It’s Happening: The New York Film Critics Circle Announces Its Picks for the Best of 2011

29 Nov

The movie awards season is now officially in full-swing thanks to the New York Film Critics Circle. The group voted and announced its selections for the best of 2011 this morning (Tuesday, November 29, 2011).

Here we go:

  • Best Picture – The Artist
  • Best Actress – Meryl Streep (The Iron Lady)
  • Best Actor – Brad Pitt (Moneyball and The Tree of Life)
  • Best Director – Michel Hazanavicius (The Artist)
  • Best Supporting Actress – Jessica Chastain (The Help, Take Shelter, and The Tree of Life)
  • Best Supporting Actor – Albert Brooks (Drive)
  • Best Screenplay – Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin for (Moneyball)
  • Best Cinematography – Emmanuel Lubezki (The Tree of Life)
  • Best First Feature – Margin Call (written and directed by J.C. Chandor)
  • Best Documentary – Cave of Forgotten Dreams (directed by Werner Herzog)
  • Best Foreign Film – A Separation (from Iran; written and directed by Asgar Farhadi)

Coming Soon: The Artist, starring Cannes Best Actor winner Jean Dujardin.

Any surprises? Well, given that The Artist won Best Picture and Best Director, I was a wee bit surprised that the NYFCC did not go all the way and award Best Actor to the film’s star, French actor Jean Dujardin. He won the Best Actor prize at the most recent Cannes film festival and is easily on-target for an Oscar nod. For those who aren’t in-the-know, The Artist is a black and white film about a fading Hollywood star during the advent of talkies.  Even though the director and its star are French, the movie was filmed on location in Hollywood. The movie is all but silent though there is some dialogue in English. The Artist has not yet opened in Dallas. My guess is that we’ll see it a little closer to the holidays. I can’t wait!  Barring Dujardin, I’d expected the Best Actor award to go to George Clooney in The Descendants. I’m not necessarily attached to either Clooney or the film, per se, but he certainly has momentum on his side. Maybe not.  I have yet to catch up with Brad Pitt’s Moneyball, but I will soon enough. Furthermore, my guess right now is that The Descendants and Steven Spielberg’s War Horse will be the leading Best Picture contenders once the nominations are announced.

I was surprised to see Meryl Streep as the Best Actress honoree mainly because advanced word on the biopic about former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher has not been so great though Streep herself is earning raves. Mainly, the movie is being taken to task for backing away from its leading character’s politics.   My gut instinct at this point tells me that Glenn Close (Albert Nobbs) and Viola Davis (The Help) are the women to beat for the Best Actress Oscar. Close’s film, years in development, tells the story of a 19th century Irish woman who successfully passes as a man for decades. It’s the kind of gimmicky role that tends to generate serious Oscar consideration–and Close does triple duty as actor, co-writer, and co-producer. Always a selling point with the Academy.

New York Film Critics Circle winners for Best Supporting Actress and Best Actor: Jessica Chastain (left) and Brad Pitt (right) in The Tree of Life. Both performers were recognized for multiple performances.

There’s no doubt that her performances in such disparate films as The Help and The Tree of Life, not to mention The Debt, helped establish Chastain as one of the most versatile, and most in-demand, actresses of the year, so good for her! She’s a likely Oscar contender, but for which film? She might very well end up splitting votes with herself. Yikes! I don’t think anybody will complain if Chastain wins an Oscar; however, even though it’s still early, I’m thinking that Octavia Spencer, also of The Help, has an excellent chance because her role is such a crowd-pleaser.  The truth is that Chastain and Spencer make a great comic pair in The Help.

I’ll give Albert Brooks credit for successfully playing against type in Drive–but what about Christopher Plummer in Beginners? Like Brooks, Plummer just scored an Independent Spirit nod for his portrayal of a senior citizen who comes out of the closet after his wife dies. The movie is really about how his grown son, played by Ewan McGregor, comes to question his own relationship choices after being raised in such a dysfunctional family. At any rate, Plummer is great, and he’s been getting Oscar buzz ever since his movie premiered during the summer. Speaking of the Independent Spirit awards, allow me to rhapsodize over my favorite supporting actor performance of the year:  Corey Stoll as Ernest Hemingway in Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris. I hope that Stoll’s indie nomination is enough to elevate his profile–and that he is able to maintain that profile during the onslaught of year-end award contenders and score an Oscar nod. Furthermore, the cast of Margin Call could be good for a few Best Supporting Actor nominations, starting with Kevin Spacey and Jeremy Irons, both of whom already have Oscars. Spacey for Best Supporting Actor (The Usual Suspects, 1995), and Best Actor (American Beauty, 1999); Irons as Best Actor for 1990’s Reversal of Fortune.

New York Film Critics Circle winner for Best Cinematography: Emmanuel Lubezki (The Tree of Life).

Finally, what a joyous thing for Emmanuel Lubezki to win Best Cinematography for Tree of Life. Lubezki is a four time Oscar nominee, and appeared to be the front-runner for 2006’s Children of Men. He lost to Guillermo Navarro for Pan’s Labyrinth. His other Oscar nominations are for The New World (2005), Sleepy Hollow (1999), and A Little Princess (1995).  In the case of the latter, I would have nominated him for the same year’s A Walk in the Clouds instead. Tree of Life is, if nothing else, majestically beautiful, but I’m not predicting an Oscar for Lubezki just yet.

Well, that about does it. I’ll be back later in the week with the National Board of Review winners and a full-length post about another personal favorite. In the meantime, I’m officially announcing that I will not be watching the Golden Globes on TV in January. After scathing reviews for host Ricky Gervais, the Hollywood Foreign Press has decided that all is forgiven, so Gervais has been asked to host for the third time. Well, that’s really more than I can bear. That’s my limit, but I can still write about the winners the following morning.

At any rate, thanks for your consideration…

New York Film Critics Circle official website:

http://www.nyfcc.com/

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