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Meryl Streep Breaks New York Critics Record

Meryl Streep, Anthony Head, The Iron Lady
Meryl Streep, Anthony Head in Phyllida Lloyd's The Iron Lady

The most curious thing about Michel Hazanavicius' The Artist winning the New York Film Critics Circle's Best Film and Best Director awards is that 85 years ago this “innovative” work would have had little-to-no novelty value. It's in black and white, it's (mostly) silent, and it features a handsome, mustached, hammy actor. In that regard, it sounds like any John Gilbert star vehicle of 1926. (See further below the full list of New York Film Critics winners.)

Oscar (and César) nods for both Hazanavicius and his film are all but assured. (Not that they weren't all but assured, say, last night. Or a week ago.) As an aside, earlier today The Artist also received five nominations for the Spirit Awards. It's a great day for French filmmaking – especially considering that the Spirit Awards are supposed to honor American indies.

Cannes winner Jean Dujardin, The Artist's leading man, was bypassed by the New York critics, who opted instead for Brad Pitt in two movies: Bennett Miller's Moneyball and Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life. Pitt's victory wouldn't be particularly surprising, except for the fact that his Best Actor competition included Michael Fassbender in four movies: Shame, Jane Eyre, A Dangerous Method, and X-Men: The Last Stand.

Meryl Streep now has more Best Actress NYFCC Awards than anyone else: four. Streep's first win took place back in 1982, for Sophie's Choice. That was followed by three portrayals of real-life characters: an Australian mother accused of murdering her child in A Cry in the Dark in 1988; Julia Child in Julie & Julia in 2009; and now The Iron Lady, in which Streep plays former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher. Unlike Thatcher's right-wing allies, the New York critics apparently didn't find Streep's performance “overly emotional.”

Asghar Farhadi's Berlin Film Festival's Golden Bear winner A Separation was the Best Foreign Language Film. The Iranian family drama has been a favorite just about everywhere, though Oscar chances are iffy because of the Academy's Best Foreign Language Film voting rules, which precludes most members from having a say in the nominations and/or winners in that category. Critical and festival favorites have often been bypassed in favor of commercial, sentimental fare, especially if about World War II, Jewish characters, and suffering little boys.

Jessica Chastain was the New York Critics' Best Supporting Actress for three movies: The Tree of Life, Tate Taylor's The Help, and Jeff Nichols' Take Shelter. (Chastain was not cited for The Debt, Coriolanus, or Texas Killing Fields.) Upon learning that he had won the Best Supporting Actor Award for his performance in Nicolas Winding Refn's thriller Drive, Albert Brooks tweeted: “Was just told about N.Y.F.C.C. and Spirit Awards! THANK YOU. I feel like Herman Cain at a Dallas Cheerleader convention.”

The Iron Lady photo: The Weinstein Company

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Zachary Quinto, Penn Badgley, Margin Call
Zachary Quinto, Penn Badgley, Margin Call

J.C. Chandor's Margin Call, featuring an all-star cast that includes Zachary Quinto, Jeremy Irons, Penn Badgley, Demi Moore, Stanley Tucci, and Kevin Spacey, was the Best First Film. Werner Herzog's Cave of Forgotten Dreams, bypassed by the Academy last year, was the Best Documentary. The Best Screenplay Award went to Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin for Moneyball. (Last year, Sorkin won just about every award out there for The Social Network; the New York critics, however, went for The Kids Are All Right's Lisa Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg.)

And finally, Emmanuel Lubezki predictably won the Best Cinematography Award for The Tree of Life, while filmmaker Raoul Ruiz, who died last August at the age of 70, was named the recipient of a posthumous Special Award. Curiously, no Best Animated Feature winner was announced this year.

Totally ignored at this year's New York Film Critics Circle Awards were Martin Scorsese's Hugo, Rodrigo Garcia's Albert Nobbs, Alexander Payne's The Descendants (which had no luck at the Gotham Awards last night, either), Steven Spielberg's War Horse, Tomas Alfredson's Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Steve McQueen's Shame, David Fincher's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris, Clint Eastwood's J. Edgar, and Jason Reitman's Young Adult.

