(Almost) Live from New York: It’s the New York Film Critics Circle Winners!

3 Dec

Well, it took awhile, but members of the New York Film Critics Circle have announced the winners of their annual voting, and it looks like the two most honored films are Zero Dark Thirty and Lincoln, both of which picked-up three awards. This is interesting to me since both entries cover major events in our nation’s history, albeit more than one hundred years apart.

ZeroDarkThirty2012Poster

Is Zero Dark Thirty this year’s The Hurt Locker? I’m sure Oscar winning director Kathryn Bigelow just hopes her movie reaches a wider audience than her last effort acclaimed though it was. I think the public still has a fascination with the
search for Osama bin Laden, but timing is everything. It might be a tough sell during the holidays.

Zero Dark Thirty is, of course, producer-director Kathryn Bigelow’s theatrical follow-up to 2009’s The Hurt Locker, the film for which Bieglow won two Oscars and broke through to the then previously “No Girls Allowed” club of Best Director winners, also breaking ground and claiming top honors from the Directors Guild of America at the same time. Additionally, she picked up a pair of awards from the NYFCC for her work on that picture as well. Bigelow’s latest, written by Oscar winner Mark Boal, with whom Bigelow collaborated on The Hurt Locker, reportedly takes viewers behind the scenes of the hunt for–and ultimate death of–the world’s most wanted terrorist, Osama bin Laden. I can’t wait to see the movie even if the title is one of the biggest head-scratchers since, well, The Hurt Locker. I am also a bit concerned that according to one early report, Bigelow and Boal were pressured to remove any mention of President Barack Obama from the final cut even though, like it or not, he was, in fact, the commander-in-chief at the time of the decisive raid on bin Laden’s compound. Another head-scratcher, that.  It will be interesting to see how the Academy responds to Bigelow’s latest; after all, she is still the only woman to ever win Best Director, and one of only four women to have ever been nominated. Furthermore, she is also the LAST woman to have been nominated in that category.

DEEP-BLUE-SEA-3D-DVD

Okay, so it looks like Rachel Weisz might be a contender for her acclaimed work in Deep Blue Sea, a movie I read about but could not/did not make the time to see earlier in the year. I’m sure I remember reading about it, but I don’t know that I read enough to even know if it ever played in Dallas, but I now have it on my to-view list. If Weisz, 2005’s Best Supporting Actress victor (The Constant Gardener), wins
a Best Actress Oscar, she will join Meryl Streep and Jessica Lange as the only two actresses who have “graduated” from Best Supporting Actress to Best Actress. Not bad, Rachel, not bad.

Meanwhile, Lincoln is director Steven Spielberg’s take on our nation’s 16th president and his determination to pass the Thirteenth Amendment in order to abolish slavery before the close of the Civil War. Spielberg has twice won the Oscar for Best Director (Schindler’s List, 1993; Saving Private Ryan, 1998); he also won an Oscar for co-producing Schindler’s List, 1993’s Best Picture winner.  His big screen version of the WWI era War Horse was a Best Picture nominee last year though it was not considered a major contender since Spielberg did not garner a correlating Best Director nod as well. I don’t see that as an obstacle this year.   Lincoln is the second collaboration between Spielberg and writer Tony Kushner, who previously scored an Oscar nod for co-writing 2005 Best Picture nominee Munich, the director’s tense and taut exploration of the aftermath of the terrorist attack during the 1972 Summer Olympics. Kushner, for the uninformed, is the Pulitzer and Tony winning author of the magnificent Angels in America.

