Wins for ‘The Help,’ ‘The Artist,’ ‘Martha Marcy’ at Casting Society of America Awards

Thought you’d seen “The Artist” win its last award? Think again. The Casting Society of America pretty much partied like it was 2011 at last night’s Artios Awards — the premier honor for casting directors in the industry, given the absence of an Oscar category for the discipline. (That absence is often lamented, but let’s be honest — the average Academy member knows even less about casting than he does about sound editing.)

Anyway, while a scattering of early 2012 releases — “The Hunger Games,” “21 Jump Street,” “Friends With Kids” — had cracked the nominee list, the CSA was all about the awards contenders of 2011 when it came to choosing the winners. “The Help” took the prize in the Big-Budget Feature: Drama category, which is hardly surprising, given the number of ensemble awards (culminating in SAG’s top honor) the film took down last season.

The corresponding Comedy award, meanwhile, went to “Crazy, Stupid, Love.” Is casting a comedy such a different skill from casting a drama that they require separate awards? I wouldn’t have thought so, but I suppose there’s no harm in spreading the wealth. One budgetary rung down, in the Studio or Independent Feature division, “The Artist” took the Comedy award, while “My Week With Marilyn” triumphed in the Drama section. (Unlike the Golden Globes, the CSA clearly wasn’t duped into thinking that lightweight memory piece was actually a comedy.)

“Happy Feet Two” won the animation division, while “Martha Marcy May Marlene” — a film that really seemed to take care with casting even the most incidental faces — took the award for low-budget features. It’s nice to see one of 2011’s best films rewarded for something after being unaccountably passed over for most of last season.

The Career Achievement Award at last night’s ceremony went to Ben Affleck, giving him a chance to warm up his acceptance speech skills for the coming months. Meanwhile, his “Argo” casting director, Lora Kennedy, received the Hoyt Bowers Award for Excellence in Casting. I expect she’ll be making a return trip in the competitive categories next year.

The list of winners in the film categories:

Outstanding Casting in a Big-Budget Feature (Drama): Kerry Barden and Paul Schnee, “The Help” 

Outstanding Casting in a Big-Budget Feature (Comedy): Mindy Marin and Kara Lipson, “Crazy, Stupid, Love”

Outstanding Casting in a Studio or Independent Feature (Drama): Deborah Aquila, Tricia Wood and Nina Gold, “My Week With Marilyn”

Outstanding Casting in a Studio or Independent Feature (Comedy): Heidi Levitt and Michael Sanford, “The Artist” 

Outstanding Casting in a Low-Budget Feature (Drama or Comedy): Susan Shopmaker, “Martha Marcy May Marlene” 

Outstanding Casting in an Animated Feature: Kristy Carlson, “Happy Feet Two”