Slumdog Millionaire bags top slots at Critics’ Choice Awards

Slumdog Millionaire was the final answer at the Critics' Choice Awards on Thursday, as the sweeping drama about an improbable winner of India's version of Who Wants To Be a Millionaire took the top prizes at the closely watched Oscar barometer.

The movie, set in the terror-hit city of Mumbai, won five awards, including best picture, director (Danny Boyle) and writer (Simon Beaufoy). It solidifies its status as an Oscar frontrunner ahead of the January 22 nominations announcement.

The Critics' Choice Awards, organised by the Broadcast Film Critics Association, are one of the most reliable predictors of Oscar success. In the last 10 years, they have foreshadowed both the best picture and director Oscar winners 70 percent of the time. Their success rate is 60 per cent for best actor and actress.

Somewhat disingenuously, Slumdog Millionaire producer Christian Colson told reporters backstage, "We haven't got a chance in hell."

Perhaps more importantly, the film's success would "absolutely" be a huge morale boost for Mumbai, where 10 gunmen killed 179 people in November, said actress Freida Pinto. "Everybody back in India's probably rejoicing already because they are hooked onto Google," said the one-time model, who played the love interest of star Dev Patel.

Patel, who was not at the event, was named best young actor. Indian musician A R Rahman, named best composer, declared, "This is for India!" as he accepted his award.

Slumdog Millionaire also generated a nomination for best song, but that prize went to an absent Bruce Springsteen for his title song for The Wrestler.

Sean Penn was named best actor for his lead role in Milk, a drama about California's first openly gay elected politician Harvey Milk.

"At heart, this is a beauty contest so I had an advantage," Penn joked as he received his award.

The actor was not so happy a year ago when his directing foray Into the Wild led the event with seven nominations but went home empty-handed. It was also ignored by the Oscars.

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