The New York Film Critics Circle named “Carol” the best movie of 2015, with Todd Haynes, Phyllis Nagy, and Ed Lachman receiving awards for best director, screenplay, and cinematographer. The 1950s lesbian romance, based on Patricia Highsmith’s pseudonymous novel “The Price of Salt,” was a decisive favorite among an eclectic group of winners in which no other film won more than a single award.
“Carol” stars Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett were absent from the actress and supporting actress categories, perhaps a casualty of confusion over which belongs in which category. (The Weinstein Company is pushing Blanchett as lead and Mara as supporting, a decision which has been widely criticized as “category fraud.”) Those prizes went instead to “Brooklyn’s” Saoirse Ronan and “Clouds of Sils Maria’s” Kristen Stewart, with actor and supporting actor going to Michael Keaton for “Spotlight” and Mark Rylance for “Bridge of Spies.” (Keaton has widely been considered as a candidate for supporting actor, although it’s hard to pinpoint exactly who is “Spotlight’s” lead.) Pixar’s “Inside Out” won best animated film, and Frederick Wiseman’s “In Jackson Heights” was named best documentary. Abderrahmane Sissako’s “Timbuktu” was named best foreign-language film, and László Nemes won best first feature with “Son of Saul.” Special awards went to composer Ennio Morricone and the late William Becker, co-founder of Janus Films.
Notwithstanding NYFCC’s ambivalent relationship to the awards race, “Carol’s” four wins undoubtedly helped moved Haynes’ film into the Oscar conversation, while shutouts for late-breaking releases like “The Hateful Eight” and “The Revenant” took some of the wind out of their sails. But it was Stewart’s recognition for “Clouds of Sils Maria” that was most welcome, and best illustrated the power that critics awards can yield. “Clouds,” which premiered at Cannes in 2014,” had been all but forgotten, as had Stewart’s performance, despite a win at France’s Césars. But the NYFCC win serves as a reminder that “Clouds” wasn’t actually released in the U.S. until April of this year, and serves as a timely reminder to critics filing their ballots for the Indiewire, Village Voice, and Film Comment polls next week. (It also might make this a good time to announce that long-rumored Blu-ray, Criterion.)
It’s also fair to note that, with the exception of “Spotlight,” every one of the NYFCC’s winners screened in the New York Film Festival either this year or last, and that if the winners share anything at all, it’s being set in New York City, where all of “Carol” and “In Jackson Heights” and substantial chunks of “Brooklyn” and “Bridge of Spies” take place. Sorry, “Pixels,” it just wasn’t your year.
The New York Film Critics Circle 2015 Awards
Best Film: “Carol”
Best Director: Todd Haynes, “Carol”
Best Screenplay: Phyllis Nagy, “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 Cinematography: Ed Lachman, “Carol”
Best Non-fiction Film: “In Jackson Heights”
Best Foreign Language Film: “Timbuktu”
Best Animated Feature: “Inside Out”
Best First Film: László Nemes, “Son of Saul”
Special Awards: “Honoring the legacy of William Becker and Janus Films” and to composer Ennio Morricone.