New York Film Critics: Meryl Streep & George Clooney + Olivier Assayas' French Drama Are Top Picks

The Hurt Locker Brian Geraghty Guy Pearce as Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit: Best PictureThe Hurt Locker with Guy Pearce and Brian Geraghty. After being all but ignored at this year's Venice Film Festival and at the 2008 Spirit Awards – where it received only two nominations in the acting categories (Best Actor for Jeremy Renner; Best Supporting Actor for Anthony Mackie), Kathryn Bigelow's Iraq War thriller The Hurt Locker, revolving around a U.S. Explosive Ordnance Disposal team, is the undeniable Best Picture favorite this awards season. Will U.S. critics' love translate into Academy members' love? That remains to be seen.

Iraq War thriller Oscar favorite? New York Film Critics' honor follows Best Film wins in Los Angeles & Boston

As announced on Dec. 14, Kathryn Bigelow's Iraq War thriller The Hurt Locker has been chosen as the New York Film Critics Circle's Best Picture of 2009.

A chronicle of the life-and-death dangers facing a U.S. bomb squad unit, the Summit Entertainment box office disappointment had previously been selected as the year's top film by both the Los Angeles Film Critics Association and the Boston Society of Film Critics.

So, following its three Best Picture wins, is The Hurt Locker a front runner for the Best Picture Academy Award? Not necessarily – unless it wins the Screen Actors Guild's Best Cast award early next year. For now, both Jason Reitman's Up in the Air and Lee Daniels' Precious remain serious competitors. And by February, James Cameron's blockbuster-to-be Avatar may have become a favorite as well.

Spiritless Best Picture

It's curious to remember that a year ago The Hurt Locker didn't even get a Best Picture Spirit Award nomination. Back then, long before Bigelow's film became a trendy fave, it was shortlisted in only two categories: Best Actor (Jeremy Renner) and Best Supporting Actor (Anthony Mackie).

A year from now, if it gets nominated overseas, The Hurt Locker will probably be met with considerably less enthusiasm as well – as was the case with the 2008 sensation Slumdog Millionaire at the 2009 European Film Awards held this past weekend.

Besides Renner and Mackie, The Hurt Locker features the following:

Guy Pearce. Brian Geraghty. David Morse. Evangeline Lilly. Christian Camargo. Sam Redford (the son not of Robert Redford, but of British actor Ian Redford).

Two-time Oscar nominee Ralph Fiennes (as Best Supporting Actor for Schindler's List, 1993; as Best Actor for The English Patient, 1996).

'Summer Hours' no longer 'offbeat' choice

A few words about Summer Hours / L'heure d'été: now that is has been named the New York Film Critics' Best Foreign Language Film, Olivier Assayas' French family drama can no longer be considered an “offbeat” choice. Like The Hurt Locker, Summer Hours was also the top pick of both the Los Angeles and Boston film critics. So, in case Assayas' film turns out to be the top pick in Boise as well, that's going to be “expected.”

Ironically, this early awards season favorite is ineligible for the 2010 Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award, as it opened in France in spring 2008. This year, France has submitted Jacques Audiard's prison drama A Prophet / Un Prophète. Last year, it submitted Laurent Cantet's Palme d'Or winner The Class / Entre les murs.

And that's how arcane Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences rules prevent acclaimed international films from landing Best Foreign Language Film Oscar nominations.

Summer Hours stars Juliette Binoche, Charles Berling, and Jérémie Renier.

Summer Hours Juliette Binoche. Surprising Best Foreign Language Film awards season favoriteSummer Hours with Juliette Binoche. Initially an “offbeat” Best Foreign Language Film pick, Olivier Assayas' French family drama Summer Hours / L'heure d'été is now the Los Angeles, Boston, Southeastern, and New York film critics' choice as the best non-English-language movie released in the U.S. in 2009. In addition, the latest indieWIRE Critics' Poll has Summer Hours as the overall Best Film on American screens this year. Coincidentally or not, the Best Film according to last year's poll was also a French production toplining Juliette Binoche: Hou Hsiao-Hsien's Flight of the Red Balloon.

Clear acting favorites following New York Film Critics victories

Although there is still quite a bit of room for surprises, the acting categories have four clear favorites this awards season following the New York Film Critics' announcements:

  • George Clooney for his corporate-downsizing expert in Up in the Air and, curiously, for providing the voice of the title character in Wes Anderson's animated Fantastic Mr. Fox (but, just as curiously, not for his live-action performance in Grant Heslov's The Men Who Stare at Goats).
  • Meryl Streep for her portrayal of chef Julia Child in Nora Ephron's Julie & Julia (but not for her other 2009 box office hit, Nancy Meyers' It's Complicated, or for that matter, for her voice performance as Mrs. Fox in Fantastic Mr. Fox).
  • Christoph Waltz for his suavely cruel Nazi in Quentin Tarantino's World War II revenge fantasy Inglourious Basterds.
  • Mo'Nique for her crassly cruel Harlem mother – to Gabourey Sidibe – in Lee Daniels' dysfunctional family drama Precious.

