National Society of Film Critics Awards: ‘Moonlight’ sweeps with 4 wins including Best Picture

Moonlight” was named Best Picture by the National Society of Film Critics on Saturday (Jan. 7) and second-time helmer Barry Jenkins won Best Director for this intensely personal character study. In addition, Oscar frontrunner Mahershala Ali won Best Supporting Actor for his scene-stealing work as a kindly drug dealer and James Laxton won his lensing.

To take the big prize. “Moonlight” edged out “Manchester by the Sea,” which had to settle for a best screenplay win for Kenneth Lonergan who also directed this domestic drama and prizes for lead Casey Affleck and supporting player Michelle Williams.

Gallic leading lady Isabelle Huppert added another critics prize to her collection for her work in Paul Verhoeven‘s psychological thriller “Elle”; she’d already won over both the New York and Los Angeles scribes.

And two other Oscar frontrunners — foreign language film “Toni Erdman” and documentary “O.J.: Made in America” were feted by the film critics.

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There is significant overlap between the membership of the national society and the New York Film Critics’ Circle. Indeed, the national body, which consists of 55 critics, echoed the sentiments of the Gotham group save for Best Picture, which the latter awarded to “La La Land.” That film had to settle for also-ran status here in many of the key categories.

Balloting took place at Lincoln Center. For those races that went beyond the first ballot, members had to be present to cast their votes.

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Last year, “Spotlight” won Best Picture and Best Screenplay, the two awards it went on to claim at the Oscars.  “Carol” claimed Best Director (Todd Haynes) and Cinematography (Ed Lachman). The acting awards went to leads Michael B. Jordan (“Creed”) and Charlotte Rampling (“45 Years”) and supporting players Mark Rylance (“Bridge of Spies”) and Kristen Stewart (“Clouds of Sils Maria). Of this quartet, Rylance repeated at the Oscars while Rampling was nominated and the other two were snubbed.

In 2014, Best Picture went to Jean-Luc Godard‘s “Goodbye to Language,” which won by one vote over “Boyhood” while eventual Oscar champ “Birdman” was a distant third. “Boyhood” helmer Richard Linklater won Best Director. The acting awards went to Timothy Spall (“Mr. Turner”), Marion Cotillard (“The Immigrant” and “Two Days, One Night”) and eventual Oscar winners J.K. Simmons (“Whiplash”) and Patricia Arquette (“Boyhood”).

Below: the voting scores for the national society’s awards (note how one-sided some of the contests were).

UPDATED: Oscar predictions by experts in all 24 categories

PICTURE
1. “Moonlight” 54
2. “Manchester by the Sea” 39
3. “La La Land” 31

DIRECTOR
1. Barry Jenkins, “Moonlight” 53
2. Damien Chazelle, “La La Land” 31
3. Kenneth Lonergan, “Manchester by the Sea” 23

BEST ACTOR
1. Casey Affleck, “Manchester by the Sea” 65
2. Denzel Washington, “Fences” 21
3. Adam Driver, “Paterson” 20

BEST ACTRESS
1. Isabelle Huppert, “Elle” 55
2. Annette Bening, “20th Century Women,” 26
3. Sandra Huller, “Toni Erdmann,” 26

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
1. Mahershala Ali, “Moonlight” 72
2. Jeff Bridges, “Hell or High Water” 18
3. Michael Shannon, “Nocturnal Animals” 14

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
1. Michelle Williams, “Manchester by the Sea” 58
2. Lily Gladstone, “Certain Women” 45
3. Naomie Harris, “Moonlight” 25

UPDATED: Oscar odds in all 24 categories 

BEST SCREENPLAY
1. Kenneth Lonergan, “Manchester by the Sea” 61
2. Barry Jenkins, “Moonlight” 39
3. Taylor Sheridan, “Hell or High Water” 16

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
1. James Laxton, “Moonlight” 52
2. Linus Sandgren, “La La Land” 27
3. Rodrigo Prieto, “Silence” 23

FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
1. “Toni Erdmann” 52
2. “The Handmaiden” 26
3. “Elle” 19

BEST NON-FICTION FILM
1. “O.J.: Made in America” 64
2. “Fire at Sea” 36
3. “13th” 20

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