***We're looking for contributors***

'Amour' & 'Zero Dark Thirty' Awards Season Favorites + 'The Dark Knight Rises' Among Top Ten

Amour Emmanuelle Riva: Hiroshima Mon Amour surprising return to Best Actress awards season radarAmour with Emmanuelle Riva. Written and directed by Michael Haneke, the French-German-Austrian drama Amour, about an elderly couple coming face to face with death, is easily the top Best Foreign Language Film choice this awards season. Not only that, but the French-language Amour actually succeeded in being selected as the Los Angeles Film Critics Association's Best Film, period. Strangely, well-regarded veteran Jean-Louis Trintignant (Z, The Conformist, Three Colors: Red) hasn't been winning any awards in the U.S. Co-star Emmanuelle Riva, however, has been faring quite well, having shared the Best Actress award in Los Angeles (with, ahem, Silver Linings Playbook leading lady Jennifer Lawrence), and having won Best Actress honors from the San Francisco Film Critics Circle, the Boston Film Critics Society, and the New York Film Critics Online – a rarity for a performer in a non-English-language production. The 85-year-old Riva has been in show business – stage, film, TV – for nearly six decades; among her cinema classics and near-classics are Alain Resnais' Hiroshima Mon Amour (1959); Gillo Pontecorvo's Kapò (1960); Jean-Pierre Melville's Léon Morin Priest (1961); Georges Franju's Thérèse Desqueyroux (1962); and Krzysztof Kieslowski's Three Colors: Blue (1993), in which she has a supporting role. At the time Alain Resnais' epoch-making Hiroshima Mon Amour was screened in competition at the Cannes Film Festival, who could have ever predicted that the film's 32-year-old French performer would be winning international Best Actress awards left and right in the second decade of the 21st century?

'Amour' & 'Zero Dark Thirty' are early awards season favorites

Michael Haneke's French-language Amour topped the Los Angeles Film Critics Association's Awards on Dec. 9. A few days before that, it had been voted 2012's Best Foreign Language Film by the New York Film Critics Circle and the National Board of Review.

In the last couple of days, Haneke's Palme d'Or- and European Film Award-winning tale about love, illness, and death has also been named the year's Best Foreign Language Film by the Boston Society of Film Critics, the New York Film Critics Online, and the Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association. (Their full list of winners can be found further below.)

In addition, the three critics groups agreed on their Best Film: Kathryn Bigelow's political thriller Zero Dark Thirty, about the hunt for Osama bin Laden. Bigelow was the critical trio's Best Director as well.

And finally, all three groups also selected Daniel Day-Lewis as Best Actor for his performance as U.S. President Abraham Lincoln in Steven Spielberg's shoo-in Oscar contender Lincoln.

Emmanuelle Riva vs. Jessica Chastain + screenwriter Mark Boal wins two, loses many

Divergences begin in the Best Actress category: the New York Online and Boston film critics went for Amour's 85-year-old veteran – and Los Angeles Film Critics co-winner – Emmanuelle Riva (Hiroshima Mon Amour, The Hours of Love), while the Washington D.C. Film Critics selected Zero Dark Thirty's Jessica Chastain, who has also received top honors from the National Board of Review.

Curiously, the New York Film Critics Online and the San Francisco Film Critics Circle (see further below) are the only two groups so far to have named Mark Boal's Zero Dark Thirty screenplay as the year's best. Boal suffered a similar fate back in late 2009, when The Hurt Locker and director Kathryn Bigelow were most critics groups' top choices, whereas his screenplay was almost invariably an also-ran.

Ultimately, however, Boal did take home the biggest consolation prize of all, the Best Original Screenplay Academy Award.

'Les Misérables' earns Anne Hathaway two citations

As the suffering, sobbing, singing Fantine, Les Misérables' Anne Hathaway was the year's Best Supporting Actress according to the New York Online and Washington D.C. film critics – neither of whom made any mention of Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Rises, in which Hathaway plays Selina Kyle a.k.a. Catwoman.

Boston followed the New York Film Critics' lead, opting for veteran Sally Field for her portrayal of Mary Todd Lincoln in Lincoln.

