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1960s French Movie Is New York Film Critics' Most Notable Winner

'Army of Shadows': 1969 French movie is New York Film Critics' Best Foreign Language Film of 2006

U.S. film critics continue to make a few curious choices. At the 2006 New York Film Critics Circle Awards, announced earlier today, December 10, the most interesting winner by far was the Best Foreign Language Film: the somber 1969 French Resistance drama Army of Shadows / L'Armée des ombres, adapted for the screen (from a novel by Joseph Kessel) and directed by Jean-Pierre Melville. Both Melville (born Jean-Pierre Grumbach) and Kessel were French Jews who joined the Resistance in 1941.

Though made more than 35 years ago, Army of Shadows was released in the United States only this year. Yesterday, Jean-Pierre Melville's film won a Special Mention from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association. In the Army of Shadows cast: Lino Ventura, Paul Meurisse, Jean-Pierre Cassel, Claude Mann, Serge Reggiani, Christian Barbier, Paul Crauchet, Jean-Marie Robain, and 1959 Best Actress Academy Award winner Simone Signoret (Room at the Top).

'United 93,' Helen Mirren, Forest Whitaker: More New York Film Critics winners

Among the other top New York Film Critics' winners were Best Film United 93, Paul Greengrass' version of the events aboard the plane brought down on a Pennsylvania field on September 11, 2001; Best Actress Helen Mirren for flawlessly bringing to screen life Queen Elizabeth II in Stephen Frears' The Queen; and Best Actor Forest Whitaker for his portrayal of another real-life political leader, Uganda's Idi Amin Dada in Kevin Macdonald's The Last King of Scotland. (Note: Helen Mirren had previously won a NYFCC Award in 2001, in the Best Supporting Actress category, for Robert Altman's Gosford Park.)

The New York Film Critics' Best Director was New Yorker Martin Scorsese for his handling of the absurd crime drama The Departed, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, and Vera Farmiga. (Scorsese had previously won in 1990, for the more realistic crime drama Goodfellas.) The Best Screenplay Award went to The Queen, written by Peter Morgan.

Letters from Iwo Jima, the top film at the 2006 National Board of Review and Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards, showed up only once among the New York Critics top three choices: Third place for Clint Eastwood in the Best Director category.

'The Queen' vs. 'The Departed': New York Film Critics Circle 'compromise' winners

The Gold Derby explains that The Queen and The Departed were actually the New York Film Critics' two favorite movies. However, due to their labyrinthine voting rules, United 93 ended up winning as a “compromise” choice.

Previous such “compromises” include Cameron Diaz, chosen Best Actress of 1998 for looking believably blonde in the godawful There's Something About Mary (the fight had been between Fernanda Montenegro for Central Station and Renée Zellweger for One True Thing and A Price Above Rubies), Robert Redford's Best Picture winner Quiz Show (so that neither Forrest Gump nor Pulp Fiction would win), and, going all the way back to 1939, William Wyler's Best Picture winner Wuthering Heights (instead of either Gone with the Wind or Mr. Smith Goes to Washington).

The 2006 New York Film Critics Circle Award winners were announced on Dec. 10 '06. 

Best Film: United 93 directed by Paul Greengrass

Runners-up: The Queen directed by Stephen Frears; The Departed directed by Martin Scorsese

Best Foreign-Language Film: LArmée des ombres / Armies of Shadows directed by Jean-Pierre Melville

Runners-up: Volver directed by Pedro AlmodóvarMoartea domnului Lazarescu / The Death of Mr. Lazarescu directed by Cristi Puiu

Best Director: Martin Scorsese, The Departed

Runners-up: Stephen Frears, The Queen; Clint Eastwood, Letters from Iwo Jima

Best Actor: Forest Whitaker, The Last King of Scotland

Runners-up: Ryan Gosling, Half Nelson; Sacha Baron Cohen, Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan

Best Actress: Helen Mirren, The Queen

Runners-up: Judi DenchNotes on a Scandal; Meryl StreepThe Devil Wears Prada

Best Supporting Actor: Jackie Earle HaleyLittle Children

Runners-up: Eddie Murphy, Dreamgirls; Steve Carell, Little Miss Sunshine

Best Supporting Actress: Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls

Runners-up: Shareeka Epps, Half Nelson; Catherine OHara, For Your Consideration

Best Screenplay: Peter Morgan, The Queen

Runners-up: William MonahanThe Departed; Michael Arndt, Little Miss Sunshine

Best Cinematographer: Guillermo Navarro, El Laberinto del fauno / Pan's Labyrinth

Runners-up: Zhao Xiaoding, Man cheng jin dai huang jin jia / Curse of the Golden Flower; Emmanuel Lubezki, Children of Men

Best Non-Fiction Film: Deliver Us from Evil directed by Amy Berg

Runners-up: 49 Up directed by Michael Apted; Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan directed by Larry Charles; An Inconvenient Truth directed by Davis Guggenheim

Best Animated Film: Happy Feet directed by George Miller

Runners-Up: A Scanner Darkly directed by Richard Linklater; Cars directed by John Lasseter and Joe Ranft

Best First Film: Half Nelson directed by Ryan Fleck

Runners-up: Little Miss Sunshine directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris; A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints directed by Dito Montiel

Though a 1969 production, LArmée des ombres was released in the U.S. in 2006. Director Jean-Pierre Melville died of a heart attack in 1973.

The New York Film Critics Circle consists of 27 writers for New York-based print media.

 

Simone Signoret in Army of Shadows / L'Armée des ombres photo: Rialto Pictures.


         
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