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New York Film Critics Push Faves in Awards Season, ‘Carol’ Wins Four (ANALYSIS)

New York Film Critics Push Faves in Awards Season, 'Carol' Wins Four (ANALYSIS)

The New York Film Critics Circle has always been willing to zig where others zag, allowing new faces to enter the awards fray. Their stamp of approval adds cred. Clearly, the critics are not thinking only in terms of their impact on other awards voters, as they selected 2014 Oscar contender “Timbuktu” as their best foreign film, a worthy movie that was released in theaters in 2015, as many foreign entries often are. (Clearly, not all critics love lauded hard-hitting Holocaust drama “Son of Saul,” Hungary’s Oscar entry, which had to settle for the First Film prize.)

As expected, the New York critics showered love on Todd Haynes’ “Carol,” awarding it Best Film, Director, Screenplay and Cinematography. So far so good for The Weinstein Co. release, which shared a Best Actress nod for Rooney Mara in Cannes and hasn’t looked back, pulling art house audiences even during a challenging box office period.

The NYFCC were also not looking at who has an awards campaign behind them, as they chose as Best Supporting Actress Kristen Stewart, who I thought was a shoo-in Oscar contender for her Cesar-winning performance in “Clouds of Sils Maria” until IFC Films decided only to campaign for writer-director Olivier Assayas’ screenplay. Hopefully they will reconsider now.

Too often, consensus pushes only a few gathering snowballs forward, leaving many deserving possibilities behind. Rather than go with presumed Oscar frontrunner Brie Larson (“Room”), the NYFCC chose Irish actress and New York resident Saoirse Ronan for her role as an Irish emigre “Brooklyn.” These critics do have influence. Last year they gave Best Actress to “The Immigrant” and “Two Days, One Night” star Marion Cotillard, who had been overlooked by the Oscars since she won for “La Vie en Rose,” and the French star wound up with an Oscar nomination. Arguably, without the NYFCC that would not have happened.

On the other hand, last year’s NYFCC Best Actor nod for Cannes-winner Timothy Spall (“Mr. Turner”) did not demonstrably move the needle in a more competitive Oscar category. This year the critics gave Michael Keaton of “Spotlight” the Best Actor slot they denied him last year for “Birdman,” perhaps an indication that the stars will now shine on him after his Oscar loss. Per the wishes of the “Spotlight” ensemble, Open Road is campaigning all the cast (really, Keaton, Mark Ruffalo and Rachel McAdams) in supporting. So again, the NYFCC is stepping out of the box, as the Hollywood Foreign Press did when they assigned “Carol” star Rooney Mara and Alicia Vikander of “The Danish Girl” Best Actress status.

Supporting Actor went to British theater thespian Mark Rylance, who shined in “Wolf Hall” on television this year, for his role as an imprisoned Communist spy in Steven Spielberg’s Cold War thriller “Bridge of Spies.” This gives him a needed boost going forward in a crowded field.

Last year, the NYFCC’s consensus vote for best screenplay for Wes Anderson’s March release “The Grand Budapest Hotel” presaged a surge of support among Oscar voters for that film, which scored nine nominations and four wins. And the critics awarded “Boyhood” with three wins including Feature, Director and Supporting Actress Patricia Arquette, all contenders in the Oscar race; Arquette was the only winner. NYFCC awards for Supporting Actor JK Simmons (“Whiplash”), Documentary (“Citizenfour”), and Foreign Film (“Ida”) all yielded Oscar wins.

Not so Warner Bros. 2014 animated comedy “The Lego Movie,” which didn’t land a nomination. This year, however, Disney/Pixar’s Oscar frontrunner “Inside Out” took the Animation prize over Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson’s smart R-rated indie “Anomalisa,” which could have used the critics’ stamp of approval.

This year’s NYFCC Nonfiction win went to veteran Frederick Wiseman for another local New York movie, “In Jackson Heights,” which did not make the Oscar doc shortlist revealed Tuesday.

Of the late-breaking trio of Christmas releases “The Revenant,” “Joy” and “The Hateful Eight,” only the latter won any recognition from the NYFCC, for Italian composer Ennio Morricone’s superb score, which will live on as a classic western soundtrack separate from the Quentin Tarantino movie.

The winners are listed below.

Best Picture
“Carol”

Best Director
Todd Haynes, “Carol”
Best Cinematography
Edward Lachman, “Carol”
Best Screenplay
“Carol”

Best Actress
Saoirse Ronan, “Brooklyn”

Best Actor
Michael Keaton “Spotlight”

Best Supporting Actress
Kristen Stewart, “Clouds of Sils Maria”
Best Supporting Actor
Mark Rylance, “Bridge of Spies”
Best Animated Film
“Inside Out”
Special Award
Ennio Morricone, Composer

Best Nonfiction Film

“In Jackson Heights”

Best Foreign Film
“Timbuktu”
Best First Film
László Nemes, “Son of Saul”
Special Award
Posthumous Award honoring the legacy of William Becker and Janus Films

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