Waltz With Bashir was named best picture of the year by the National Society of Film Critics with 26 votes, ahead of Happy-Go-Lucky and Wall-E tied in second place with 20 votes apiece.

Sean Penn ran away with the best actor prize for Milk on 87 votes, followed by Mickey Rourke on 40 for The Wrestler and Clint Eastwood on 38 for Gran Torino. Sally Hawkins was the clear actress winner for Happy-Go-Lucky with 65 votes, while Melissa Leo on 33 for Frozen River finished second and Michelle Williams on 31 for Wendy And Lucy came in third.

Mike Leigh won best director with 36 votes for Happy-Go-Lucky followed by Gus Van Sant on 20 for Milk and Paranoid Park and Danny Boyle on 16 for Slumdog Millionaire. Happy-Go-Lucky's Eddie Marsan edged out Heath Ledger in the supporting actor category and Hanna Schygulla won supporting actress for The Edge Of Heaven with 29 votes. Viola Davis ranked second for Doubt and won the same number of votes on fewer ballots.

Man On Wire was named best documentary and Mike Leigh capped a fine day for Happy-Go-Lucky with the screenplay award. Anthony Dod Mantle's work in Slumdog Millionaire took the cinematography prize and Ken Jacobs' Razzle was name best experimental film.

Several companies shared film heritage awards: The Criterion Collection for releasing Samuel Fuller's 1982 White Dog on DVD; Milestone for distributing UCLA's restored print of Kent Mackenzie's 1961 film The Exiles; Flicker Alley for distributing rare US and international black and white films; and Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment for its DVD set Murnau, Borzage And Fox.

The Society is made up of 63 US film critics and held its 43rd annual awards voting meeting at Sardi's Restaurant in New York City on January 3. Forty-nine members voted using a weighted ballot system. David Sterritt was reelected chairman for 2009 and the executive director is Elisabeth Weis.