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Emmanuelle Riva & Amy Adams: National Society of Film Critics Winners

The National Society of Film Critics can be a classy, discerning voting body when its members feel like it. And that happens much more frequently than with most other U.S.-based film critics groups, including the better known and increasingly more mundane New York Film Critics Circle (though there's quite a bit of membership overlapping between the two entities). So, instead of going for well-received big-studio Hollywood fare like Zero Dark Thirty or Lincoln or Argo, the National Society of Film Critics selected Michael Haneke's French-language Palme d'Or winner Amour as the Best Picture of 2012.

The tale of a devoted elderly couple facing illness and death, Amour topped two other National Society of Film Critics Award categories as well: Best Actress for 85-year-old veteran Emmanuelle Riva (if Riva doesn't get an Academy Award nomination, every Academy member should have their membership rescinded), and Best Director for Michael Haneke – his first such win this awards season in North America. Once again left out, as has been the case in the last several weeks (in North America), was Riva's leading man, 82-year-old veteran Jean-Louis Trintignant. In fact, Trintignant isn't even included among the National Society of Film Critics' Best Actor runners-up.

Anyhow, although Trintignant was bypassed, the National Society of Film Critics made another classy choice in the form of Amy Adams, voted Best Supporting Actress for her performance in Paul Thomas Anderson's well-received but financially disappointing The Master. The Best Cinematography award also went to Anderson's film, thanks to the work of Mihai Malaimare Jr.

Amy Adams, by the way, is now a two-time National Society of Film Critics winner, having topped the Best Supporting Actress category for Junebug back in 2005. Besides, Adams was a runner-up in 2010, for David O. Russell's The Fighter.

National Society of Film Critics Awards 2013: More mainstream choices include Daniel Day-Lewis, Matthew McConaughey

Now, the National Society of Film Critics went mainstream in their choice of Best Actor: the U.S. critics' overwhelming favorite Daniel Day-Lewis, for incarnating U.S. president Abraham Lincoln in Steven Spielberg's unexpected box office hit Lincoln. Additionally, Tony Kushner's Lincoln screenplay – another critical favorite this awards season and a WGA Award nominee – was also singled out.

This marks Daniel Day-Lewis' third National Society of Film Critics win. The first two were for Jim Sheridan's My Left Foot (1989) and Paul Thomas Anderson's There Will Be Blood (2007). Additionally, Day-Lewis was the National Society of Film Critics' runner-up twice in the past: for Sheridan's In the Name of the Father (1993) and, as Best Supporting Actor, for James Ivory's A Room with a View and Stephen Frears' My Beautiful Laundrette in 1986.

The National Society of Film Critics' third mainstream choice this year was that of Matthew McConaughey as Best Supporting Actor, though, admittedly, for a couple of independently made films: Steven Soderbergh's domestic box office hit Magic Mike, in which McConaughey plays a stripper, and Richard Linklater's little-seen Bernie, with McConaughey as a fully clothed district attorney.

More National Society of Film Critics 2013 winners: Shin Bet documentary, Jafar Panahi

The Best Non-Fiction Film was cinematographer-turned-documentarian Dror Moreh's The Gatekeepers, featuring interviews with several former heads of Israel's highly controversial secret service agency, Shin Bet. The Gatekeepers, I should add, is one of the semi-finalists for the 2013 Best Documentary Feature Academy Award.

And finally, the National Society of Film Critics' award for Best Experimental Film went to jailed Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi's This Is Not a Film, which had to be smuggled out of Iran and is another semi-finalist for this year's Best Documentary Feature Oscar. The Film Heritage Awards were given to MoMA's Senior Film Curator Laurence Kardish “for his extraordinary 44 years of service, including this year's Weimar Cinema retrospective,” and to Milestone Film and Video “for their ongoing Shirley Clarke project.”

Amy Adams The Master NSFCNational Society of Film Critics choices: Los Angeles influence

National Society of Film Critics Awards: Classy Winners Include Amour, Emmanuelle Riva.”] Curiously, even though the National Society of Film Critics is based in New York City, its “Best of 2012” choices had more in common with the Los Angeles Film Critics Association: Best Picture Amour, Best Non-Fiction Film The Gatekeepers, Best Actress Emmanuelle Riva (tied with Silver Linings Playbook's Jennifer Lawrence in L.A.), and Best Supporting Actress Amy Adams. Even Best Actor runner-up Denis Lavant (for Leos Carax's Holy Motors), an unusual choice among U.S.-based critics groups, matched the L.A. Critics' runner-up in that category. (The L.A. Critics' winner, The Master's Joaquin Phoenix, was the NSFC's third choice.) [Photo: Amy Adams The Master.]

Now, definitely not following the Los Angeles Critics' lead, the National Society of Film Critics gave no Best Foreign Language Film Award and announced no list of runners-up. In L.A., the critics strangely selected the French-language Holy Motors as their Best Foreign Language Film after selecting the French-language Amour as their Best Film.

Also worth noting, the choices of the National Society of Film Critics and the New York Film Critics Circle matched three times: Best Actor Daniel Day-Lewis for Lincoln, Best Supporting Actor Matthew McConaughey for Magic Mike and Bernie, and Best Screenplay for Lincoln's Tony Kushner. And although the New York Critics' picked Kathryn Bigelow's controversial political thriller Zero Dark Thirty as their Best Film of 2012, Amour was their Best Foreign Language Film choice.

