By Eric Kohn | Indiewire December 18, 2012 at 9:45AM
In the heat of a diverse Oscar season, critics have again singled out a movie that stands apart from that race: With 128 votes among 204 critics listed in Indiewire's Criticwire network, Leos Carax's surreal opus "Holy Motors" topped Indiewire's seventh annual poll for Best Film. "Holy Motors" star Denis Lavant garnered the most votes for Best Performance.
A substantial increase from last year's voting pool of 162 critics (when "The Tree of Life" won the same prize), this year's results mark the unveiling of Criticwire's new survey feature, which visualizes the voting results across hundreds of pages. Overall, 1,862 ballots were cast across 10 categories. View the results for all the categories here.
Despite the overwhelming support for "Holy Motors" in the two prominent categories of Best Film and Performance, the rest of the poll reflected the range of critical favorites released in theaters in 2012. Kathryn Bigelow landed Best Director for "Zero Dark Thirty," which opens in limited release on Wednesday. Other winners included Phillip Seymour Hoffman in the Best Supporting Actor category for "The Master," which also won Best Original Soundtrack or Score for Jonny Greenwood's compositions. Jafar Panahi's "This Is Not a Film," a first-person account of the Iranian director's experience under house arrest, led the Best Documentary category, holding onto its popularity among critics a full 10 months after its U.S. theatrical release.
Meanwhile, Sundance and Cannes award-winner "Beasts of the Southern Wild" triumphed in the Best First Feature category and Oscar hopeful "Lincoln" won Best Screenplay. Rounding out the poll, Amy Seimetz's SXSW-premiering "Sun Don't Shine" won Best Undistributed Film and Wes Anderson's "Moonrise Kingdom" won Best Ensemble, an award for which it was previously nominated (but didn't win) last month at the Gotham Awards.
None of them, however, have followed quite the same winding path as "Holy Motors." Compared to 2011 poll champion "The Tree of Life," which started its public life on a high note by winning the Palme d'Or at Cannes, "Holy Motors" has endured a more complex route that has garnered it cult appeal. The film played in competition at Cannes to critical acclaim but failed to win any prizes at the festival. However, Carax's first feature-length effort in 12 years continued to sustain strong word of mouth and additional ahead of its theatrical release this fall, generating strong responses from audiences as far reaching as the New York Film Festival and Fantastic Fest. It also topped a poll conducted by Film Comment, which revealed its results last week.
Above: One of two musical sequences in "Holy Motors."
The continuing support for the movie may even surprise its director. "I thought it would be really difficult, that it would be too strange for people," he told Indiewire in an interview earlier this year. However, Carax expressed an enthusiasm similar to numerous critics with respect to the performance by the chamelonesque Lavant, who plays a peculiar man named Monsiuer Oscar as he embodies a wide variety of characters in vaguely defined situations over the course of a single day. "He became a greater actor while I wasn't making my films," Carax said, recalling his collaborations with Lavant over the course of 30 years. "I don't know what happened to him in real life or in his work or both that made him an actor who could play any part, but now he can."
Next page: More details from the poll results along with a sampling of this year's voters.