Also: Stephen Daldry's Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Mike Mills' Gotham Award Best Feature co-winner Beginners, George Clooney's The Ides of March, Lynne Ramsay's We Need to Talk About Kevin, David Yates' Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, Chris Weitz's A Better Life, David Cronenberg's A Dangerous Method, and Sean Durkin's Martha Marcy May Marlene.

Since Armond White is no longer NYFCC president – John Anderson holds that position now – the awards ceremony on Jan. 9, 2012, should not be nearly as, huh, colorful as the one earlier this year. Having said that, I should add that White's Twitter impostor kept some tweet readers entertained throughout the New York critics' voting process. See below:

“All in favor not to award [Kenneth Lonergan's] MARGARET anything?” Ayes all around.

Wait, a nay! From the US Weekly critic!

“We should give Margaret a chance to speak for herself. Let her tell us why she shouldn't win.” Oh dear.

Now we say goodbye as Lumenick and Morgenstern are beamed back to News Corp, The Voice writers go back to the village and…oh my.

It appears we're still missing [tabloid New York Post reviewer] Kyle Smith. Again, if found, please just drop him in your nearest mailbox.

Margin Call photo: Walter Thomson / Roadside Attractions

Jean Dujardin, Berenice Bejo, The Artist
Jean Dujardin, Bérénice Bejo, The Artist

Best Film: The Artist

Best Foreign Language Film: A Separation

Best Nonfiction Film: Cave of Forgotten Dreams

Best Dir.: Michel Hazanavicius for The Artist

Best Actress: Meryl Streep for The Iron Lady

Best Actor: Brad Pitt for Moneyball, and The Tree of Life

Best Supporting Actor: Albert Brooks for Drive

Best Supporting Actress: Jessica Chastain for The Tree of Life, The Help and Take Shelter

Best Scr.: Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin for Moneyball

Best Cinematography: Emmanuel Lubezki for The Tree of Life

Best First Feature: Margin Call

Special Award: Raoul Ruiz

The Artist photo: The Weinstein Company

Predictions

Michael Fassbender, Shame
Michael Fassbender, Shame

Generally a mid-December event, the New York Film Critics Circle will announce its 2011 winners in late November – today, Nov. 29, to be exact. Who will win? Well, who knows… But let's take a guess. Or rather, a few guesses.

The process of elimination technique: Clint Eastwood's J. Edgar and Steven Spielberg's The War Horse and The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn have no chance of winning for Best Film or – in the case of Tintin – Best Animated Feature. Not among the New York critics. Can't imagine Gotham Award winner Felicity Jones taking home the Best Actress award for Drake Doremus' Like Crazy, which won the hearts and minds of Sundance jury members, but generally hasn't received great reviews elsewhere. Mike Mills' Beginners is another Gotham Award winner that doesn't have much of a chance in the Best Film category. And I'd be very surprised if Pedro Almodóvar's The Skin I Live In was selected as the Best Foreign Language Film of 2011. Well, that leaves us with about 300 films…

Switching gears: Below are the top possibilities for Best Film, based on the New York Film Critics' recent history of selecting generally well-regarded but conventional English-language (almost invariably American) movies with mainstream appeal in terms of narrative and visual aesthetics (though not necessarily from a thematic standpoint) – e.g., The Social Network, The Hurt Locker, Milk, No Country for Old Men, United 96, Brokeback Mountain, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, and Sideways. The NYFCC's last truly daring Best Film choice was David Lynch's Mulholland Dr. That was a full decade ago.

Top choice for 2011: Steve McQueen's Shame. NYFCC members could even pat themselves on the back for choosing a “radical” work – if only the Motion Picture Association of America's NC-17 rating actually meant anything besides the on-screen presence of penises, vaginas, and/or an x number of “thrusts.”

