(See previous post: "Hot Jennifer Lawrence, Wet Robert Redford: New York Film Critics Winners.") Cate Blanchett was chosen as the New York Film Critics Circle's Best Actress for Woody Allen's comedy-drama Blue Jasmine. Blanchett, already touted as an Oscar 2014 favorite, plays a role with elements in common with Vivien Leigh's Blanche DuBois in Elia Kazan's A Streetcar Named Desire. Leigh was both the New York Film Critics' and the Academy Awards' Best Actress of 1951. (Full list of NYFCC 2013 award winners.)
Cate Blanchett has already won an Oscar — Best Supporting Actress for Martin Scorsese's The Aviator, in which she plays Katharine Hepburn — but this is her first NYFCC win. Back in 2007, Blanchett, as one of several Bob Dylan characters in Todd Haynes' I'm Not There, was the runner-up for Best Supporting Actress. (The winner that year was Amy Ryan for Ben Affleck's mystery thriller Gone Baby Gone.)
Jared Leto: Best Supporting Actor winner
Apparently, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association isn't the only awards-season group that enjoys honoring movie stars. Both in the lead and supporting categories, this year the New York Film Critics selected only well-known Hollywood names: Robert Redford, Jennifer Lawrence, Cate Blanchett, and Jared Leto.
Leto was cited as the year's Best Supporting Actor for his performance in Jean-Marc Vallée's Dallas Buyers Club, in which he plays a cross-dresser suffering from AIDS at a time when the United States' Food and Drug Administration refused to make available potentially life-saving alternative treatments for the deadly disease. He reportedly lost 30 pounds for the role — the sort of physical transformation that not infrequently earns actors accolades and awards.
Jared Leto's Dallas Buyers Club co-stars are Matthew McConaughey (the NYFCC's 2012 Best Supporting Actor winner for Magic Mike and Bernie), Jennifer Garner, and Steve Zahn.
By the way, the New York Film Critics' penchant for honoring Hollywood stars is hardly something new. In the last five years, the winners in the acting categories were: Daniel Day-Lewis, Rachel Weisz, Matthew McConaughey, Sally Field, Brad Pitt, Meryl Streep (twice), Albert Brooks, Jessica Chastain, Colin Firth, Annette Bening, Mark Ruffalo, Melissa Leo, George Clooney, Christoph Waltz, Mo'Nique, Sean Penn, Sally Hawkins, Josh Brolin, and Penélope Cruz. Hawkins and Waltz — though the latter cast in a major Hollywood box office hit (Inglourious Basterds) — and to a lesser extent Chastain (in 2011), are the only exceptions to the NYFCC's Hollywood infatuation.
'Blue Is the Warmest Color,' Steve McQueen
Abdellatif Kechiche's 2013 Cannes Film Festival winner Blue Is the Warmest Color / La Vie d'Adèle, which raised some eyebrows because of its lengthy lesbian sex scenes, was voted Best Foreign Language Film. Starring Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux, Blue Is the Warmest Color is ineligible for the 2014 Best Foreign Language Film Oscar — blame the Academy's rules regarding release dates in a film's country of origin — but it can be shortlisted in other categories.
Steve McQueen was the NYFCC's Best Director for the period drama 12 Years a Slave, based on real-life events about a black man (Chiwetel Ejiofor) who is kidnapped and sent to work in a slave plantation in the American South. Michael Fassbender, Brad Pitt, and Lupita Nyong'o are some of the film's other players. Four years ago, McQueen's Hunger, starring Fassbender, was the New York Film Critics' Best First Film.
Sarah Polley and 'Stories We Tell'
The Best Non-Fiction Film was Sarah Polley's Stories We Tell, in which Polley offers an unusual (and widely praised) glimpse into her parents' complex marriage. Along the way, she reveals that her actual father is Harry Gulkin, with whom her mother, actress and casting director Diane Polley (of the TV series Street Legal), had an extra-marital affair. Gulkin produced Jan Kadar's Jewish family drama Lies My Father Told Me, nominated for the 1975 Best Original Screenplay Academy Award.
Although Stories We Tell premiered at the 2012 Venice Film Festival and opened in Canada later that year, the Roadside Attractions-distributed documentary is eligible for the 2014 Academy Awards, as it was released in the U.S. in May 2013. In fact, it's one of 15 films still in contention for next year's Best Documentary Feature Oscar, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced earlier today.
Stories We Tell has already won Best Documentary honors from the Toronto Film Critics Association and the Directors Guild of Canada, in addition to taking home the Canadian Screen Award (formerly known as the Genie Award) in that category. In 2007, Sarah Polley's Away from Her, starring Julie Christie as an Alzheimer's disease patient and Gordon Pinsent as her husband, was the New York Film Critics' Best First Film.
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Cate Blanchett Blue Jasmine photo: Sony Pictures Classics.