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ZERO DARK THIRTY, Record-Breaker Sally Field: New York Film Critics Awards

Zero Dark Thirty Jessica ChastainZero Dark Thirty tops New York Film Critics Awards 2012

Zero Dark Thirty, the thriller about the hunt for Osama bin Laden that led some Republicans to accuse the Barack Obama administration of revealing top secret information to the filmmakers, was the New York Film Critics Circle's 2012 Best Picture winner. Zero Dark Thirty also earned Best Director honors for Kathryn Bigelow and the Best Cinematography award for Greig Fraser. (Image: Jessica Chastain Zero Dark Thirty.)

Kathryn Bigelow had previously won NYFCC recognition three years ago for another movie in which the U.S. government's “war on terror” played a role, the Iraq War drama The Hurt Locker. The widely acclaimed movie went on to win the Best Picture and Best Director Academy Awards as well. [See also: Zero Dark Thirty Poster and brief The Hurt Locker critique.]

Zero Dark Thirty's cinematographer Greig Fraser's two other 2012 efforts, Snow White and the Huntsman and Killing Them Softly, went unheralded. That's curious because the New York Film critics often list their winners' multiple “quality” efforts, e.g., last year's Best Supporting Actress Jessica Chastain, cited for three films (The Help, The Tree of Life, and Take Shelter) – and coincidentally the star in Zero Dark Thirty. [See also: “Killing Them Softly: Brad Pitt Worst Box-Office Debut.”]

Zero Dark Thirty, which opens domestically on December 19, was written by Kathryn Bigelow's The Hurt Locker collaborator Mark Boal. Besides Jessica Chastain, the cast includes Joel Edgerton, Kyle Chandler, Édgar Ramírez, Mark Duplass, Chris Pratt, Jennifer Ehle, Mark Strong, Frank Grillo, James Gandolfini, and Stephen Dillane.

Steven Spielberg goes home empty-handed

The two-time Oscar-winning Steven Spielberg has never won the New York Film Critics Best Director Award even though two of his films, Schindler's List and Saving Private Ryan, were given the NYFCC's top prize. Having said that, Spielberg's historical drama Lincoln was the NYFCC's other top winner, with three awards: Daniel Day-Lewis was named Best Actor for his portrayal of the iconic U.S. president; Sally Field was Best Supporting Actress for her Mary Todd Lincoln; and Tony Kushner won the Best Screenplay Award for his adaptation of Doris Kearns Goodwin's book Team of Rivals.

Daniel Day-Lewis ties Best Actor record

With his Lincoln victory, Daniel Day-Lewis has become only the second actor ever to win four New York Film Critics' Best Actor Awards. Day-Lewis' previous wins were for Jim Sheridan's My Left Foot (1989), Martin Scorsese's Gangs of New York (2002), and Paul Thomas Anderson's There Will Be Blood (2007), plus a Best Supporting Actor win for A Room with a View and My Beautiful Laundrette (1986). His fourpeating Best Actor predecessor is Jack Nicholson, who won two additional awards in the supporting category.

Also worth mentioning is that since 1990, only two NYFCC Best Actor winners have failed to land a matching Oscar nod: David Thewlis for Mike Leigh's Naked (1993) and Paul Giamatti for Alexander Payne's Sideways (2004). And as mentioned in one of my previous posts about the New York Film Critics Awards, no NYFCC Best Actor has ever won for a non-English-speaking role. So much for the chances of Amour's widely acclaimed leading man Jean-Louis Trintignant or Holy Motors' Denis Lavant.

Sally Field: NYFCC record-breaker

Sally Field's win was a surprise – even if a “safe” one. (When discussing the ever-more mainstream NYFCC, no Steven Spielberg movie win could be considered a surprising surprise.) This awards season's favorites for Best Supporting Actress are Anne Hathaway for Les Misérables (and The Dark Knight Rises), and Amy Adams for The Master (and possibly On the Road and Trouble with the Curve). In fact, Hathaway did get close to winning on the first ballot, but eventually fell behind after successive voting rounds.

Sally Field had one previous New York Film Critics win: Best Actress for Martin Ritt's 1979 drama Norma Rae, which also earned her a Best Actress Oscar. By the way, Field's NYFCC “victory gap,” is the longest ever among actresses: 33 years. The previous record holder was Julie Christie: 32 years between Darling (1965) and Afterglow (1997), both in the Best Actress category. Yet, Christie retains the record for longest NYFCC “victory span” among actresses, from Darling to her Best Actress Award for Away from Her (2007) – 42 years.

Jessica Chastain Zero Dark Thirty photo: Columbia Pictures.

[“New York Film Critics Awards: Zero Dark Thirty” continues on the next page. See link below.]

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