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Surprise Winners + Michael Bay Bomb: Critics Awards

Lee Byung-hun I Saw the Devil
Lee Byung-hun, I Saw the Devil

This year, the Austin Film Critics went for some unusual – though not exactly “surprising” – choices. Well, with one exception: Jee-woon Kim's revenge thriller I Saw the Devil, their Best Foreign Language Film. To date, US-based critics have gone instead for Pedro Almodóvar's The Skin I Live In, Asghar Farhadi's A Separation, or Takashi Miike's 13 Assassins. Earlier this year, I Saw the Devil, about a young man (Lee Byung-hun) out to avenge the murder of his pregnant wife, won an Asian Film Award for Best Editing.

Martin Scorsese's 3D ode to the magic of movies, Hugo, was selected as the Best Film of 2011. Elsewhere, US critics have been leaning more heavily toward another ode to the magic movies, Michel Hazanavicius' black-and-white silent comedy-drama The Artist, which, curiously, failed to top any of the Austin Critics' categories.

Take Shelter's Michael Shannon and We Need to Talk About Kevin's Tilda Swinton have usually been either “nominees” or runners-up, as Best Actor and Best Actress citations have mostly gone to The Descendants' George Clooney and My Week with Marilyn's Michelle Williams. Not so in Austin, where Shannon and Swinton topped their respective categories.

The supporting winners were more on a par with the other critics' groups: Albert Brooks for Drive, which also earned citations for director Nicolas Winding Refn and screenwriter/adapter Hossein Amini, and Jessica Chastain for Take Shelter. Chastain was also singled out as the year's Breakthrough Performer after appearing in one out of every other movie released in the last twelve months (Take Shelter/The Tree of Life/The Help/The Debt/Coriolanus/Texas Killing Fields).

Woody Allen's box office hit Midnight in Paris was the Best Original Screenplay winner, Joe Cornish's sci-fier Attack the Block was voted Best First Film and earned Steven Price the Best Original Score citation, and Asif Kapadia's Senna was the Best Documentary. Gore Verbinski's Rango, featuring the voice of Johnny Depp, was the Best Animated Feature.

Additionally, Take Shelter won the “local” Austin Film Award for Arkansas-born Austinite Jeff Nichols. The Austin-made The Tree of Life, for its part, earned Emmanuel Lubezki one more Best Cinematography Award.

Lee Byung-hun/I Saw the Devil picture via the film's official English-language website.

Terrence Malick Existential Drama & Brutal Crime Thriller Top Film Critics' Nominations

The Tree of Life, Jessica Chastain, Brad Pitt, Laramie Eppler, Tye SheridanLike just about every US-based critics group – year in, year out – the Online Film Critics Society has placed its focus on English-language productions this awards season. True, critics' fave The Artist, a French-made production, is in the running in several categories, including Best Film, but Michel Hazanavicius' comedy-drama is a) silent (which makes it seem less “foreign”) b) set in Hollywood c) features several American/British actors in supporting roles.

In any case, Terrence Malick's family drama The Tree of Life, starring Brad Pitt, Sean Penn, and Jessica Chastain, topped the Online Critics list of nominees, with a total of seven nods. Those include Best Film, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay (Malick), and supporting nominations for Pitt and Chastain (photo, with Laramie Eppler and Tye Sheridan). (See full list of Online Film Critics Awards nominations further below.)

Nicolas Winding Refn's thriller Drive, starring Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, and Albert Brooks, was next with six nods. The film itself, Refn, and Brooks were shortlisted, but Gosling and Mulligan were left out. (Mulligan was, however, included in the Best Supporting Actress shortlist for her performance as Michael Fassbender's sister in Steve McQueen's Shame.)

Most of the other nominees are the usual suspects: Martin Scorsese as a Best Director contender for Hugo; George Clooney and the aforementioned Michael Fassbender as Best Actor contenders for, respectively, The Descendants and Shame; and Meryl Streep and Michelle Williams as Best Actress contenders for, respectively, The Iron Lady and My Week with Marilyn.

