The big news to emerge from yesterday’s New York Film Critics Circle voting–held early this year to scoop the other year end awards–is, of course, the second coming of homeboy Harvey Weinstein.
Not only was The Artist voted best picture and its director Michel Hazanavicius anointed Best Director but NYFCC perennial Meryl Streep, who stars as Margaret Thatcher in the Weinstein Company’s yet to be released Iron Lady, won an easy first ballot victory over Michelle Williams (star of another Weinstein release My Week with Marilyn) and Kirsten Dunst, who won an award at Cannes for her performance in Lars von Trier’s Melancholia.
After the jump, more inside baseball from the voting…
A secondary story was the partial vindication for Terence Malick’s Palm d’or winning Tree of Life which scored an easy consolation prize for Best Cinematography over Melancholia and Martin Scorsese’s 3-D Hugo and, more importantly, shared in the awards for Best Actor Brad Pitt — also starring in Moneyball, another winner — who defeated Michael Fassbender and George Clooney on the first ballot, and Best Supporting Actress Jessica Chastain who, seemingly the hardest working woman in Hollywood, appeared in five movies last year and needed three ballots to best early favorite Vanessa Redgrave (featured in Coriolanus).
Awards voting produces a few clear consensus winners, notably this year’s Best Foreign-Language Film, the Iranian feature A Separation, shown at the New York Film Festival and opening at Film Forum on December 30, which overwhelmed the competition on a first ballot. Best Documentary, Werner Herzog’s 3-D Cave of Dreams was another consensus choice although it required three ballots to clinch. Sometimes, however, a good idea can be contagious. Perhaps aided by the memory of his stand-up performance at the snowbound 1996 award dinner where he accepted a screenplay award for Mother, Albert Brooks came from behind to trounce Christopher Plummer for Best Supporting Actor.
Most interesting from the point of view of group psychology is the practice of voting to block, a strategy which can be deduced by analyzing the first-place votes switched in the second and third ballots. Thus a consensus quickly developed around Margin Call to defeat Martha Marcy May Marlene for Best First Feature and another supported Chastain’s upset over Redgrave. Even more dramatically, in rallying to long-shot Moneyball for Best Screenplay, NYFCC members defied industry savants to squelch The Descendents, widely predicted to sweep the table. It would also seem that partisans of David Cronenberg’s A Dangerous Method and Steven Spielberg’s War Horse moved first to Von Trier and then Scorsese in a failed attempt to deny Hazanavicius while, in a somewhat contradictory move, supporters of The Descendents, Hugo, and Tree of Life flocked to The Artist to block Melancholia in what amounted to a two-movie contest for Best Picture.
Winners then were The Artist, Moneyball, and, to a lesser degree, The Tree of Life; the losers were Melancholia, Hugo and The Descendents. Although not without supporters A Dangerous Method, War Horse, and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo were apparently doomed from the get-go, setting the table for other critic’s groups, including the Voice‘s own annual critics’ poll, to right a few wrongs.
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