All four actors have won awards elsewhere, including:

Further below, check out the Southeastern Film Critics Association winners – a near-identical match to what went on in the acting categories in New York.

Predictable and/or commercial choices

Overall, the New York Film Critics made mostly predictable – at times predictable and commercial – choices.

Their offbeat selections were left for less-publicized categories such as:

  • Best Non-Fiction Film for Terence Davies' bleakly nostalgic Of Time and the City.
  • Best Screenplay for Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci, and Tony Roche for the British political satire In the Loop.
  • Best First Film for Steve McQueen's political drama Hunger, starring 2008 Stockholm Film Festival Best Actor Michael Fassbender as IRA member Bobby Sands (1954–1981), who went on – an ultimately fatal – hunger strike while in a British prison.
  • Best Cinematography for Christian Berger's black-and-white work on Michael Haneke's The White Ribbon / Das Weiße Band, the Los Angeles Film Critics' choice as well.

Also like in Los Angeles, Wes Anderson's Fantastic Mr. Fox was the Best Animated Feature.

Missing in action from the New York Film Critics' list of winners:

An Education (our Best Picture prediction). A Single Man. Invictus. A Serious Man. Nine. Avatar.

The Lovely Bones. Star Trek. District 9. The Blind Side. Everybody's Fine. The Last Station. The Maid.

Three out of four Oscar nominees in acting categories

Last year, three of the New York Film Critics' acting picks received Oscar nominations:

Both Penn and Cruz won in their respective categories.

The – quite unusual – odd woman out was Happy-Go-Lucky actress Sally Hawkins, who was also the Los Angeles Film Critics' one Oscar-unlucky performer.

New York Film Critics vs. the Academy Awards

In the last two decades, 14 New York Film Critics Best Picture winners went on to receive matching Academy Award nominations. Three of those took home that particular Oscar statuette.

Four of the New York Film Critics winners that failed to land a Best Picture nomination did at least get a Best Director Oscar nod. Mike Leigh's Topsy-Turvy (1999) and Todd Haynes' Far from Heaven (2002) were the two left out, though both garnered Oscar recognition in other categories.

The 75th New York Film Critics Awards ceremony will be held on Jan. 14.

And just in case you were wondering who the very first winners were three-quarters of a century ago – back in 1935, to be exact – here they are:

  • Best Picture: The Informer.
  • Best Actress: Greta Garbo, Anna Karenina.
  • Best Actor: Charles Laughton, Mutiny on the Bounty & Ruggles of Red Gap.
  • Best Director: John Ford, The Informer.

Below is the full list of this year's New York Film Critics winners.

New York Film Critics winners

Best Film: The Hurt Locker.

Best Foreign Language Film: Summer Hours.

Best Non-Fiction Film: Of Time and the City.

Best Actress: Meryl Streep, Julie & Julia.

Best Actor: George Clooney, Up in the Air & Fantastic Mr. Fox.

Best Supporting Actor: Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds.

Best Supporting Actress: Mo'Nique, Precious.

Best Director: Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker.

Best Screenplay: Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci, and Tony Roche, In the Loop.

Best Cinematography: Christian Berger, The White Ribbon.

Best Animated Film: Fantastic Mr. Fox.

Best First Feature: Hunger.

Special Award: Andrew Sarris.

Up in the Air director Jason Reitman George Clooney. Southeastern Film Critics Best PictureDirector Jason Reitman and George Clooney on the set of Southeastern Film Critics Best Picture winner Up in the Air. The story of a frequent-flying company-downsizing expert, director and co-screenwriter Reitman's socially conscious comedy-drama stars Southeastern and New York Film Critics Best Actor winner George Clooney, in addition to Anna Kendrick, Vera Farmiga, and Jason Bateman. Another Up in the Air Southeastern Film Critics win: Reitman and Sheldon Turner's adaptation of Walter Kirn's novel was named the year's Best Adapted Screenplay.

Southeastern Film Critics go for 'Up in the Air' & 'Summer Hours' + faves George Clooney & Meryl Streep

Director Jason Reitman's Up in the Air, the tale of a corporate-downsizing expert and frequent flyer (George Clooney) who begins to question both his ethics and his life's purpose, was the Best Film of 2009 according to the Southeastern Film Critics Association.

Their Best Director, however, was critics' favorite Kathryn Bigelow for the Iraq War thriller The Hurt Locker.

The Southeastern Film Critics' Best Foreign Language Film was Olivier Assayas' Summer Hours. The little-seen (in the U.S.) French drama didn't seem to be getting any awards season buzz at all until it became the Los Angeles, Boston, and New York Film Critics choice.

In the acting categories, the winners were the same as those in New York: Meryl Streep, George Clooney, Christoph Waltz, Mo'Nique. The one cosmetic difference is that Clooney was named Best Actor only for Up in the Air.

And finally, screenwriter-director Scott Teem's That Evening Sun, starring Best Supporting Actor Oscar nominee Hal Holbrook (Into the Wild, 2007), has at last won an award from a critics' group: the Southeastern Film Critics' Wyatt Award for a film “that captures the spirit of the South.” The runner-up was Ramin Bahrani's Goodbye Solo.

