Penn was chosen as best actor for his performance in the lauded film about Milk, the openly gay San Francisco politician who was assassinated in 1978. Josh Brolin won best supporting actor for his performance in the film.
On Tuesday, Penn was chosen as best actor by the Los Angeles Film Critics Association. "Milk" also leads the Broadcast Film Critics Association with eight nominations, tied for the most with "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button."
The New York circle, which last year chose "No Country for Old Men" as best film, is a group of 33 New York-based critics. Their picks are one of the early film honors in Hollywood's long awards season, which continues Thursday with nominations for the Golden Globes.
Best supporting actress went to Penelope Cruz for her role in Woody Allen's "Vicky Cristina Barcelona." Jenny Lumet, daughter of Sidney Lumet, won for her screenplay of "Rachel Getting Married."
"Man on Wire" won best documentary, "WALL-E" won best animated film and "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days" won best foreign film. Anthony Dod Mantle won for his cinematography in "Slumdog Millionaire." Courtney Hunt ("Frozen River") won for best first film.
The awards ceremony will be held Jan. 5 in New York.
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