LOS ANGELES - The Los Angeles Film Critics Association has gone populist on its picks for best movies of 2008, choosing the animated smash "WALL-E" as No. 1 and the Batman blockbuster "The Dark Knight" as runner-up on Tuesday.
Sean Penn was named best actor for the film biography "Milk," while Sally Hawkins received the best-actress prize for the British comic drama "Happy-Go-Lucky."
The late Heath Ledger won the critics group's supporting-actor honor for his turn as the Joker in "The Dark Knight," while Penelope Cruz was chosen for supporting actress in the Woody Allen romance "Vicky Cristina Barcelona," as well as her role in the drama "Elegy."
Danny Boyle took directing honors for "Slumdog Millionaire," with Christopher Nolan the runner-up for "The Dark Knight." "Happy-Go-Lucky" director Mike Leigh won for best screenplay.
The critics' picks are one of the early film honors in Hollywood's long awards season, which continues Thursday with nominations for the Golden Globes, the second-biggest ceremony after the Academy Awards.
Globe nominations and critics prizes can boost Oscar prospects, particularly for lesser-known films such as "Happy-Go-Lucky" and "Slumdog Millionaire." Oscar nominations come out Jan. 22, with the awards ceremony scheduled for Feb. 22.
"WALL-E" and "The Dark Knight" were unusually commercial choices for the critics, whose past best-picture winners have tended toward smaller films such as 2007's "There Will Be Blood" and other recipients that include "Letters From Iwo Jima," "Brokeback Mountain" and "Sideways."
Among runners-up for the critics awards were Mickey Rourke, best actor for "The Wrestler"; Melissa Leo, best actress for "Frozen River"; Eddie Marsan, supporting actor for "Happy-Go-Lucky"; Viola Davis, supporting actress for "Doubt"; and Charlie Kaufman, screenplay for "Synecdoche, New York."
With "WALL-E" as their best-picture winner, the critics chose the war documentary "Waltz With Bashir" as their top animated film.
Other winners include:
- Foreign-language film: "Still Life."
- Documentary: "Man on Wire."
- Production design: "Synecdoche, New York."
- Music-score: "Slumdog Millionaire."
- Cinematography: "Still Life."
The Los Angeles critics will present their awards at a ceremony on Jan. 12.