‘United 93’ tops N.Y. Critics Circle

9/11 film honored; Scorsese top director

NEW YORK — The New York Film Critics Circle on Monday named “United 93” the best picture of 2006, edging out Miramax’s “The Queen” after a series of close ballots.

Martin Scorsese took director honors for his gangster pic “The Departed.”

Forest Whitaker and Helen Mirren continued their kudos reign, winning actor and actress for “The Last King of Scotland” and “The Queen,” respectively. Thesps earlier received nods from both the L.A. critics and the National Board of Review.

Miramax’s “The Queen” also had a strong showing among Gotham critics. In addition to Mirren, scribe Peter Morgan drew the screenplay nod.

Insiders familiar with voting said the pic battle between “United 93” and “The Queen” went to four ballots before the 9/11 pic edged ahead in the fifth.

“The Departed” and “Babel” were also finalists, according to sources familiar with the voting.

On Sunday, the L.A. Film Critics Circle awarded Paul Greengrass its director nod for “United 93,” and the D.C. crix named the Universal release best pic (see separate story).

The New York Film Critics Circle comprises 32 Gotham-based print and online reviewers, nearly all of whom took part in Monday’s voting. Star magazine critic Marshall Fine heads the org.

In other categories, Jennifer Hudson won supporting actress for her perf in the Bill Condon musical “Dreamgirls,” while Jackie Earle Haley took supporting actor for his role as a misunderstood ex-con in Todd Field’s suburban drama “Little Children.”

One of the biggest surprises of the day was the foreign film winner: “Army of Shadows,” Jean-Pierre Melville’s 1969 WWII pic that saw domestic release for the first time this year via Rialto Pictures.

Movie was given a special citation by the L.A. Film Critics Assn. on Sunday, but pic is not eligible for any Oscars, including technical prizes, because France chose a different film, “Avenue Montaigne,” as its official Oscar selection.

New York critics further hailed public-school drama “Half Nelson,” which took the prize for first feature; “Pan’s Labyrinth” for cinematography, “Happy Feet” for animated pic; and “Deliver Us From Evil” for nonfiction film.