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“The Hurt Locker,” Kathryn Bigelow’s urgent Iraq war thriller about a squad that defuses improvised explosive devices, collected three top prizes Sunday at the National Society of Film Critics meeting in New York. The group cited it as best film of 2009, with Bigelow the best director and Jeremy Renner the year’s best actor.

The independent film has dominated critics’ awards this season, earning kudos from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, the New York Film Critics Circle and the Boston Society of Film Critics. While critics’ groups are not always Oscar bellwethers, these laurels and its three Golden Globe nominations make “The Hurt Locker” a serious Oscar contender.

At its 44th annual meeting, the National Society of Film Critics honored indie and off-Hollywood films from Bigelow, Jane Campion, the Coen brothers, Lee Daniels and Quentin Tarantino.

For her lyrical performance as the self-taught artist Seraphine Louis in the French film “Seraphine,” the critics voted French actress Yolande Moreau best actress.

Mo’Nique, searing as an abusive mother in “Precious,” took supporting-actress honors. The supporting-actor vote resulted in a tie: The critics cited Christoph Waltz for his memorable turn as a sadistic Nazi officer in “Inglourious Basterds” and Paul Schneider, who played John Keats’ snappish roommate in the biopic “Bright Star.”

Joel and Ethan Coen took screenplay honors for their black comedy, “A Serious Man.”

“The Beaches of Agnes,” a kaleidoscopic self-portrait by Agnes Varda, godmother of the French New Wave, took honors for best nonfiction film. “Summer Hours,” a bittersweet family film from France’s Olivier Assayas, was named best foreign film.

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