See below the list of the 2009 Southeastern Film Critics winners.

Southeastern Film Critics' winners

Best Picture: Up in the Air.

Best Foreign Language Film: Summer Hours.

Best Actress: Meryl Streep, Julie & Julia.

Best Actor: George Clooney, Up in the Air.

Best Supporting Actor: Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds.

Best Supporting Actress: Mo'Nique, Precious.

Best Director: Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker.

Best Original Screenplay: Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber, (500) Days of Summer.

Best Adapted Screenplay: Jason Reitman & Sheldon Turner, Up in the Air.

Best Documentary: Food, Inc., dir.: Robert Kenner.

Best Animated Feature: Up.

Wyatt Award: That Evening Sun.

Meryl Streep Julie and Julia Stanley Tucci. New York Film Critics Best ActressMeryl Streep in Julie & Julia, with her The Devil Wears Prada co-star Stanley Tucci. In Nora Ephron's two-storied comedy-drama Julie & Julia, Meryl Streep brings to life renowned chef Julia Child while Streep's Doubt co-star Amy Adams plays her modern-day wannabe counterpart, blogger and aspiring cook Julie Powell. An adult-oriented domestic box office hit ($94.12 million), Julie & Julia has earned Streep a number of Best Actress awards this season, including those from the Southeastern and New York film critics. Besides, Streep is one of the big names in contention for the Broadcast Film Critics Association's TV-ratings-friendly Critics' Choice Awards.

'Nine' & 'Inglourious Basterds' top Critics' Choice nominations

Two Weinstein Company releases are the Broadcast Film Critics Association's top nominees for the 2009 Critics' Choice Awards: Rob Marshall's Nine and Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds lead the race with ten nominations each.

James Cameron's soon-to-be blockbuster (how big a blockbuster remains to be seen) Avatar followed closed behind with nine nods.

Two U.S. critics' fave, Kathryn Bigelow's The Hurt Locker and Jason Reitman's Up in the Air, came next with eight nominations apiece.

All of them are up for Best Picture.

It should be noted that the Broadcast Film Critics have expanded their number of categories from 17 to 25, with six nominations per category except Best Picture, which offers ten slots.

Minor surprises in generally predictable roster

There were no major surprises in terms of who got shortlisted in the acting, directing, or screenwriting categories, with big names dominating the lists:

James Cameron. Quentin Tarantino. George Clooney. Matt Damon. Meryl Streep. Woody Harrelson.

Julianne Moore. Marion Cotillard. Viggo Mortensen. Sandra Bullock. Morgan Freeman. Clint Eastwood.

A couple of minor surprises were the inclusion of Jeremy Renner in the Best Actor category for The Hurt Locker and Christian McKay as Best Supporting Actor for Richard Linklater's box office disappointment Me and Orson Welles.

Even Michael Jackson got a nomination of sorts: This Is It is up for the Best Documentary award. And so is Michael Moore's Capitalism: A Love Story.

TV-ratings-conscious awards

Like the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the Broadcast Film Critics have a television show to push. You can't expect, say, Yolande Moreau (Séraphine) or Hiam Abbass (Lemon Tree) or Catalina Saavedra (The Maid) getting Best Actress nominations because these three names mean nothing to the vast majority of people who watch these types of awards shows.

In fact, they probably mean nothing to the vast majority of Broadcast Film Critics as well.

That's one good reason why you get so many mentions for something like Avatar (though, tellingly, not for its screenplay) or for the high-profile but not that well-received Nine (though, tellingly, not for director Marshall, screenwriters Michael Tolkin and Anthony Minghella, or star Daniel Day-Lewis).

Kristin Chenoweth is set to host the 2010 Critics' Choice Awards ceremony on Jan. 15. In the U.S., the show will be televised on VH1.

Update: 2010 Critics' Choice Award winners.

 

New York Film Critics Circle website.

Brian Geraghty and Guy Pearce The Hurt Locker image: Jonathan Olley / Summit Entertainment.

Director Jason Reitman and George Clooney Up in the Air image: Dale Robinette / Paramount Pictures.

Juliette Binoche Summer Hours image: IFC Films.

Meryl Streep Julie & Julia image: Columbia Pictures.

“New York Film Critics: Meryl Streep & George Clooney + Olivier Assayas' French Drama Are Top Picks” last updated in August 2018.

New York Film Critics: Meryl Streep & George Clooney + Olivier Assayas' French Drama Are Top Picks © 2004–2018 Alt Film Guide and/or author(s).
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4 Comments to New York Film Critics: Meryl Streep & George Clooney + Olivier Assayas' French Drama Are Top Picks

  1. Victor Blackwell

    Mo'Nique delivered one of the strongest performances of the year. Brutality and vulnerablilty in the same role - amazing.

  2. NYCRN

    i love the Streep, but Carey Mulligan does give the most impressive debut in years. Her performance is similar to Julie Christie in “Darling”.

  3. Donald Steele

    Hooray for Meryl Streep!!!!! She was just wonderful as Julia Child.

  4. MM

    GO MERYL GO!!!!!!!!