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'Army of Shadows': 1969 French Drama Is New York Film Critics' Most Notable Winner

Army of Shadows Simone Signoret: 1969 French WWII drama is NY Film Critics' surprising Best Foreign Language FilmArmy of Shadows with Simone Signoret. Jean-Pierre Melville's 1969 French Resistance drama also starring Lino Ventura and Paul Meurisse was the New York Film Critics Circle's Best Foreign Language Film of 2006. How come? That's because Army of Shadows (original title: L'Armée des ombres) reached U.S. screens only this year.

'Army of Shadows': 1969 French World War II drama is New York Film Critics' Best Foreign Language Film of 2006

U.S. film critics continue to make several curious choices this awards season. Among the 2006 New York Film Critics Circle winners, announced on Dec. 10, the most notable choice by far – in terms of, Did they really? – was the Best Foreign Language Film: screenwriter-director Jean-Pierre Melville's somber 1969 French Resistance drama Army of Shadows / L'Armée des ombres, based on a novel by Joseph Kessel. Both Melville (born Jean-Pierre Grumbach) and Kessel were French Jews who joined the Resistance in 1941.

Although released in France nearly four decades ago, Army of Shadows had its U.S. debut only this year. Melville's film has also earned a Special Mention from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association. In the cast:

Lino Ventura. Paul Meurisse. Jean-Pierre Cassel. Claude Mann. Serge Reggiani. Christian Barbier. Paul Crauchet. Jean-Marie Robain.

Best Actress Academy Award winner Simone Signoret (Room at the Top, 1959).

Regarding Army of Shadows, the New York Film Critics seemingly followed the lead of their Los Angeles counterparts – in terms of surprising picks, that is.

On Dec. 9, the Los Angeles Film Critics selected Romanian stage veteran Luminita Gheorghiu as the year's Best Supporting Actress for The Death of Mr. Lazarescu and Borat star Sacha Baron Cohen as the year's co-Best Actor (along with Forest Whitaker for The Last King of Scotland).

Helen Mirren & Forest Whitaker rule: More New York Film Critics winners

Among the other top New York Film Critics' 2006 winners were:

  • Best Film United 93, Paul Greengrass' version of the events aboard the plane brought down on a Pennsylvania field on Sept. 11 '01.
  • Best Actress Helen Mirren for bringing to screen life Queen Elizabeth II in Stephen Frears' The Queen, which also earned Peter Morgan the Best Screenplay Award. Mirren had previously won a NYFCC Award in the Best Supporting Actress category, for Robert Altman's Gosford Park (2001).
  • 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.
  • Best Director Martin Scorsese, a New Yorker singled out for his handling of the (Boston-based) crime drama The Departed, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, and Vera Farmiga. Scorsese had previously won in 1990, for another – more realistic – crime drama, Goodfellas.

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

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

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

Previous such “compromises” include:

Jackie Earle Haley Little Children: Convicted sex offender feared and hated in dysfunctional suburbia dramaJackie Earle Haley in Little Children. Former The Bad News Bears child actor was the New York Film Critics Circle's Best Supporting Actor winner for his performance as a convicted sex offender who returns to his suburban Boston home – where he is met with fear, hate, and disgust – in Todd Field's dysfunctional suburbia drama Little Children, starring Kate Winslet and Patrick Wilson.

New York Film Critics winners and runners-up

Best Film: United 93.

Runners-up: The Queen. The Departed.

Best Foreign Language Film: Armies of Shadows / L'Armée des ombres.

Runners-up: Volver, directed by Pedro Almodóvar. The Death of Mr. Lazarescu / Moartea domnului 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 Haley, Little Children.

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

Best Supporting Actress: Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls.

Runners-up: Shareeka Epps, Half Nelson. Catherine O'Hara, For Your Consideration.

Best Screenplay: Peter Morgan, The Queen.

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

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

Runners-up: Zhao Xiaoding, 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 co-director 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.

The New York Film Critics Circle consists of 27 reviewers from New York City-based print media.

 

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

Jackie Earle Haley Little Children image: New Line Cinema.


         
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