NSFC Awards 2013 omissions

Besides Amour's Jean-Louis Trintignant, who has already been mentioned in the previous article, glaring omissions from the National Society of Film Critics Awards 2013 list of winners and runners-up include the following: Ben Affleck's Argo, Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom, Ang Lee's Life of Pi, Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained, Ben Lewin's The Sessions, and Benh Zeitlin's Beasts of the Southern Wild in any category; plus New York Film Critics winner Rachel Weisz for The Deep Blue Sea; Marion Cotillard for Rust and Bone; Steven Spielberg for Lincoln; Bradley Cooper for Silver Linings Playbook; and the documentaries How to Survive a Plague and The Central Park Five.

The National Society of Film Critics' foreign Best Picture winners

Of note: Since 2000, besides Michael Haneke's Amour, three other non-English-language films have won the National Society of Film Critics' Best Picture Award: Edward Yang's Taiwanese family drama Yi Yi (2000), Guillermo del Toro's Spanish-made dark fantasy Pan's Labyrinth (2006), and Ari Folman's politically charged Israeli animated feature Waltz with Bashir (2007). Additionally, in the last dozen years the NSFC has given its top prize to two other non-U.S. – but English-language – productions: Roman Polanski's The Pianist (2002) and Lars von Trier's Melancholia (2011). And let's not forget David Lynch's Franco-American co-production Mulholland Dr. (2001).

I should add that the National Society of Film Critics' World Cinema choices are nothing new. During the course of its first decade, eight of the NSFC's Best Picture winners were non-U.S.-made films, seven of which in a language other than English: Ingmar Bergman's Persona (1967), Bergman's Shame (1968), Costa-Gavras' Z (1969), Eric Rohmer's Claire's Knee (1971), Luis Buñuel's The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972), François Truffaut's Day for Night (1973), and Bergman's Scenes from a Marriage (1974). Michelangelo Antonioni's English-set Anglo-American Blow-Up was the 1966 winner. The only full-fledged American Best Picture winners were two Robert Altman efforts: MASH (1970) and Nashville (1975).

National Society of Film Critics Awards dedicated to co-founder Andrew Sarris

The 2013 National Society of Film Critics Awards were dedicated to auteur theorist Andrew Sarris, who died last year. Sarris is described on the NSFC's website as “one of the most original and influential American film critics as well as […] a founding member of the National Society.”

The National Society of Film Critics is composed of 60 critics from top American publications. Forty-three of those got together at New York City's Film Society of Lincoln Center – more specifically, at the FSLC's Elinor Bunin Monroe Center – to come up with their Best of 2012 choices.

For the record, Michael Haneke's Amour was the National Society of Film Critics' Best Picture after garnering 28 points. Haneke's Palme d'Or winner was followed by Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master with 25 and Kathryn Bigelow's Zero Dark Thirty with 18. (Image: Amour Emmanuelle Riva, Jean-Louis Trintignant.)

Amour's Emmanuelle Riva was chosen as the year's Best Actress after receiving 50 points. The runners-up were Silver Linings Playbook's Jennifer Lawrence with 42 and Zero Dark Thirty's Jessica Chastain with 32. The young and pretty Lawrence and Chastain have received Golden Globe and SAG Award nominations. Tellingly, the 85-year-old foreigner Emmanuelle Riva has not.

European Film Award Best Director winner Michael Haneke received 27 points from the NSFC. In second place there was a tie: 24 points each for Zero Dark Thirty's Kathryn Bigelow and The Master's Paul Thomas Anderson.

Daniel Day-Lewis' Lincoln victory was the result of 59 points. The runners-up were Holy Motors' Denis Lavant and The Master's Joaquin Phoenix with 49 points each. Of the three, Day-Lewis is the only one nominated for both the SAG Awards and the Golden Globes. Lavant, needless to say, has been ignored by the Screen Actors Guild and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. Phoenix is up for a Golden Globe in the Best Actor - Drama category.

The Master's Amy Adams received 34 points. Next in line in the Best Supporting Actress category were Lincoln's Sally Field with 23 and Les Misérables' Anne Hathaway with 13. All three actresses have earned Golden Globe nominations. Apparently, SAG Award voters didn't care for The Master, as Adams, much like Joaquin Phoenix, was bypassed.

NSFC winner Matthew McConaughey bypassed by Golden Globes, SAG Awards

Matthew McConaughey earned 27 points for Magic Mike and Bernie. He was followed by Lincoln's Tommy Lee Jones with 22 and The Master's Philip Seymour Hoffman with 19. Curiously, both Jones and Hoffman have been nominated for the Golden Globes and the SAG Awards, whereas McConaughey, perhaps as a result of vote-splitting (Magic Mike vs. Bernie), has been bypassed by both.

Tony Kushner's Lincoln screenplay received as many points as Lincoln star Daniel Day-Lewis, 59. The runners-up were The Master's Paul Thomas Anderson with 27 points, and Silver Linings Playbook's David O. Russell with 19. All three have been shortlisted for the 2013 WGA Awards.

Dror Moreh's The Gatekeepers earned 53 points, followed by Jafar Panahi's Best Experimental Film winner This Is Not a Film with 45 and Malik Bendjelloul's U.S. critics' favorite Searching for Sugar Man with 23.

The Master's cinematographer Mihai Malaimare Jr. received 60 points. Next in line was Skyfall's Roger Deakins with 30 and Greig Fraser with 21 for Kathryn Bigelow's controversial political thriller Zero Dark Thirty – but, curiously, not for either the Kristen Stewart / Chris Hemsworth dark fantasy Snow White and the Huntsman or the Brad Pitt mafia thriller Killing Them Softly (or for Fraser's work on all three movies).

 

Amour Emmanuelle Riva, Jean-Louis Trintignant image: Sony Pictures Classics.

Amy Adams The Master photo: The Weinstein Company.

Emmanuelle Riva in Michael Haneke's Amour photo: Sony Pictures Classics.


         
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