Tom Hooper's musical Les Misérables was the New York Online and Washington D.C. film critics' Best Ensemble winner, which means Anne Hathaway ended up being shortlisted twice by these two groups. Boston went for Seven Psychopaths. Here are the two movies' key cast members:

'How to Survive a Plague' & 'The Central Park Five' honored

The Best Documentary winners were the following:

  • In Washington D.C.: Lee Hirsch's much talked about Bully.
  • In Boston: David France's How to Survive a Plague, about the fight of groups such as ACT UP during the early years of the AIDS epidemic. France was also Boston's Best First Filmmaker. Just recently, How to Survive a Plague became the first documentary to win the New York Film Critics' Best First Feature award.
  • New York Film Critics Online: Ken Burns, Sarah Burns, and David McMahon's The Central Park Five – its second win in that city, as the New York Film Critics also selected as the year's best this New York-set indictment of the U.S. justice system, and of elements within the police force and the media.

See below the full list of winners.

The Central Park Five 2012: New York City Police and justice system + media and Donald Trump vs five teenagersThe Central Park Five 2012. Described by the Los Angeles Times' Kenneth Turan as “a careful, thoughtful, and devastating new documentary” (see poster), Ken Burns, Sarah Burns, and David McMahon's New York Film Critics Online Best Documentary The Central Park Five chronicles one of the grossest and most widely publicized miscarriages of justice in the United States in the late 20th century. In April 1989, a 28-year-old white woman was brutally assaulted and raped while jogging in New York City's Central Park; the attack left her in a coma for nearly two weeks. Five juveniles – four of them black, one Hispanic – who had been taking part in a rampage of assaults and rioting in the area, were arrested and charged with the crime. As a result of police ineptitude/corruption, outrage at the overall violence in 1980s New York City (about 2,000 annual murders), a highly controversial campaign led by real estate baron Donald Trump (“Bring back the death penalty, bring back our police!”), and ingrained racism within the U.S. justice system and media, the five teenagers were found guilty of various offenses. More than a decade later, in 2002 a serial rapist confessed to the jogger's assault and rape. By then, the five convicted men had spent between six and thirteen years in prison. In 2003 they filed a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against the city of New York. The Burns, Burns & McMahon film had been previously chosen as the year's Best Documentary by the New York Film Critics Circle.

Boston Society of Film Critics winners

Best Picture: Zero Dark Thirty.

Best Foreign Language Film: Amour.

Best Actress: Emmanuelle Riva, Amour.

Best Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln.

Best Supporting Actress: Sally Field, Lincoln.

Best Supporting Actor: Ezra Miller, The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

Best Ensemble Cast: Seven Psychopaths.

Best Director: Kathryn Bigelow, Zero Dark Thirty.

Best Screenplay: Tony Kushner, Lincoln.

Best Cinematography: Mihai Malaimare Jr., The Master.

Best Documentary: How to Survive a Plague.

Best Animated Film: Frankenweenie, dir.: Tim Burton.

Best Film Editing (awarded in memory of Karen Schmeer): William Goldenberg & Dylan Tichenor, Zero Dark Thirty.

Best New Filmmaker (awarded in memory of David Brudnoy): David France, How to Survive a Plague.

Best Use of Music in a Film: Moonrise Kingdom (score: Alexandre Desplat).


Washington D.C. Film Critics winners

Best Film: Zero Dark Thirty.

Best Foreign Language Film: Amour.

Best Director: Kathryn Bigelow, Zero Dark Thirty.

Best Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln.

Best Actress: Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty.

Best Supporting Actress: Anne Hathaway, Les Misérables.

Best Supporting Actor: Philip Seymour Hoffman, The Master.

Best Acting Ensemble: Les Misérables.

Best Original Screenplay: Rian Johnson, Looper.

Best Adapted Screenplay: David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook.

Best Documentary: Bully.

Best Animated Feature: ParaNorman, dir.: Chris Butler and Sam Fell.

Best Cinematography: Claudio Miranda, Life of Pi.

