‘The Artist’ tops with New York Film Critics Circle

The Artist” won both Best Picture and Best Director (Michel Hazanavicius) at the 77th annual awards bestowed by the New York Film Critics Circle. These wins follow this morning’s announcement of the Indie Spirit nominees where “The Artist” tied “Take Shelter” for most bids with five apiece.

Meryl Streep won her fourth Best Actress prize from the Gotham critics for her portayal of British PM Margaret Thatcher in “The Iron Lady.” Brad Pitt was cited as Best Actor for his work in both “Moneyball” and “The Tree of Life.” Both those films won other awards for scripters Steve Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin (“Moneyball”) and lenser Emmanuel Lubezki (“The Tree of Life”).

Jessica Chastain claimed Supporting Actress for three films: “The Help,” “Take Shelter” and “The Tree of Life.” She will contend at the Indie Spirits for “Take Shelter,” the only one of those three that was eligible there. Albert Brooks won Supporting Actor for “Drive” and is also in the running at the Indie Spirts.

Last year, the New York Film Critics Circle didn’t announce their winners until Dec. 13, the day after their West coast counterparts had already weighed in. Both groups went with “The Social Network” for Best Picture and its helmer, David Fincher, as Best Director. They also agreed on Colin Firth (“The King’s Speech”) as Best Actor. Firth prevailed at the Oscars as did his film and its director Tom Hooper

Last year, the Gotham group went with “The Kids Are All Right” players Annette Bening and Mark Ruffalo for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actor respectively while Melissa Leo (“The Fighter”) won Best Supporting Actress. Only Leo triumphed at the Oscars. 

Their love for “Kids” extended to the Screenplay award which was shared by director Lisa Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg. They edged out, among others, L.A. champ Aaron Sorkin (“The Social Network”) and runner-up David Seidler (“The King’s Speech”), who both went on to win Oscars. 

In 2009, both groups chose “The Hurt Locker” as the Best Picture and its helmer Kathryn Bigelow as Best Director. And both went with eventual Oscar champs Mo’Nique (“Precious”) and Christoph Waltz (“Inglorious Basterds”) for the supporting awards. Both of the NYFCC winners of the top acting awards — George Clooney (“Up in the Air”) and Meryl Streep (“Julie & Julia”) — vied for Oscars.

New York and L.A. critics don’t always select the same film, though. In 2008, the Gothamites chose “Milk” while the west was won over by “Wall-E.”  In 2007, NYFCC opted for “No Country for Old Men” and LAFCA  pumped up “There Will Be Blood.” And in 2006, the top film for New Yorkers was “United 93” while the L.A. critics penned a love note to “Letters from Iwo Jima.”

“Milk” did not win best picture with the NYFCC till ballot four with 29 points. “Rachel Getting Married” had 25 points while both “Happy-Go-Lucky” and eventual Oscar champ “Slumdog Millionaire” had 20 points. As Gotham critic circle member Mike D’Angelo of Esquire wrote on his Twitter stream that day: “My sense is that ‘Milk’ wound up as the I-can-live-with-that compromise choice for voters blocking ‘Slumdog’ and voters blocking ‘Rachel.'”

The NYFCC has a history of such compromised decisions. In 1994, “Quiz Show” did not reap any votes during the first voting round but still won the top award after the two camps gave up their fights for “Forrest Gump” and “Pulp Fiction. And “My Left Foot” won Best Picture in 1989 after the critics couldn’t decide between “Do the Right Thing” and “Enemies, A Love Story.” At least “My Left Foot” scored a few scattered points on the first ballot.

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