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Best Cast Goes to Female-Centered Movies + Homages to Early Cinema

Best Cast Bridesmaids Rose Byrne: 2 female-centered movies top ensemble category
Best Cast winner Bridesmaids with Rose Byrne, Kristen Wiig, Ellie Kemper, Melissa McCarthy, Maya Rudolph, and Wendi McLendon-Covey. Early this awards season, two female-centered hit movies topped the Best Cast category: the National Board of Review’s choice was Tate Taylor’s socially conscious The Help, featuring Emma Stone, Bryce Dallas Howard, Viola Davis, Jessica Chastain, Mary Steenburgen, and Octavia Spencer. Paul Feig’s socially anarchic Bridesmaids was the Washington D.C. Area Film Critics’ pick.

Awards season begins with female-centered domestic box office hits topping Best Cast category

Ramon Novarro biography Beyond Paradise

Two 2011 box office sleeper hits in the United States – The Help and Bridesmaids – topped the Best Cast (or “Best Ensemble Cast”) category of, respectively, the National Board of Review and the Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association.

Set in Jackson, Mississippi, at the time of the Civil Rights movement of the mid-1960s, Tate Taylor’s socially conscious period drama The Help features Emma Stone, Bryce Dallas Howard, Viola Davis, Jessica Chastain, Chris Lowell, Mike Vogel, Allison Janney, Octavia Spencer, Ahna O’Reilly, Brian Kerwin, and Wes Chatham.

In addition to Best Supporting Actress Oscar winner Mary Steenburgen (Melvin and Howard, 1980), Best Actress Oscar winner Sissy Spacek (Coal Miner’s Daughter, 1980), and Best Supporting Actress Oscar nominee Cicely Tyson (Sounder, 1972).

Revolving around a series of pre-marital mishaps, Paul Feig’s crass-out comedy Bridesmaids stars Kristen Wiig, Ellie Kemper, Melissa McCarthy, Rose Byrne, Maya Rudolph, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Matt Lucas, and two-time Best Actress Oscar nominee Jill Clayburgh (An Unmarried Woman, 1978; Starting Over, 1979).

Curiously, the only Best Cast (co-)winner to top any of the National Board of Review’s and Washington Film Critics’ individual acting categories was The Help actress Octavia Spencer.

And ironically, Spencer was chosen Best Supporting Actress by the Washington Film Critics, whose Best Cast selection was, as mentioned above, Bridesmaids.

Two homages to cinema’s past top Best Film category

Besides their Best Cast similarities/divergences, the National Board of Review and the Washington D.C. Film Critics also went their own similar/separate ways in the Best Film category.

Martin Scorsese’s U.K./U.S.-made, French-set homage to cinema’s early years, the well-received box office disappointment Hugo, was the National Board of Review’s Best Film of 2011.

The Washington Film Critics, for their part, selected Michel Hazanavicius’ French-Belgian-made, Hollywood-set The Artist, an homage to the silent era.

The (nearly 100%) dialogue-less, black-and-white comedy-drama stars Jean Dujardin as a cross between silent screen icons John Gilbert and Douglas Fairbanks – an exuberant movie star whose career goes fast downhill at the dawn of the sound era, right when a former unknown (Bérénice Bejo) rises to the very top.

‘Hugo’ & ‘The Artist’ cast & screenwriters

In the Hugo cast: Asa Butterfield, Chloë Grace Moretz, Sacha Baron Cohen, Richard Griffiths, veteran Christopher Lee (Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the ClonesThe Lord of the Rings movies), Best Actor Oscar winner Ben Kingsley (Gandhi, 1982) as film pioneer Georges Méliès, and two-time Oscar nominee Jude Law (as Best Supporting Actor for The Talented Mr. Ripley, 1999; as Best Actor for Cold Mountain, 2003).

Besides Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo, The Artist features Uggie the dog, John Goodman, Missi Pyle, Penelope Ann Miller, Best Supporting Actor Oscar nominee James Cromwell (Babe, 1995), and veteran Malcolm McDowell (If…, A Clockwork Orange) as a W.C. Fields type.

