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<i>United 93</i> Online critic's movie of the year

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    Losangeles: United 93, a tense drama set aboard one of four airliners seized by the September 11 hijackers, gathered more pre-Oscar momentum as it was named last year's best film by online critics. The documentary-style movie, directed by British filmmaker Paul Greengrass, recounts the efforts of passengers on United Airlines Flight 93 to regain control of the plane before it crashed in rural Pennsylvania.

    The Online Film Critics Society, an international association of Internet-based cinema journalists, also named Martin Scorsese as the best director of 2006 for his work on crime drama The Departed. The society's top acting awards went to Forest Whitaker for his portrayal of Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland and to Helen Mirren for her role as Britain's Queen Elizabeth II in The Queen. The online critics' four leading awards matched those named in December by the influential New York Critics Circle, with Whitaker and Mirren also receiving the top performance honors of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, National Society of Film Critics and National Board of Review.

    The Los Angeles critics voted Clint Eastwood's Letters from Iwo Jima, the story of the decisive World War Two battle as told from the Japanese perspective, as their favorite film of the year, as did the Board of Review. The National Society of Film Critics on Saturday named the Spanish-language fantasy ''Pan's Labyrinth'' as best picture. The online critics gave ''Labyrinth'' its award for best foreign-language film. While the critics' favorites rarely coincide with those that ultimately win Oscars for best picture, they do help narrow the field of movies seen as leading contenders for the Academy Awards, the film industry's highest honors. Oscar nominations will be unveiled on January 23, with the winners announced during a live telecast on February 25. Nominations for film awards by the Directors Guild of America, which traditionally serve as a stronger indicator of a film's Oscar chances, will be announced on Tuesday.

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