Analysis: ‘The Artist’ dances away with New York Film Critics’ Circle awards

Proving being first has its disadvantages, the New York Film Critic’s Circle met Monday morning to decide on their year end awards.  Unfortunately, because of the organization’s need to beat everyone else to the party (don’t get me started), they were unable to screen Stephen Daldry’s highly anticipated “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” for consideration.  So, should there be an asterisk next to this year’s selections?  Possibly, but judging by the love for best picture winner “The Artist,” probably not.

After all the buzz for “War Horse” and “The Descendants'” superb reviews and box office over the Thanksgiving frame, Oscar player “The Artist” needed a nice boost to keep in step on the publicity front and boy did they get it.  Winning the NYFCC award for best feature film and best director for Michel Hazanavicius along with the film’s surprising five Independent Spirit Awards, including best feature film, mean The Weinstein Company has a lot to brag about.  Well, at least until Thursday when the National Board of Review reveals their top picture which many assume will be “The Artist” anyway.  It has certainly left other studios reassessing their campaigns for the weeks ahead.

With that in mind, here’s on some thoughts on the specific choices the New York Critics made today.

Best Picture
“The Artist”

*Something of a surprise.  In theory, it appeared “The Descendants” and “Hugo” had better reviews from the overall membership. However, when a group like this has to collectively vote on one picture a lot of compromise takes place. That’s nothing to take away from the indie’s win, but none of these critics groups’ winners are likely a first ballot winner. Still, it’s a great boost for the film’s best picture chances. Maybe.

Best Director
Michel Hazanavicius
“The Artist”

*Even with “The Artist” win, still a surprise. Shows huge love for the picture among the NY critics.  So much for Terrence Malick.

Best Screenplay
Steven Zaillian, Aaron Sorkin

*Maybe the most surprising of all the org’s picks.  A better screenplay than “The Descendants” or “Midnight in Paris”? Understand the source material, but still.  A bit conservative NYFCC.  

Best Actress
Meryl Streep
“The Iron Lady”

*Great boost for Streep and awards like this will really help the film’s art house release. Expect the National Board of Review to go Viola Davis’ way.  Where will LAFCA go?

Best Actor
Brad Pitt
“Moneyball,” “The Tree of Life”

*Big surprise, especially considering their love for “The Artist” in the picture and directing categories. For one year in his career, however, it’s not a bad one to recognize.

Best Supporting Actress
Jessica Chastain
“The Tree of Life,” “The Help,” “Take Shelter”

*Yes, “The Help” has officially won a critics award – a historic moment. Chastain deserves this for her body of work. Unfortunately, the triple salutation doesn’t necc help SAG or Academy voters decide which performance to recognize.

Best Supporting Actor
Albert Brooks

*Along with his Spirit Award nomination, this is a huge boost for the veteran comedic voice.  The more critical acclaim he can muster, the better his chances of surpassing Christopher Plummer for the actual award.  Should be the most interesting race to watch this year.

Best Cinematographer
Emmanuel Lubezki
“The Tree of Life”

*Clearly the frontrunner for Oscar.  Puzzlingly, he’s been a nominee four times and never won.  Guillaume Schiffman’s work on the “The Artist” and  Janusz Kaminski lensing for “War Horse” may be his biggest competition.

Best Non-Fiction Film (Documentary)
“Cave of Forgotten Dreams”

*Werner Herzog (or Vern as I like to all him) gets some major love.  Note, “Dreams” was a member of last year’s Oscar documentary class.

Best Foreign Film
“A Separation”

*Could be the first of many wins for the critically acclaimed Iranian drama.  Whether the always finicky and odd foreign language voters agree in February is anyone’s guess.

Best First Film
J.C. Chandor
“Margin Call”

*This is a great win for the little Sundance movie that could.  Chandor and producer and co-star Zachary Quinto and his filmmakers haven’t given up on this underrated drama and are reaping some surprising rewards at year’s end.

What did you think of this year’s NYFCC picks?  Share your thoughts below.

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