"Milk" named best picture by NY film critics

"Milk," a movie about slain U.S. gay politician Harvey Milk, was named the best picture of 2008 on Wednesday by the New York Film Critics Circle, throwing the top award category wide open in the race for the Oscars.

The New York Film Critics Circle honors are the third major awards of Oscar season following the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, which on Tuesday named animated feature "Wall-E" the best picture, and the National Board of Review, which last week named "Slumdog Millionaire."

Such critical nods are helpful for movie studios' marketing campaigns as they jockey for attention for their films before the Academy Awards, the industry's top honors, in February.

Actress Penelope Cruz picked up her third award for the season, named best supporting actress by all three groups for her role in director Woody Allen's "Vicky Cristina Barcelona."

Sally Hawkins was named best actress by the New York Film Critics Circle, an honor she was also given by the Los Angeles Film Critics Association for her role as a cheery schoolteacher in "Happy-Go-Lucky."

The New York and Los Angeles critics both named Sean Penn the best actor for portraying a gay politician in "Milk," while his co-star Josh Brolin was named best supporting actor by the New York critics and the National Board of Review.

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