Best Score: Jonny Greenwood, The Master.

Best Art Direction: Production Designers Uli Hanisch & Hugh Bateup; Set Decorators Peter Walpole & Rebecca Alleway, Cloud Atlas.

The Joe Barber Award for Best Youth Performance: Quvenzhané Wallis, Beasts of the Southern Wild.


New York Film Critics Online winners

Best Picture: Zero Dark Thirty.

Top Ten Films (runners-up):
Beasts of the Southern Wild.
Django Unchained.
Life of Pi.
The Master.
Les Misérables.
Moonrise Kingdom.
Silver Linings Playbook.

Best Foreign Language Film: Amour.

Best Actress: Emmanuelle Riva, Amour.

Best Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln.

Best Supporting Actor: Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln.

Best Supporting Actress: Anne Hathaway, Les Misérables.

Best Ensemble Cast: Argo.

Best Director: Kathryn Bigelow, Zero Dark Thirty.

Best Screenplay: Zero Dark Thirty, Mark Boal.

Best Cinematography: Life of Pi, Claudio Miranda.

Best Use of Music: Django Unchained, Mary Ramos.

Best Documentary: The Central Park Five.

Best Animated Feature: Chico & Rita, dir.: Tono Errando, Javier Mariscal, and Fernando Trueba.

Best Debut Director: Benh Zeitlin, Beasts of the Southern Wild.

Breakthrough Performance: Quvenzhané Wallis, Beasts of the Southern Wild.

The Master Joaquin Phoenix: L. Ron Hubbard and John Steinbeck mashup in would-be awards season faveThe Master with Joaquin Phoenix. Inspired by the life and times of controversial Church of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard – with elements from John Steinbeck's life and other sources mixed in – screenwriter/director Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master was supposed to have been one of 2012's top awards season/Oscar contenders. Despite mostly strong reviews, things haven't quite turned out that way, as The Master flopped in early fall – less than $16 million after about 10 weeks. True, back in 2009 The Hurt Locker fared just as poorly but still went on to become that year's most frequent awards season Best Picture choice and the eventual Oscar winner. Bear in mind, however, that Kathryn Bigelow's Iraq War drama is an exception to the rule. In fact, The Master, like most box office flops, hasn't been nearly as lucky – except in the acting categories, where it has done relatively well. Joaquin Phoenix was voted Best Actor by the Los Angeles and San Francisco film critics, in addition to being a Golden Globe nominee along with fellow players Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams (also a Los Angeles Film Critics award winner).

Lonely-at-the-top, L. Ron Hubbard-inspired 'The Master': San Francisco Film Critics surprise

The Master was the San Francisco Film Critics Circle's Best Picture of 2012. Directed and written by Paul Thomas Anderson, the psychological drama revolves around the complex relationship between a troubled World War II veteran (Joaquin Phoenix) and the charismatic leader of a philosophical/quasi-religious cult (Philip Seymour Hoffman). Scientology/L. Ron Hubbard connections are obvious, and so are analogies to religion as a whole.

Curiously, The Master was a Best Picture winner without matching wins in either the Best Director or Best Screenplay categories. Anderson's drama did, however, earn Joaquin Phoenix the Best Actor award, thus bucking the Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln) trend seen most elsewhere – though not in Los Angeles, where Phoenix also received top honors.

More 'Zero Dark Thirty' wins & controversies

The San Francisco Film Critics' Best Director was Kathryn Bigelow for the political thriller Zero Dark Thirty, which also earned Mark Boal the Best Original Screenplay award.

Curiously, Zero Dark Thirty coeditor William Goldenberg was singled out for his work on another Hollywood political thriller taking place in an Muslim Asian country: Ben Affleck's Iran-set Argo. (For the record, Goldenberg's Zero Dark Thirty collaborator was Dylan Tichenor.)

Of note: following outraged claims that U.S. President Barack Obama's administration had provided the filmmakers with top secret information, Zero Dark Thirty has led to another round of controversy as a result of its depiction of Made in U.S.A. torture of prisoners – and how that torture, despite real-life testimonies to the contrary, helped to lead investigators to Osama bin Laden's hiding place.

