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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

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