Surprising nominations included Lars von Trier as one of the five shortlisted directors for his work on the apocalyptic family drama Melancholia, which also earned star and Cannes Best Actress winner Kirsten Dunst an equally “unusual” Best Actress nod (from US critics, that is); John Hawkes as Best Supporting Actor for Sean Durkin's thriller Martha Marcy May Marlene, which also earned Elizabeth Olsen a Best Actress nod; and Asghar Farhadi's Berlin Film Festival winner A Separation, a Best Foreign Language Film nominee that also found its way onto the list of Best Original Screenplay nominees.

Now, most shocking of all was Jessica Chastain's special award as Breakthrough Performer of 2011. Crime doesn't pay, so they say, but having a good agent, however, can work career-making miracles.

The Online Film Critics' winners will be announced on January 2, 2012.

The Tree of Life photo: Merie Wallace / 20th Century Fox

Jessica Chastain, Brad Pitt, The Tree of Life
Jessica Chastain, Brad Pitt in Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life

Best Picture
The Artist
The Descendants
The Tree of Life

Best Film Not in the English Language
13 Assassins
Certified Copy
A Separation
The Skin I Live In
Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives

Best Animated Feature
The Adventures of Tintin
Arthur Christmas
Kung Fu Panda 2
Winnie the Pooh

Best Director
Michel Hazanavicius - The Artist
Terrence Malick - The Tree of Life
Nicolas Winding Refn - Drive
Martin Scorsese - Hugo
Lars von Trier - Melancholia

Best Lead Actor
George Clooney - The Descendants
Jean Dujardin - The Artist
Michael Fassbender - Shame
Gary Oldman - Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Michael Shannon - Take Shelter

Best Lead Actress
Kirsten Dunst - Melancholia
Elizabeth Olsen - Martha Marcy May Marlene
Meryl Streep - The Iron Lady
Tilda Swinton - We Need to Talk About Kevin
Michelle Williams - My Week with Marilyn

Best Supporting Actor
Albert Brooks - Drive
John Hawkes - Martha Marcy May Marlene
Nick Nolte - Warrior
Brad Pitt - The Tree of Life
Christopher Plummer - Beginners

Best Supporting Actress
Jessica Chastain - The Tree of Life
Melissa McCarthy - Bridesmaids
Janet McTeer – Albert Nobbs
Carey Mulligan - Shame
Shailene Woodley - The Descendants

Best Original Screenplay
Martha Marcy May Marlene
Midnight in Paris
A Separation
The Tree of Life
Win Win

Best Adapted Screenplay
The Descendants
Tinker Tailor Solider Spy
We Need to Talk About Kevin

Best Editing
Martha Marcy May Marlene
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
The Tree of Life
We Need to Talk About Kevin

Best Cinematography
The Artist
The Tree of Life

Best Documentary
Cave of Forgotten Dreams
The Interrupters
Into the Abyss
Project Nim

Special Awards
To Jessica Chastain, the breakout performer of the year
To Martin Scorsese in honor of his work and dedication to the pursuit of film preservation

The Tree of Life picture: Merie Wallace / 20th Century Fox

Michelle Williams Hit, Michael Bay Bomb: More Critics Awards

Michelle Williams Marilyn Monroe My Week with Marilyn
Michelle Williams as cinema icon Marilyn Monroe, My Week with Marilyn

The Artist, a French-made, mostly silent, black-and-white has won fans far from the two coasts. The Oklahoma Film Critics Circle chose Michel Hazanavicius' homage to silent films as the year's Best Film. Hazanavicius, for his part, was cited as Best Director and for Best Original Screenplay. The Artist features Jean Dujardin, Bérénice Bejo, Malcolm McDowell, Missi Pyle, Penelope Ann Miller, and John Goodman. (See further below the full list of the Oklahoma Film Critics 2011 Winners.)