Radical Republican Tommy Lee Jones & 'sex surrogate' Helen Hunt: More San Francisco Film Critics winners

The Best Adapted Screenplay award went to North American critics' favorite Tony Kushner for Lincoln. The Steven Spielberg-directed historical/political drama about Abraham Lincoln's fight to end slavery on American soil also earned Tommy Lee Jones Best Supporting Actor honors for his portrayal of U.S. House of Representatives Radical Republican (i.e., not a radical right-winger, but a radical abolitionist) Thaddeus Stevens.

The other two acting winners were Best Actress Emmanuelle Riva and, surprisingly, Best Supporting Actress Helen Hunt. Riva, a critics' favorite absurdly (but unsurprisingly) bypassed by both the SAG Awards and the Golden Globes, won for Michael Haneke's drama – and San Francisco Film Critics Best Foreign Language Film winner – Amour, which deals with the issue of love in times of illness and death.

Best Actress Oscar winner Helen Hunt (As Good as It Gets, 1997), for years gone from the awards season radar, won for her performance as a “sex surrogate” in Ben Lewin's The Sessions, in which she plays a woman out to help disabled San Francisco poet John Hawkes lose his virginity.

The Marlon Riggs Award, given to a Bay Area filmmaker, went to Peter Nicks for his documentary The Waiting Room, which was also chosen as the year's Best Non-Fiction Film. The Waiting Room chronicles the travails of patients and staff at Oakland's Highland Hospital, which offers care mostly to uninsured patients.

Jacob Krupnick's Girl Walk All Day received a special citation. In the San Francisco Film Critics' press release, it's described as a “joyous dance film scored to pop/hip hop mashups.”

San Francisco Film Critics winners

Best Picture: The Master.

Best Foreign Language Film: Amour.

Best Actress: Emmanuelle Riva, Amour.

Best Actor: Joaquin Phoenix, The Master.

Best Supporting Actor: Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln.

Best Supporting Actress: Helen Hunt, The Sessions.

Best Director: Kathryn Bigelow, Zero Dark Thirty.

Best Adapted Screenplay: Tony Kushner, Lincoln.

Best Original Screenplay: Mark Boal, Zero Dark Thirty.

Best Cinematography: Claudio Miranda, Life of Pi.

Best Editing: William Goldenberg, Argo.

Best Production Design: Adam Stockhausen, Moonrise Kingdom.

Best Animated Feature: ParaNorman.

Marlon Riggs Award (for a Bay Area Filmmaker): The Waiting Room.

Special Citation: Girl Walk All Day.

The Dark Knight Rises Anne Hathaway as Catwoman Selina Kyle: Oscar fave thanks to her other movieThe Dark Knight Rises with Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle a.k.a. Catwoman. Christopher Nolan's final film in his early 21st century Batman trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises hasn't been nearly as well received as its immediate predecessor, The Dark Knight (2008). But that hasn't prevented the American Film Institute's AFI Award voters from naming the blockbuster one of the year's Top Ten films, along with other big-studio productions such as Steven Spielberg's Lincoln, David O. Russell's Silver Linings Playbook, and Ang Lee's Life of Pi. Anne Hathaway's performance as Selina Kyle/Catwoman has been all but ignored this awards season, but she's a critical favorite for her other 2012 entry, Tom Hooper's period musical Les Misérables – also among the AFI Awards' Top Ten – in which she plays the tragic Fantine. Besides Anne Hathaway, The Dark Knight Rises stars Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, and Marion Cotillard; the film made history on its opening weekend – not for its box office returns, but because a Denver suburb screening became the site of one of the deadliest massacres in modern U.S. history. By the way, Nolan's initial Batman movie was Batman Begins (2005).

'The Dark Knight Rises' included among AFI Awards' Top Ten films

Batman fans can rejoice, as Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Rises is one of the films on the AFI Awards' shortlist. On the other hand, independent/low-budget cinema fans should feel free to scream and wail in agony.

