Critics Vote with Their Feet

Warner Bros.’ Happy Feet is emerging as an awards-season favorite as film critics start to weigh in with their picks for the top films and performances. Director George Miller’s CG family flick has been named Best Animated Feature by the Washington, D.C. Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA), the Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA) and the New York Film Critics Circle (NYFCC). Tinsel Town reviewers named Disney/Pixar’s Cars runner-up for their top toon award.

Happy Feet, a movie about a young penguin who woos the love of his life with fancy footwork, danced off with the majority of votes from film critics working in television, radio, print and the internet. On the live-action side, the D.C. and New York reviewers gave Best Picture to United 93, Universal’s dramatization of the events that took place aboard one of the airliners hijacked on Sept. 11, while L.A. critics went with Clint Eastwood’s Letters from Iwo Jima, a companion piece to his WWII drama Flags of Our Fathers.

Forrest Whitaker, star of Fox Searchlight’s The Last King of Scotland, and Helen Mirren, star of Miramax’s The Queen, proved a royal pair with Best Actor and Best Actress wins all around. However, Whitaker was surprisingly tied in the category by Borat‘s Sacha Baron Cohen when the L.A. votes were tallied.

The critics were kinder than Simon Cowell was to former American Idol contestant Jennifer Hudson. WAFCA gave the songstress Best Supporting Actress and Best Breakthrough Performance for her screen premiere in DreamWorks/Paramount’s Dreamgirls. She also got the NYFCC award for her supporting role but was LAFCA’s runner-up to Luminita Gheorghiu for The Death of Mr. Lazarescu.

When it comes to animated movies, the Washington, D.C. Area Film Critics Association has been on the same page with Oscar voters in recent awards seasons. Both entities picked DreamWorks/Aardman’s Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit last year and Disney/Pixar’s The incredibles and Finding Nemo in the two years prior.

Happy Feet earned another $12.9 million over the weekend to bring its four-week domestic total to $137.9 million. After a successful three-week run at No. 1, the movie slppped to second place as Buena Vista’s Apocalypto took rule of the roost with a $15 million opening.