Disney Studios / Pixar Animation.

Juliette Binoche Flight of the Red Balloon image: Margo Films / Les Films du Lendemain.

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2 Comments to 'Slumdog Millionaire' Awards: Critics' Best Film Favorite + Heath Ledger Obvious Top Pick

  1. Arthur

    Perhaps the discrepancy has to do with all those rounds of voting. Maybe flight of the red balloon was one of the top films in the first ballot, but lost steam in the second or third or fourth ballot. Maybe it still doesn't make sense, but that's a possibility. Something to consider.

  2. J. Johnson

    Maybe the difference has to do with the kind of consensus critics groups must reach when they select their top films. I've read that sometimes the favorites are discarded along the way so that a film that most critics actually like at least some ends up being the winner.