Best Picture runners-up included Nicolas Winding Refn's thriller Drive, starring Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, and Best Supporting Actor winner Albert Brooks as a nasty gangster; Alexander Payne's The Descendants, starring Best Actor winner George Clooney as a befuddled dysfunctional family man; and Martin Scorsese's Hugo, another homage to early cinema, this one set in 1930s Paris.

Somewhat surprisingly, Steve McQueen's sex drama Shame, starring Michael Fassbender, fared better than more well-received fare such as Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life, Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris, and Bennett Miller's baseball drama Moneyball, starring Brad Pitt. Lars von Trier's Melancholia, starring Kirsten Dunst as the world is about to come to an abrupt end, and David Fincher's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo remake, starring Rooney Mara and Daniel Craig, were also shortlisted.

Once again, Michelle Williams was voted the year's Best Actress for bringing Marilyn Monroe back to life in Simon Curtis' My Week with Marilyn. The film is set during the making of Laurence Olivier's 1957 romantic comedy-drama The Prince and the Showgirl. Kenneth Branagh plays Olivier; Julia Ormond is Vivien Leigh.

The Help's Octavia Spencer, one of the favorites for the 2012 Best Supporting Actress Oscar, was the Oklahoma Critics' choice in that category. The Best Foreign Language Film was Pedro Almodóvar's mix of sexual identity issues and B mad doctor movies, The Skin I Live In. Andrew Rossi's Page One: Inside The New York Times was the Best Documentary.

Michael Bay's blockbuster Transformers: Dark of the Moon, starring Shia LaBeouf, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, and Josh Duhamel, was also remembered by the Oklahoma Critics – as the Obviously Worst Film of the Year. Another box office hit, Todd Phillips' The Hangover Part II, was the year's Not-So-Obviously Worst Film of the Year, an award of less-than-dubious merit given to films “that may have great talent behind them, but somehow add up to less than the sum of their parts.” Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis, Justin Bartha, and Ed Helms star.

Craig Gillespie's box office flop, Fright Night, was the first recipient of the Best Guilty Pleasure award. Colin Farrell and Anton Yelchin star.

My Week with Marilyn picture: Laurence Cendrowicz / The Weinstein Company

Berenice Bejo, Malcolm McDowell, The Artist
Bérénice Bejo, Malcolm McDowell, The Artist

Best Film
The Artist by Michel Hazanavicius

Top 10 Films
1. The Artist
2. Drive by Nicolas Winding Refn
3. The Descendants by Alexander Payne
4. Hugo by Martin Scorsese
5. Shame by Steve McQueen
6. Moneyball by Bennett Miller
7. Midnight in Paris by Woody Allen
8. Melancholia by Lars von Trier
9. Tree of Life by Terrence Malick
10.The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by David Fincher

Best Foreign Language Film
The Skin I Live In by Pedro Almodóvar

Best Director
Michel Hazanavicius for The Artist

Best Actress
Michelle Williams for My Week with Marilyn

Best Actor
George Clooney for The Descendants

Best Supporting Actress
Octavia Spencer for The Help

Best Supporting Actor
Albert Brooks for Drive

Best Screenplay, Adaptation
Moneyball, Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin

Best Screenplay, Original
The Artist, Michel Hazanavicius

Best Documentary Film
Page One: Inside The New York Times by Andrew Rossi

Best First Feature
Sean Durkin for Martha Marcy May Marlene

Best Animated Film
The Adventures of Tintin by Steven Spielberg

Obviously Worst Film
Transformers: Dark of the Moon by Michael Bay

Not-So-Obviously-Worst Film
The Hangover Part II by Todd Phillips

Best Guilty Pleasure
Fright Night by Craig Gillespie

Berenice Bejo/Malcolm McDowell/The Artist photo: The Weinstein Company

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