up_in_the_air_movie_poster_US_george_clooney_jason_reitman_01_jpgFirst, it was just NYC. Then people got huffy ’cause the New York Film Critics Circle didn’t make allowances for national reviewers. Say, the folks at The New Yorker or Time. Thus, The National Society of Film Critics which, to tell the truth, is still mostly New York and L.A., with a sprinkling of Boston and Chicago (and me … the sole yahoo from the South).

Then so many writers relocated to the West Coast that there was a need for the Los Angeles Film Critics Association. As for The National Board of Review, well, apparently they have about a gazillion members and no one is quite sure who they are, but they always get a lot of press because they are the first to announce their winners every December — often, I have to say — without seeing all the movies that are opening in December.

Now, there are film groups made up of ONLY writers from Boston or Chicago. There’s something for broadcast critics. A group in San Francisco and another in Seattle (or maybe it’s Portland). Texas has a few. And in the Southeast, we have the Southeastern Film Critics Association (SEFCA) which started off a bit shaky, but has hung in for 18 years and has more than proved its credentials. It’s made up of film critics from all over the South, from Miami to Atlanta to Charlotte to Knoxville. Currently, it claims 44 members.

This year, the association named “Up in the Air” the Best Picture of 2009 in which George Clooney flies around the country firing people (the timing is uncanny). And I agree with them. It probably is the best picture of the year. Certainly it’s my favorite.

In its fifth year, the Wyatt Award went to writer-director Scott Teems’ “That Evening Sun,” an excellent South-drenched  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.

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

Best Picture

1. Up in the Air

2. The Hurt Locker

3. Up

4. Inglourious Basterds

5. A Serious Man

6. 500 Days of Summer

7. Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire

8. The Messenger

9. The Fantastic Mr. Fox

10. District 9

Best Actor

George Clooney – Up in the Air

Runner-up: Jeremy Renner – The Hurt Locker

draft_lens2359443module13279566photo_1230926256JulieandJulia_MerylStreepBest Actress

Meryl Streep – Julie & Julia

Runner-up: Gabourey Sidibe – Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire

Best Supporting Actor

Christoph Waltz – Inglourious Basterds

Runner-up: Woody Harrelson – The Messenger

Best Supporting Actress

Mo’Nique – Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire

Runner-up: Anna Kendrick – Up in the Air

Best Director

Kathryn Bigelow – The Hurt Locker

Runner-up: Jason Reitman – Up in the Air

Best Original Screenplay

Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber – 500 Days of Summer

Runner-up: Mark Boal – The Hurt Locker

Best Adapted Screenplay

Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner – Up in the Air

Runner-up: Wes Anderson & Noah Baumbach – Fantastic Mr. Fox

Best Foreign Language Film

Summer Hours (France)

Runner-up: The White Ribbon (Germany)

Best Documentary

Food, Inc.

Runner-up: The Cove

Best Animated Feature

Up

Runner-up: Fantastic Mr. Fox

Wyatt Award

That Evening Sun

Runner-up: Goodbye Solo

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Eleanor Ringel Cater

Eleanor Ringel Cater

Eleanor Ringel Cater, long-time movie critic for The Atlanta Journal and Constitution, also has been a regular contributor to CNN, MSNBC, Entertainment Weekly, Headline News and WXIA, Atlanta's NBC affiliate, and a columnist for TV Guide.