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Southeastern critics pick 'Up in the Air' as best movie

Special Photo: Paramount</br>
George Clooney stars as "termination facilitator" Ryan in "Up in the Air." The Southeastern Film Critics Association recently named "Up in the Air" the Best Picture of 2009.

Special Photo: Paramount
George Clooney stars as "termination facilitator" Ryan in "Up in the Air." The Southeastern Film Critics Association recently named "Up in the Air" the Best Picture of 2009.

The Southeastern Film Critics Association recently named "Up in the Air" the Best Picture of 2009 in its 18th annual voting. Director Jason Reitman's seriocomic look at the travels of a downsizing expert earned a total of three awards, with its other victories coming in the categories of Best Actor (George Clooney) and Best Adapted Screenplay (Reitman and Sheldon Turner, adapting Walter Kirn's novel).

Spreading the wealth around, no other film won more than one award. Kathryn Bigelow earned the Best Director prize for the Iraq War drama "The Hurt Locker," a critical favorite that managed to place second in the SEFCA voting in the categories of Best Picture, Best Actor (Jeremy Renner) and Best Original Screenplay (Mark Boal).

In addition to Clooney, the other victorious performers were Meryl Streep as legendary cook Julia Child in "Julie & Julia," Christoph Waltz as an opportunistic Nazi officer in "Inglourious Basterds" and Mo'Nique as an abusive mother in "Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire."

While three of the four acting contests were blowouts, the Best Actress race was tight, with Streep in a three-way battle with newcomers Gabourey Sidibe from "Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire" and Carey Mulligan from "An Education."

In other categories, Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber landed the Best Original Screenplay citation for the romantic comedy "(500) Days of Summer," France's "Summer Hours" earned the Best Foreign-Language Film prize, and "Food, Inc." prevailed in the Best Documentary category.

Pixar earned its umpteenth award in the Best Animated Feature category, this year for "Up." However, it came close to being upset by "Fantastic Mr. Fox," which was also runner-up in the Best Adapted Screenplay category and placed in the SEFCA Top 10.

In its fifth year, the Wyatt Award went to writer-director Scott Teems' "That Evening Sun," a drama starring Hal Holbrook as an elderly Tennessee farmer trying to reclaim his home. Named after the late SEFCA member Gene Wyatt, the prize seeks to honor one film each year that best embodies the essence of the South.

The Southeastern Film Critics Association is comprised of journalists from nine states representing the Southeastern section of the United States. This year, 44 members participated in the voting.

In addition to naming its Best Picture, SEFCA also releases its Top 10 for the year.