Snubbed in the Best Cast category this time around, both Hugo and The Artist are potential Best Cast SAG Award contenders.

John Logan (Gladiator, The Aviator) was credited for the Hugo screenplay, based on Brian Selznick’s novel The Invention of Hugo Cabret. Inspired by A Star Is BornSingin’ in the Rain, and other Hollywood classics, Michel Hazanavicius penned The Artist.

Tilda Swinton & Shailene Woodley are moderate surprises

Best Cast and Best Film commonalities aside, the National Board of Review and the Washington Film Critics had several exact matches among their winners: Best Director (Martin Scorsese for Hugo), Best Actor (George Clooney for The Descendants), Best Animated Feature (Gore Verbinski’s Rango), and Best Screenplay (original: Will Reiser for 50/50; adaptation: Nat Faxon, Alexander Payne, and Jim Rash for The Descendants).

On the other hand, there were several radically different picks as well – like in the Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Supporting Actor categories.

  • The National Board of Review opted for, respectively, EFA winner Tilda Swinton as the mother of a mass murderer in Lynne Ramsay’s We Need to Talk About Kevin, Shailene Woodley as George Clooney’s daughter in Alexander Payne’s The Descendants, and veteran Christopher Plummer (The Sound of Music, The Man Who Would Be King) as Ewan McGregor’s gay father in Mike Mills’ Beginners.
  • The Washington Film Critics chose instead Michelle Williams as Marilyn Monroe during the making of The Prince and the Showgirl in Simon Curtis’ My Week with Marilyn, the otherwise mild-mannered Albert Brooks as a tough gangster in Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive, and Octavia Spencer as a housemaid in The Help.

Disparate Best Foreign Language Film winners

Additionally, while the National Board of Review’s Best Foreign Language Film was Asghar Farhadi’s Iranian drama A Separation, already considered the top Academy Award contender in that category, the Washington D.C. Film Critics voted for Pedro Almodóvar’s unusually dark Spanish drama The Skin I Live In, starring Antonio Banderas as a mad surgeon and Elena Anaya as his victim.

Check out: “EFA: Best European Film Honors Another Controversial Filmmaker,” “Film Critics Kudos: Jessica Chastain & Korean Surprise + Michael Bay Bomb & Cosmic Consciousness,” and “Film Critics Awards: Cosmic Family Drama & British Spies + Iranian Actress Surprise.”

Hugo Christopher Lee: Awards season begins with 2 movies honoring cinema's pastHugo with veteran Christopher Lee (The Mummy, The Wicker Man). Martin Scorsese’s big-budget 3D fantasy adventure revolving around the development of cinema has been both a U.S. critics favorite and a box office dud. Hugo has also turned out to be The National Board of Review’s Best Film of 2011. The Washington D.C. Film Critics, however, have opted for another nostalgic look at cinema’s past: Michel Hazanavicius’ French-Belgian The Artist, an homage to the silent era. Neither film topped the Best Cast category of either group, but both are strong possibilities for the Best Cast SAG Award.

National Board of Review winners

Best Film: Hugo.

Top 10 Films (in alphabetical order)
The Artist.
The Descendants.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2.
The Ides of March.
J. Edgar.
The Tree of Life.
War Horse.

Best Director: Martin Scorsese, Hugo.

Best Foreign Language Film: A Separation.

Top Five Foreign Language Films (in alphabetical order)
13 Assassins.
Elite Squad: The Enemy Within.
Le Havre.
Point Blank.

Best Actor: George Clooney, The Descendants.

Best Actress: Tilda Swinton, We Need to Talk About Kevin.

Best Supporting Actor: Christopher Plummer, Beginners.

Best Supporting Actress: Shailene Woodley, The Descendants.

Best Cast: The Help.

Best Original Screenplay: Will Reiser, 50/50.

Best Adapted Screenplay: Nat Faxon, Alexander Payne & Jim Rash, The Descendants.

Best Documentary: Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory.

