Yolande Moreau Surprising Best Actress: National Society of Film Critics Winners

Jeremy Renner The Hurt Locker
Jeremy Renner in the Iraq War drama The Hurt Locker (Jonathan Olley / Summit Entertainment)

The Hurt Locker was the National Society of Film Critics' big winner. The war drama about a bomb squad doing their work in the dangerous streets of an Iraqi city was voted best film of 2009, and earned honors for director Kathryn Bigelow and actor Jeremy Renner. Most US film critic' groups have picked The Hurt Locker as the favorite film of 2009 and Bigelow as best director. Jeremy Renner has also received several citations and is up for a 2009 SAG Award.

The NSFC's best actress was – I told you not be surprised – 2008 Cesar winner Yolande Moreau for Séraphine, in which she plays Séraphine de Senlis, a houseworker who also happens to be a great artist. In December, Moreau was voted the Los Angeles Film Critics Association's best actress as well. Despite her two important wins, however, Moreau's chances at the Oscar remain at best iffy. In a weak year, she'd be in, but competition is strong for 2009, e.g., Meryl Streep, Carey Mulligan, Gabourey Sidibe, Sandra Bullock, Helen Mirren, Melanie Laurent, and others.

Mo'Nique once again was the best supporting actress for her vicious mother in Precious, while Christoph Waltz' even viciouser Nazi in Inglourious Basterds was – gasp! – selfless enough to share the best supporting actor award with Bright Star's Paul Schneider, who's been all but ignored this awards season. Both Mo'Nique and Waltz should have their Oscar acceptance speeches ready by now.

Joel and Ethan Coen won the best screenplay award for the black comedy A Serious Man, while Agnes Varda's autobiographical The Beaches of Agnes was the best non-fiction film. The best foreign language film was Olivier Assayas' family drama Summer Hours, which has been a critics' favorite during this awards season.

The National Society of Film Critics consists of 64 members from major US-based media outlets, most of which are based in New York and Los Angeles. Six NSFC winners matched the New York Film Critics' choices (including Christoph Waltz); eight matched the Los Angeles winners (including The Beaches of Agnes, which tied with The Cove in LA).

National Society of Film Critics Awards

1. The Hurt Locker 64 (Kathryn Bigelow)
2. Summer Hours 23 (Olivier Assayas)
3. Inglourious Basterds (17) Quentin Tarantino

1. Summer Hours 61 (Olivier Assayas)
2. Everlasting Moments 21 (Jan Troell)
3. Police, Adjective 20 (Corneliu Porumboiu)
3. 35 Shots of Rum 20 (Claire Denis)

1. Kathryn Bigelow 85 (The Hurt Locker)
2. Olivier Assayas 23 (Summer Hours)
3. Wes Anderson 18 (Fantastic Mr. Fox)

1. The Beaches of Agnes 40 (Agnès Varda)
2. Tyson 30 (James Toback)
3. Anvil! The Story of Anvil 25 (Sacha Gervasi)

1. Joel and Ethan Coen 33 (A Serious Man)
2. Olivier Assayas 25 (Summer Hours)
3. Quentin Tarantino 22 (Inglourious Basterds)

1. Yolande Moreau 22 (Séraphine)
2. Meryl Streep 21 (Julie & Julia and Fantastic Mr. Fox)
3. Abbie Cornish 19 (Bright Star)

1. Jeremy Renner 30 (The Hurt Locker)
2. Jeff Bridges 24 (Crazy Heart)
3. Nicolas Cage 15 (Bad Lieutenant)

1. Mo'Nique 28 (Precious)
2. Anna Kendrick 24 (Up in the Air)
2. Samantha Morton 24 (The Messenger)

1. Christoph Waltz 28 (Inglourious Basterds)
1. Paul Schneider 28 (Bright Star)
3. Christian McKay 27 (Me and Orson Welles)

1. The White Ribbon 33 (Christian Berger)
2. The Hurt Locker 32 (Barry Ackroyd)
3. Everlasting Moments - 19 (Jan Troell and Mischa Gavrjusjov)

1. Nelson Lowry 43 (Fantastic Mr. Fox)
2. Rick Carter 28 (Avatar)
3. Henry Selick 12 (Coraline)

Heritage Awards:

  • Restoration of Rashomon, Academy Film Archive and National Film Center of the National Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo, as well as Kadokawa Pictures, Inc.
  • Bruce Posner for his restoration of Manhatta
  • Treasures of American Film Vol. 4 (Avant Garde 1947 - 1986)
  • Warner Archive Collection
  • UCLA Film & Television Archive for the restoration of The Red Shoes
  • Kino International, Avant Garde Vol 3. Experimental Cinema 1922 - 1954