Okay, here are the NYFCC winners:

sxswmcconaughey

Is this wascally good ole Texas boy Matthew McConaughey’s year to finally be lassoed into the Academy’s corral? Just last week, McConaughey was nominated for not one but two Spirit Awards: for Best Lead Actor in Killer Joe, and Best Supporting Actor for Magic Mike. He was honored for the latter as well as the Texas-made Bernie by the New York Film Critics Circle. I have to confess that were it not for director Steven Soderbergh’s name in the credits, most people probably would not think of Magic Mike as an “indie” film, considering the way the drama about male strippers, starring recent People magazine cover-guy Channing Tatum, was splashily promoted earlier this year, but I digress. If McConaughey doesn’t make the cut this season, he’s got a head start on the next round based on all the publicity he has received over his recent dramatic weight loss in order to play in the fact based story of a man battling HIV, Dallas Buyers Club. In the meantime, I’ll take another order of Bernie, with McConaughey as a self-promoting, yet increasingly frustrated, D.A., please.

  • Best Picture – Zero Dark Thirty
  • Best Actress – Rachel Weisz (The Deep Blue Sea)
  • Best Actor – Daniel Day Lewis (Lincoln)
  • Best Director – Kathryn Bigelow (Zero Dark Thirty)
  • Best Supporting Actress – Sally Field (Lincoln)
  • Best Supporting Actor – Matthew McConaughey (Bernie & Magic Mike)
  • Best Screenplay – Tony Kushner (Lincoln)
  • Best Cinematography – Grieg Fraser (Zero Dark Thirty)
  • Best Documentary – The Central Park Five
  • Best Foreign Film (Amour, France) [1]
  • Best Animated Feature – Frankenweenie

Of course, we all know how fabulous Daniel Day Lewis is as Lincoln, but I’m also glad to see Sally Field garner some attention for her role as Mary Todd Lincoln, a misunderstood historical figure if there ever were one.  Field hasn’t has a role this dynamic in years (Mrs. Doubtfire and Forrest Gump already matter), and she’s magnificent–so much so that she obliterates widely circulated concern about the age discrepancy in casting. Field is at least a decade older than star Daniel Day Lewis, yet in real-life Abraham Lincoln was almost ten years older than his much debated wife, so, yes, there’s a little trick, a little  suspension of disbelief, involved in casting, but it works beautifully.

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That’s the real Mary Todd Lincoln on the left. If Sally Field (r) wins a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for Lincoln, she’ll be in the same company as Ingrid Bergman who won leading actress trophies for Gaslight (1944) and Anastasia (1956) before winning in the supporting category for 1974’s star-studded Murder on the Orient Express. Other actresses who have won as leading players followed by award worthy supporting turns are Helen Hayes and Maggie Smith. Not bad, Sally, not bad.

Frankly. I’ve always thought that the Academy erred, big-time, when it awarded Field, yet again, for her lead role in Robert Benton’s Texas-based Places in the Heart (a mere five years–and one major comeback–after emerging victorious for 1979’s much celebrated Norma Rae). It wasn’t that Field was horrible in Places in the Heart, it’s just that her performance wasn’t remarkable enough to warrant top honors from the Academy. Anyone could have played the part of put-upon young widow Edna Spalding just as well as Field did–and when I say anyone, I mean any reasonably competent student actress preparing to play the lead in a high school play. Yep, I went there. On the other hand, I think Field was almost criminally, or at least cruelly, ignored by the Academy for her no-holds barred performance as the cautious–then grieving–mom in Steel Magnolias, especially now after hearing the DVD commentary by (late) director Herbert Ross as he explains how she performed the gut-wrenching graveside monologue over and over for one angle and then another, including the other actresses’ close-ups,  without ever wavering in her delivery. Of course, at that time–1989–Field had already won two Oscars, and a third, in a span of 10 years, just wasn’t going to happen. I say, “Bravo,” Sally, and welcome back.

By Sunday night we should know if the wins here are truly indicative of a trend as both the National Board of Review and the Los Angeles Film Critics Association are scheduled to announce their picks later in the week.  Stay tuned.

[1] Director Michael Haneke’s film also earned the prestigious Golden Palm, the highest award at the Cannes Film Festival, earlier this year.

The official site of the New York Film Critics Circle: http://www.nyfcc.com/

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