Top Five Documentaries (in alphabetical order)
Born to Be Wild.
George Harrison: Living in the Material World.
Project Nim.

Best Animated Feature: Rango.

Breakthrough Performance: Felicity Jones, Like Crazy; Rooney Mara, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

Spotlight Award: Michael Fassbender for A Dangerous Method, Jane Eyre, Shame, X-Men: First Class.

Spotlight Award for Best Directorial Debut: J.C. Chandor, Margin Call.

Top Ten Independent Films (in alphabetical order)
Another Earth.
A Better Life.
Cedar Rapids.
Margin Call.
Take Shelter.
We Need to Talk About Kevin.
Win Win.

Special Filmmaking Achievement Award: The Harry Potter franchise, for a distinguished translation from Book to Film.

NBR Freedom of Expression: Crime After Crime & Pariah.


Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association Awards

Best Film
* The Artist.
The Descendants.
Win Win.

Best Foreign Language Film
13 Assassins.
Certified Copy.
I Saw the Devil.
* The Skin I Live In.

Best Director
Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris.
Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist.
Alexander Payne, The Descendants.
Nicolas Winding Refn, Drive.
* Martin Scorsese, Hugo.

Best Actor
* George Clooney, The Descendants.
Jean Dujardin, The Artist.
Michael Fassbender, Shame.
Brad Pitt, Moneyball.
Michael Shannon, Take Shelter.

Best Actress
Viola Davis, The Help.
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
Kenneth Branagh, My Week with Marilyn.
* Albert Brooks, Drive.
John Hawkes, Martha Marcy May Marlene.
Christopher Plummer, Beginners.
Andy Serkis, Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

Best Supporting Actress
Bérénice Bejo, The Artist.
Melissa McCarthy, Bridesmaids.
Carey Mulligan, Shame.
* Octavia Spencer, The Help.
Shailene Woodley, The Descendants.

Best Cast
* Bridesmaids.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2.
The Help.
Margin Call.

Best Adapted Screenplay
* Alexander Payne, Nate Faxon & Jim Rash, The Descendants.
Tate Taylor, The Help.
John Logan, Hugo.
Steven Zaillian & Aaron Sorkin, Moneyball.
Bridget O’Connor & Peter Straughan, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.

Best Original Screenplay
Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris.
Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist.
Tom McCarthy, Win Win.
Annie Mumolo & Kristen Wiig, Bridesmaids.
* Will Reiser, 50/50.

Best Animated Feature
The Adventures of Tintin.
Arthur Christmas.
Puss in Boots.
* Rango.
Winnie the Pooh.

Best Documentary
Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey.
* Cave of Forgotten Dreams.
Into the Abyss: A Tale of Death, A Tale of Life.
Project Nim.

Best Cinematography
Guillaume Schiffman, The Artist.
Robert Richardson, Hugo.
Manuel Alberto Claro, Melancholia.
* Emmanuel Lubezki, The Tree of Life.
Janusz Kaminski, War Horse.

Best Score
* Ludovic Bource, The Artist.
Cliff Martinez, Drive.
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
Howard Shore, Hugo.
John Williams, War Horse.

Best Art Direction
Lawrence Bennett, Production Designer; Gregory S. Hooper, Art Director, The Artist.
Stuart Craig, Production Designer; Stephenie McMillan, Set Decorator, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2.
* Dante Ferretti, Production Designer; Francesca Lo Schiavo, Set Decorator, Hugo.
Jack Fisk, Production Designer; Jeanette Scott, Set Decorator, The Tree of Life.
Rick Carter, Production Designer; Lee Sandales, Set Decorator, War Horse.


National Board of Review website.

Image of Best Cast winners Wendi McLendon-Covey, Kristen Wiig, Ellie Kemper, Melissa McCarthy, Maya Rudolph, and Rose Byrne in Bridesmaids: Universal Pictures.

Christopher Lee Hugo image: Jaap Buitendijk / Paramount Pictures.

“Best Cast Goes to Female-Centered Movies + Homages to Early Cinema Are Top Picks” last updated in July 2018.

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