Meryl Streep in Julie and JuliaYolande Moreau in Seraphine
Meryl Streep in Julie & Julia (Columbia Pictures) (left); Yolande Moreau in Séraphine (Music Box Films) (right)

Meryl Streep, Jeff Bridges, George Clooney, Carey Mulligan, Quentin Tarantino, Abbie Cornish, Inglourious Basterds, and Everlasting Moments were a few of the top contenders for the 2010 National Society of Film Critics Awards, announced earlier today. The Los Angeles Times blog The Gold Derby has a full list of the NSFC's runners-up. Things can get really twisted around when a winner isn't decided on the NSFC voting members' first ballot. (Out of its 64 members, 46 voted this year.)

Meryl Streep, for instance, was the critics' initial top choice for best actress for her portrayal of Julia Child in Julie & Julia, but by the time the second ballot was over and done with things had changed quite a bit. See, only the 20 critics present at New York City's Sardi's Restaurant were allowed to have a say after the first ballot. As a result, Streep was demoted to #2 (with 21 points), right behind César and Los Angeles Film Critics Association winner Yolande Moreau for Séraphine. Abbie Cornish was the surprising #3 choice for her performance in Jane Campion's Bright Star, deemed at one point one of the top awards-season entries – only to be snubbed by most North American critics' groups.

The NSFC's three runaway winners this year were best picture The Hurt Locker (64 points vs. 23 for Summer Hours), The Hurt Locker's director Kathryn Bigelow (85 points vs. 23 for Summer Hours' Olivier Assayas), and best foreign language film Summer Hours (61 points vs. 21 for Jan Troell's Everlasting Moments).

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Brad Pitt in Inglourious Basterds
Brad Pitt in Inglourious Basterds (François Duhamel / The Weinstein Co.)

The 2009 National Society of Film Critics announces its award winners tomorrow, Jan. 3. Admired by those who call their choices daring, reviled by others who call their choices snotty, the NSFC has been around since the mid-60s, when it was formed as a sort of splinter group from the more “mainstream” New York Film Critics.

It's usually hard to predict the NSFC picks because they often go for less commercial films, sometimes even little-known (in the US) foreign productions, e.g., Edward Yang's Yi Yi: A One and a Two, the best picture of 2000. Possibilities this year include Kathryn Bigelow's The Hurt Locker, Michael Haneke's The White Ribbon, Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds, Lone Scherfig's An Education, and Jason Reitman's Up in the Air.

Among the possible best actor winners are George Clooney for Up in the Air, Jeremy Renner for The Hurt Locker, and Jeff Bridges for Crazy Heart. Potential best actress winners include Meryl Streep for Julie & Julia, Carey Mulligan for An Education, and don't be too shocked if someone like Yolande Moreau (for Séraphine) is named the year's top actress.

Mo'Nique for Precious, Samantha Morton for The Messenger, and Anna Kendrick for Up in the Air are the top possibilities for best supporting actress, while Christoph Waltz, for Inglourious Basterds, will quite likely be the supporting actor winner.

Last year's best film was Ari Folman's anti-war animated feature Waltz with Bashir, with best director Mike Leigh's Happy-Go-Lucky and the blockbuster WALL-E as runners-up. The best actor was Sean Penn for Milk; Sally Hawkins was best actress for Happy-Go-Lucky, Eddie Marsan was best supporting actor for Happy-Go-Lucky; and Hanna Schygulla was best supporting actress for Fatih Akin's German drama The Edge of Heaven.

Of those films and performances, Waltz with Bashir was a foreign language film nominee, WALL-E won in the best animated feature category, and Sean Penn took home the best actor Oscar. The others were left out of the Academy's nominations roster. Even so, the NSFC list shouldn't be totally discarded as a possible Oscar prognosticator.

Since 2000, four of the NSFC's best picture winners garnered equivalent Oscar nominations, with one win (Million Dollar Baby). Additionally, Pan's Labyrinth was nominated in the best foreign language film category. Six of their best actors and four of their best actresses won Oscars, and two other actors and four other actresses were nominated (that includes the NSFC 2004 tie between Oscar winner Hilary Swank for Million Dollar Baby and Oscar nominee Imelda Staunton for Vera Drake).

And even if none of the NSFC winners get Oscar nods, use their list of winners and runners-up as a reliable suggestion of movies you should check out – even if you've never heard of them.

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1 Comment to Yolande Moreau Surprising Best Actress: National Society of Film Critics Winners

  1. Andrew

    How about Bright Star for an upset??