"Holy Motors" may have appealed to a majority of voting critics, but it faced substantial competition in the Best Film category from similarly dark, tense dramas about passionate individuals. Paul Thomas Anderson's Scientology character study "The Master" took second place with 100 mentions for Best Film, just ahead of the 93 mentions of "Zero Dark Thirty."
For each ballot in which critics were asked to create lists -- Best Film, Best Performance, Best Supporting Performance and Best Undistributed Film -- films were ranked using a simple point system visible in the numerical breakdown of the top 50 winners available here. In the other categories, critics submitted single votes.
This year's participants included a broad sampling of print and online critics, including The New Yorker's Richard Brody, former Village Voice critic and current Blouin Artinfo contributor J. Hoberman, former L.A. Weekly critic Karina Longworth, Yahoo! Movies' Thelma Adams, Indiewire co-founder and Film Society of Lincoln Center director of digital strategy Eugene Hernandez, MSN Movies' Glenn Kenny, Israeli critic Yair Raveh, retired Chicago Reader critic Jonathan Rosenbaum, Rolling Stone's Peter Travers, and New York Daily News' Elizabeth Weitzman. A full list of Criticwire network members can be found here.
Participating Indiewire staffers included myself, senior editor Peter Knegt, assistant editor Nigel Smith, television editor Alison Willmore, contributor Bryce Renninger, and Thompson on Hollywood's Anne Thompson. Criticwire editor and blogger Matt Singer and Criticwire assistant editor Steve Greene also cast votes in the survey, which closed Sunday night.
Reflecting the range of sensibilities among this year's voting pool, the top 11 finalists (including one tie) that received the most mentions for Best Film hailed from seven different countries and several of them won in other categories. These included both a first feature (Benh Zeitlin's "Beasts of the Southern Wild," one of two films tied for sixth place) and a purported last one (Bela Tarr's "The Turin Horse," in eigth place). Panahi's "This Is Not a Film," the aforementioned winner for Best Documentary, tied in fifth place for Best Film with Wes Anderson's Best Ensemble winner "Moonrise Kingdom." Best Screenplay winner "Lincoln" ranked ninth place in the Best Film category.
With so many critics participating in the poll this year, readers may consider looking beyond the films that received the majority votes in order to peruse the results for the stray films that received single votes in various categories. In this regard, the Best Undistributed Films results holds particular interest. The narrowly-defined category asked voters to single out new films screened for the first time in 2012 that have yet to be acquired for U.S. distribution. Even with such restrictions, however, critics singled out an diverse list of finalists. While Seimetz's Florida noir "Sun Don't Shine" topped the category by a significant margin -- it was also nominated for the Gotham's Best Film Not Playing at a Theater Near You award -- it was closely followed by Belgium director Joaquim Lafosse's immigration drama "Our Children" and the Romanian dark comedy "Everybody in Our Family."
And that's only the top of the pile. Since no concise summary could possibly convey the volume of films represented by these results, we urge readers to explore the various survey pages now available on Criticwire. The current design for the Criticwire Network, which we teased in the announcement of last year's poll results, has been designed so that movie lovers of all stripes may browse through individual critical opinions and discover countless movies rather than merely focusing on a handful of favorites. While only a limited number of films can claim the winning slots, there's plenty of room for exploration in the list of titles beneath them.
Stay tuned for more breakdowns of Indiewire's critics poll as well as reactions from various winners throughout the week -- as well as further coverage on the Criticwire blog.
Lists of the top finalists in each category of the critics poll can be found here.