The AFI's Top Ten movies are the following:

  • Ben Affleck's Argo.
    Cast: Ben Affleck. Bryan Cranston. Alan Arkin. John Goodman.
  • Benh Zeitlin's Beasts of the Southern Wild.
    Cast: Quvenzhané Wallis. Dwight Henry.
  • Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Rises.
    Cast: Christian Bale. Anne Hathaway. Tom Hardy. Marion Cotillard.
  • Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained.
    Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio. Christoph Waltz. Jamie Foxx.
  • Tom Hooper's Les Misérables.
    Cast: Hugh Jackman. Russell Crowe. Anne Hathaway. Amanda Seyfried. Eddie Redmayne.
  • Ang Lee's Life of Pi.
    Cast: Suraj Sharma. Irrfan Khan. Tabu. Rafe Spall (Tobey Maguire's replacement during post-production).
  • Steven Spielberg's Lincoln.
    Cast: Daniel Day-Lewis. Sally Field. Tommy Lee Jones.
  • Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom.
    Cast: Edward Norton. Bruce Willis. Frances McDormand.
  • David O. Russell's Silver Linings Playbook.
    Cast: Bradley Cooper. Jennifer Lawrence. Robert De Niro. Jacki Weaver.
  • Kathryn Bigelow's Zero Dark Thirty.
    Cast: Jessica Chastain. Jason Clarke.

What? No The Avengers? Surprisingly not.

The AFI Award voters tend to love big-studio movies, but there are only ten slots each year. The super-blockbuster slot was taken up by The Dark Knight Rises.

As for this year's token low-budget, independent film, that's Beasts of the Southern Wild.

'The Master' not all that 'enhancing' or 'inspiring'

According to the American Film Institute's press release, AFI Awards “honorees are selected based on works which best advance the art of the moving image; enhance the rich cultural heritage of America's art form; inspire audiences and artists alike; and/or make a mark on American society.”

Paul Thomas Anderson's box office disappointment The Master, for one, apparently wasn't deemed all that “advancing,” “enhancing,” “inspiring,” or “mark-making.”

For the record, the winners in the television category were:

American Horror Story: Asylum.
Breaking Bad.
Game Change.
Game of Thrones.
Mad Men.
Modern Family.
The Walking Dead.

AFI Board of Trustees Vice Chair Tom Pollock, former Vice Chairman of MCA and Chairman of Universal Pictures, presided over the film jury. Voters (unclear which were for movies, which for TV) included Angela Bassett, Brad Bird, Chris Carter, Marta Kauffman, Octavia Spencer, other AFI Board of Trustees members, and several film critics.

A luncheon in honor of the AFI Award winners will be held on Friday, Jan. 11, in Los Angeles.


Boston Society of Film Critics website.

San Francisco Film Critics Circle website.

Emmanuelle Riva Amour image: Sony Pictures Classics.

The Central Park Five poster: Sundance Selects.

Joaquin Phoenix The Master image: The Weinstein Company.

Anne Hathaway The Dark Knight Rises image: Warner Bros.

'Amour' & 'Zero Dark Thirty' Awards Season Favorites + 'The Dark Knight Rises' Among Top Ten © 2004–2018 Alt Film Guide and/or author(s).
Text NOT to be reproduced without prior written consent.

Leave a comment about ''Amour' & 'Zero Dark Thirty' Awards Season Favorites + 'The Dark Knight Rises' Among Top Ten'


Don't waste time and energy disagreeing with and/or being deeply offended by the presentation of factual information.

On the other hand, it's perfectly okay to disagree with and/or, if you're so inclined, to be deeply offended by the views & opinions (and/or likes & dislikes) found on this site. And to let us know about any omissions or, heaven forbid, errors.

Just bear in mind that *thoughtfulness* and *at least a modicum of sanity* are imperative.

In other words: Feel free to add something reasonable & coherent – AND fact-based – to the discussion.

Abusive/bigoted, trollish/inflammatory, baseless (spreading misinformation, whether intentionally or not), spammy, and/or just plain deranged comments will be zapped and offenders may be banned.

And finally, links found in comments will generally be deleted.

Most recent comments listed on top.