A truly more offbeat choice would be Terrence Malick's Cannes winner The Tree of Life. My guess, however, is that Malick may end up taking home the Best Director Award instead. In the last ten years, the Best Film and Best Director awards have been “split” five times: Mulholland Dr./Robert Altman (Gosford Park), The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King/Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation), Sideways/Clint Eastwood (Million Dollar Baby), United 93/Martin Scorsese (The Departed), Milk/Mike Leigh (Happy-Go-Lucky).

Other possibilities: Michel Hazanavicius' silent, black-and-white dramatic comedy The Artist, another “daring” choice (one that, ironically, would have been anything but about eight or nine decades ago – except for the fact that it's French made); Bennett Miller's baseball drama Moneyball; Martin Scorsese's homage to cinema, Hugo; Alexander Payne's family comedy-drama The Descendants; Nicolas Winding Refn's thriller Drive. To a lesser extent: David Fincher's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Jeff Nichols' Take Shelter, Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris, Sean Durkin's Martha Marcy May Marlene, and Tate Taylor's The Help.

Shame picture: Abbot Genser / Fox Searchlight Pictures

Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady
Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady

The New York Film Critics Circle's Best Actress race is tough to predict. The only (extreme) likelihood is that the winning actress will be singled out for an English-speaking role. The last actress to win in New York while delivering dialogue in a language other than English was Norma Aleandro back in 1985, when the Argentinean performer took home the Best Actress Award for The Official Story. (And some insist on calling the Academy narrow-minded and provincial when compared to the New York critics…)

My bet for this year's winner is Meryl Streep for The Iron Lady, even though Streep won two years ago for Julie & Julia. She's a veteran, she's brilliant, she deserves a third Academy Award. It didn't work in 2009 – when Sandra Bullock won the Oscar for the blockbuster The Blind Side – but it may work now if the New York critics give Streep an early push.

Other possibilities: Glenn Close for Albert Nobbs, Elizabeth Olsen for Martha Marcy May Marlene, Tilda Swinton for We Need to Talk About Kevin, Michelle Williams for My Week with Marilyn, Rooney Mara for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Charlize Theron for Young Adult, Viola Davis for The Help. Less likely: Olivia Colman for Tyrannosaur, Felicity Jones for Like Crazy, Kristen Wiig for Bridesmaids. Don't laugh: if those guys could have picked Cameron Diaz for There's Something About Mary, they could surely go for Kristen Wiig in a much-better received movie and performance.

The Iron Lady picture: The Weinstein Company

Michael Fassbender, Shame movieThe New York Film Critics Circle's last Best Actor winner for a non-English-speaking role was … nobody. That has never happened in the NYFCC's 76-year history. So much for Peyman Moaad's Best Actor chances for his troubled husband in Asghar Farhadi's A Separation.

Michael Fassbender, however, wouldn't be a victim of the New York Film Critics' language-barrier issue. As a plus, in 2011 Fassbender got naked in Shame, wore nice period clothes in Jane Eyre, had funky superpowers in X-Men: First Class, and gave psychological advice in A Dangerous Method. Can anyone else take home this year's Best Actor Award? Well, yes, of course. There's always somebody else. But I'm betting on Fassbender to win.

Two other strong possibilities are George Clooney for both The Descendants and The Ides of March, and Jean Dujardin (a non-English speaker in a silent film) for The Artist. Next in line are Brad Pitt for Moneyball and The Tree of Life, Michael Shannon for Take Shelter, Ryan Gosling for Drive and The Ides of March, Demián Bichir for A Better Life. Less likely: Ben Kingsley for Hugo, Tom Hardy for Warrior, Gary Oldman for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Leonardo DiCaprio for J. Edgar.


         
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1 Comment to Meryl Streep Breaks New York Critics Record

  1. Charlotte

    I love it that Meryl Streep won a New York Film Critics Award and an Oscar for her performance as Margaret Thatcher. What a brilliant actress!!