Up in the Air, the George Clooney-starring film set to open in Memphis Christmas week, was the big winner as the Southeastern Film Critics Association today named its critics poll winners for 2009. The organization comprises 44 voting members across nine Southeastern states (myself included).
I'll run down the winners with my own brief commentary after each category:
1. Up in the Air
2. The Hurt Locker
4. Inglourious Basterds
5. A Serious Man
6. (500) Days of Summer
7. Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire
8. The Messenger
9. Fantastic Mr. Fox
10. District 9â€¨
I don't want to spoil my own year-end list, which will run in next week's paper (and which is drawn from a slightly different pool of films: 2009 Memphis releases rather than 2009 national releases), so I'll just say that I voted for half of this Top 10.
George Clooney — Up in the Air
* Runner-up: Jeremy Renner — The Hurt Lockerâ€¨
Clooney is nearly always a strong presence, and here as well, but I didn’t find his Up in the Air performance quite the revelation some are making it out to be. I threw my vote away on Goodbye Solo's Souleymane Sy Savane for first and voted The Informant!'s Matt Damon second. Renner was third on my ballot.
Meryl Streep — Julie & Julia
* Runner-up: Gabourey Sidibe — Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphireâ€¨
I voted Streep second. An Education's Carey Mulligan got my vote and I'm surprised she wasn't at least the runner-up here. I had Penelope Cruz third for Broken Embraces, set to open in Memphis next month. Sidibe is a compelling presence at the center of Precious, but was overshadowed some by stronger supporting turns.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Christoph Waltz — Inglourious Basterds
* Runner-up: Woody Harrelson — The Messengerâ€¨
I had Waltz second and Harrelson third (The Messenger is also expected to open here next month). My top vote went to Memphian Red West from Goodbye Solo.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Mo’Nique — Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire
* Runner-up: Anna Kendrick — Up in the Airâ€¨
I had Mo'Nique second. My top vote went to Inglorious Basterds' Melanie Laurent. My third-place vote to the overlooked Rosamund Pike for An Education. Kendrick is good, but not clearly better to me than Vera Farmiga in the same film.
Kathryn Bigelow — The Hurt Locker
* Runner-up: Jason Reitman — Up in the Airâ€¨
Very happy to see Bigelow win here despite The Hurt Locker coming in second in the Best Picture vote. She topped my ballot, followed by Spike Jonze (Where the Wild Things Are) and Wes Anderson (Fantastic Mr. Fox).
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber - (500) Days of Summer
* Runner-up: Mark Boal — The Hurt Locker
My votes, in order, went for A Serious Man, Inglourious Basterds, and Goodbye Solo. (500) Days of Summer definitely seems like it was probably better on the page than in execution, though.
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner — Up in the Air
* Runner-up: Wes Anderson & Noah Baumbach — Fantastic Mr. Fox
Fox got my top vote here. I strongly considered Up in the Air in this category, but went with Where the Wild Things Are second and The Informant! third.
BEST FOREIGN-LANGUAGE FILM
Summer Hours (France)
* Runner-up: The White Ribbon (Germany)â€¨
Unfortunately, neither of these films screened in Memphis and I wasn't sent preview copies of either. With 2009 Memphis releases Waltz With Bashir and Let the Right One In ineligible, I cast my votes for The Class, Red Cliff, and Broken Embraces.
* Runner-up: The Cove
Food, Inc. got my vote as well, in a close call over Good Hair. I went with the Broadway doc Every Little Step third. Never got around to seeing The Cove.
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
* Runner-up: Fantastic Mr. Fox
A tough call here, but with Up a prohibitive favorite, I slotted it third and threw my top votes to Fox and the underrated Coraline.
That Evening Sun
* Runner-up: Goodbye Solo
This award is for best Southern-themed film. I swapped these two on my ballot, but feel strongly that Goodbye Solo should have taken it over the Indie Memphis-winning That Evening Sun. The On Location: Memphis-screened Prom Night in Mississippi was third on my ballot.