"Brokeback Mountain" was named the best picture of 2005 by the New York Film Critics Circle, the group announced today in Manhattan, with Ang Lee named best director for his work on the film. The thirty-member film critics group also selected the film's star Heath Ledger as the best actor of the year. The news comes just two days after the Los Angeles Film Critics Association also honored "Brokeback" and Lee. The awards will be presented at the NYFCC's annual dinner next month in Manhattan.
"I was not surprised at all that the voting was so competitive. What did surprise me was that we came to our conclusion so quickly," said group chairman and Newsday critic Gene Seymour, in a statement. "I'm not sure if that means it was a good year or a so-so year but it always shakes out."
Reese Witherspoon was named the best actress of the year for her role in "Walk the Line," while David Cronenberg's "A History of Violence" nabbed a pair of acting honors. William Hurt was named best supporting actor while Maria Bello was singled out as best supporting actress. "Violence" was a runner-up to "Brokeback" in both best picture and best director voting among the Los Angeles critics.
Chatting with indieWIRE Monday afternoon, group chair Gene Seymour pondered the connection between "Brokeback Mountain" and "A History of Violence," two films that are dominant among end of year awards, so far. "They take a very traditional genre, something that is very traditional and expected from Hollywood, and they do something very untraditional with them."
Calling Lee's "Brokeback" a romance, Seymour praised, "There's something very traditional and old fashioned about the movie. It deals with very passionate, realistic elements that are common to big screen epics -- I won't say they are subverted, but they are turned around." As for Cronenberg's "Violence," he called the film a kind of "contemporary western" in which a lone man confronting his past who ultimately, "has gotta do what he's gotta do."
The best first film prize went to Bennett Miller for "Capote," while Noah Baumbach was singled out with a best screenplay prize for "The Squid and the Whale."
Two films by Werner Herzog, "Grizzly Man" and "White Diamond," were chosen as the best documentaries of 2005.
In the foreign language category, Wong Kar-Wai's "2046" was named the best of the year, while Christopher Doyle, Lai Yiu Fai and Kwan Pun Leung were recognized for their cinematography in the film.
Hayao Miyazaki's "Howl's Moving Castle" was named the best-animated feature of the year.
Finally, asked about the influence of the New York Film Critics Circle in a season now crowded with critics' group announcements and award nominations, Seymour said that he isn't sure whether the NYFCC has a greater influence on audiences, or perhaps other award organizations. "I think what we do, at our best, is what journalists have always done," he explained, "We look over at some obscure corner and we say, 'Hey look!' and we hope that people will see what we've seen."