James Cameron's "Avatar" and Quentin Tarantino's "Inglourious Basterds" won the most awards at Friday's Critics' Choice Awards, but the top honor went to Iraq war drama "The Hurt Locker" and its director-producer Kathryn Bigelow.
"Locker" was named best picture and Bigelow best director.
Accepting the best picture prize, screenwriter-producer Mark Boal said the award belongs to Bigelow "for her singular vision, for her endless inspiration and for never taking no as an answer."
Bigelow had thanked Boal when she accepted the director's honor, saying, "I stand here really because of one man, and that's Mark Boal."
"It's wonderful to have this honor," she continued, "but the recognition should also go to the men and women who are in the field to this day."
"Avatar" was named best action movie and it collected a heap of technical awards, including honors for cinematography, editing, art direction, sound and visual effects.
The "Basterds" cast was the critics' pick for best ensemble. The film's villain, Christoph Waltz, was named best supporting actor and Tarantino won for his original screenplay.
"There's really only one group of people to thank," Tarantino said, "and that's the actors who actually took it from the printed page and put it up on the screen. My material is not easy. It's hard. I cannot have dumb actors do my material."
"Crazy Heart" was a double winner, with Jeff Bridges claiming the best actor prize for his turn as hard-drinking country singer Bad Blake. The film's theme, "The Weary Kind," won for best song.
"Up" won a pair of prizes, too: Best animated feature and best score.
There were actually two winners in the actress category, with Meryl Streep and Sandra Bullock tying for the honor.
Streep said she loved playing Julia Child in "Julie & Julia."
"I'm really, really thrilled because I really love what I do," she said. "I love to work, and I love food and I love sex. And so did Julia Child. So it wasn't that much of a stretch."
Call for compassion
Bullock, who won for her performance in "The Blind Side," said she hadn't prepared a speech, but she used her time at the microphone to honor her fellow actresses and call for compassion for people who are suffering.
"We're all so lucky to be here tonight when so many others are in pain," she said. "I hope we can all send good love and thoughts and whatever we can."
"I'm so proud I made this film with you, Dad," he said.
Other honors went to Mo'Nique, who was named best supporting actress for her visceral portrayal of an abusive mother in "Precious"; Saoirse Ronan, who won best young actress for her work in "The Lovely Bones"; and "The Hangover," which was voted best comedy.
"Nine," which came into the contest tied with "Basterds" with a leading 10 nominations, ended up winless.
Winners are chosen by members of the Broadcast Film Critics Association, the largest such group in North America comprising 200 TV, radio and online film critics.