The New York Film Critics Circle named “The Artist” the best picture of 2011 today, issuing the first set of honors in the annual flurry of pre-Academy Award announcements from numerous critics’ groups.
Michael Havanavicius, the director of “The Artist” — an homage to the silent film era that opens in December — also took top honors in that category, while Brad Pitt was named best actor for his work in both “Moneyball” and “Tree of Life,” and Meryl Streep was recognized as best actress for her portrayal of Margaret Thatcher in the forthcoming “The Iron Lady.”
So what do these announcements tell us about the upcoming Golden Globes and Academy Awards?
Honestly, not much that those who have been tracking the race didn’t know already.
“The Artist” has long been dubbed a shoo-in as a best picture nomination at this year’s Academy Awards, and same goes for Streep. Pitt’s win, arguably, gives him an extra shot of credibility going forward, although he is currently on a lot of predictive short lists, too.
The biggest advantage may go to the supporting actor winners: Albert Brooks was honored by the Critics Circle for his role in “Drive,” while break-out star Jessica Chastain was named best supporting actress for her hat trick of performances in “Tree of Life,” “The Help” and “Take Shelter.” Both of their names have been floating around, but these wins may boost their profiles a bit. (Given “Tree of Life’s” tie for best picture at the Gotham Awards, as well as its three wins here, Terrence Malick’s polarizing Cannes winner also has established itself as a strong contender this year.)
The Critics Circle announced the winners in each of its 11 categories via its Twitter feed, a process that was both instantaneously informative and remarkably slow for those who just wanted to know all the winners instead of learning each one sporadically over the course of two hours. It also resulted in at least one unfortunate error; the Critics Circle Twitter feed originally credited Streep for her role in “The Lady,” then issued a correction shortly thereafter. (“The Lady,” as I think we’re all aware, is the name of the forthcoming dramatic retelling of how Lionel Richie and Kenny Rogers teamed up to create one of the finest soft-rock ballads of all time.)
The National Board of Review will announce its nominees later this week, and other critics groups — including the Washington Area Film Critics Association, of which this writer is a member — will follow suit in the coming days.
This is all very exciting for awards season junkies, for whom these moments are the equivalent of a political convention or the NFL draft.
When put in those terms, “The Artist” has clearly emerged (for the moment) as the No. 1 pick, with “Tree of Life” at No. 2. Here’s the full list of New York Film Critics Circle winners:
Best picture: “The Artist”
Best director: Michael Havanavicius, “The Artist”
Best actor: Brad Pitt (“Moneyball,” “Tree of Life”)
Best actress: Meryl Streep (“The Iron Lady”)
Best supporting actor: Albert Brooks (“Drive”)
Best supporting actress: Jessica Chastain (“The Tree of Life,” “The Help” and “Take Shelter”)
Best screenplay: Steve Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin, “Moneyball”
Best cinematography: Emmanuel Lebezki, “Tree of Life”
Best non-fiction film (documentary): “Cave of Forgotten Dreams”
Best foreign language film: “A Separation”
Best first feature: “Margin Call”