"The Artist" and "A Separation" were the big winners at the London Critics Circle Film Awards, with the former sweeping Best Film, Best Actor for Jean Dujardin and Best Director for Michel Hazanavicius while the latter walked off with Best Supporting Actress for Sareh Bayat (triumphing over Vanessa Redgrave for "Coriolanus" and Jessica Chastain for "The Help"), Foreign Language Film and Screenwriter of the Year for filmmaker Asghar Farhadi.
Striding up on stage to collect his Best Actor award in the presence of fellow nominee Michael Fassbender, Dujardin started off his acceptance speech with, “I almost didn’t come,” before quickly explaining in his still-unpolished English that he’d nearly turned "The Artist" down. He went on to add, “I’d also like to thank the little man – you know who you are – and the big, big man, Harvey Weinstein.” Harvey wasn’t there, but the line got a big, big laugh.
Whereas she’s been lining her mantelpiece with solo prizes, Meryl Streep had to share Best Actress plaudits in the eyes of London’s critics. For the first time, the group split the award with two actresses, jointly recognising Streep’s performance as Margaret Thatcher in "The Iron Lady" and Anna Paquin’s turn in "Margaret." The latter had received a groundswell of support amongst London’s critical fraternity, who seemed determined to send a message to 20th Century Fox that overlooking Kenneth Lonergan’s delayed drama’s prospects was a mistake ("Margaret" barely garnered a UK release, let alone any push as an awards contender).
British films were less lauded than anticipated, although standalone UK groupings allow the London critics to share the love. Kenneth Branagh took Best Supporting Actor for his turn as Laurence Olivier in "My Week With Marilyn"; "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy," nominated in several categories, made do with the inaugural Technical Achievement award for Maria Djurkovic’s production design. Otherwise it was blanked in every major category, losing out on Best British Film of the Year to Lynne Ramsay’s "We Need To Talk About Kevin."
Other British winners: Michael Fassbender as British Actor of the Year for his duel performances in "Shame" and "A Dangerous Method"; Olivia Colman as British Actress of the Year for her revelatory turn in "Tyrannosaur" (“It feels like you know your onions so it feels extra special,” she said in her acceptance speech); Asif Kapadia’s "Senna" for Documentary of the Year; Submarine star Craig Roberts for Young British Performer of the Year; and "Weekend"’s writer-director Andrew Haigh as the surprise choice for Breakthrough Filmmaker, trumping heavy favourites Richard Ayoade ("Submarine") and Paddy Considine ("Tyrannosaur").
Highlights of the night? Donald Sutherland striding up on stage and giving an electrifying, anecdote-rich introduction to his "Don’t Look Now" director Nicolas Roeg, the recipient of the Dilys Powell Award for Excellence in Film. Kudos too to the enthusiasm of "The Artist" gang, who stayed and partied long after the Branaghs, Fassbenders and Carey Mulligans had faded into the night. Hazanavicius and Dujardin were very nearly the last men standing, so well done, monsieurs, for keeping the party going.
CRITICS' CIRCLE TOP 10 FILMS of 2011
1. The Artist
2. A Separation
4. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
5. The Tree of Life
6. We Need to Talk About Kevin
10. The Descendants
The Attenborough Award: BRITISH FILM OF THE YEAR
We Need to Talk About Kevin (Artificial Eye)
FOREIGN-LANGUAGE FILM OF THE YEAR
A Separation (Artificial Eye)
DOCUMENTARY OF THE YEAR
DIRECTOR OF THE YEAR
Michel Hazanavicius – The Artist (Entertainment)
SCREENWRITER OF THE YEAR
Asghar Farhadi – A Separation (Artificial Eye)
The Virgin Atlantic Award: BREAKTHROUGH BRITISH FILM-MAKER
Andrew Haigh – Weekend (Peccadillo)
ACTOR OF THE YEAR
Jean Dujardin – The Artist (Entertainment)
ACTRESS OF THE YEAR (Tied)
Anna Paquin – Margaret (Fox)
Meryl Streep – The Iron Lady (Fox/Pathé)
SUPPORTING ACTOR OF THE YEAR
Kenneth Branagh – My Week With Marilyn (Entertainment)
SUPPORTING ACTRESS OF THE YEAR
Sareh Bayat – A Separation (Artificial Eye)
BRITISH ACTOR OF THE YEAR
Michael Fassbender – A Dangerous Method (Lionsgate), Shame (Momentum)
The Moët & Chandon Award: BRITISH ACTRESS OF THE YEAR
Olivia Colman – The Iron Lady (Fox/Pathé), Tyrannosaur (StudioCanal)
YOUNG BRITISH PERFORMER OF THE YEAR
Craig Roberts – Submarine (StudioCanal)
The Sky 3D Award: TECHNICAL ACHIEVEMENT
Maria Djurkovic, production design – Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (StudioCanal)
The Dilys Powell Award:
EXCELLENCE IN FILM
NB. Please note that both Irish and UK talent are eligible in all British categories.