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2012 New York Film Critics Circle Awards

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Well, we’ve officially had our first shake-up of the season. While many of the main contenders remain at the top of the field without having to take a mention, several have confirmed their frontrunner status through victory. Moreover, one film that has largely been a mystery this awards season has instantly positioned itself as possibly the film to beat.

I am, of course, speaking of Karthryn Bigelow’s “Zero Dark Thirty.” The highly anticipated expose on the search for Osama Bin Laden had a big night at the first official critics awards of the year. With the first reviews coming in from early screenings (a not-too-shabby Metacritic score of 97 after 8 reviews), this may end up being not so much of a surprise. Whether this will turn out becoming the year’s proverbial critical darling is yet to be seen. Personally, I’m hoping for a bit more diversity in opinion coming from this year’s critics awards rather than the usual polarization. Yet, if Bigelow’s film is a as good as it appears, you can’t argue with who knows best.

Here’s the full list of winners:

BEST PICTURE: “Zero Dark Thirty”

BEST DIRECTOR: Kathryn Bigelow – “Zero Dark Thirty”

BEST ACTOR: Daniel Day Lewis – “Lincoln”

BEST ACTRESS: Rachel Weisz – “The Deep Blue Sea”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Matthew McConaughey – “Magic Mike” and “Bernie”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Sally Field – “Lincoln”

BEST SCREENPLAY: Tony Kushner – “Lincoln”

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY: Greg Fraser – “Zero Dark Thirty”

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM: Michael Hanecke – “Amour”

BEST FIRST FILM: David France – “How to Survive a Plague”

BEST DOCUMENTARY: Ken Burns, Sarah Burns, David McMahon – “Central Park Five”

BEST ANIMATED FILM: “Frankenweenie”

Now to cite “Zero Dark Thirty” as the only big winner yesterday would be a mistake. Steven Spielberg’s epic biopic “Lincoln” also snagged three awards, including two for acting, confirming the idea, shared by myself, that it truly has one of the best ensemble casts in recent memory. Meanwhile, Rachel Weisz has skyrocketed herself back into contention for a film that has been largely forgotten about. And while some people may still refuse to accept it, Matthew McConaughey has now become a legitimate candidate for an Oscar nomination. Who would have thought, though credit must be paid to the stellar year his career has had.

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Village Voice critic J. Hoberman gave some insight as to how some of the voting went down. Apparently, the female acting awards were incredibly tight. The decided winners barely beat out frontrunners Jennifer Lawrence from “Silver Linings Playbook” and Anne Hathaway from “Les Miserables” in their respective categories. Tommy Lee Jones’ performance in “Lincoln” came in a very close second for Supporting Actor. Though, as one would expect, Daniel Day Lewis met little resistance in his victory.

Without a doubt, the film that had the worst night was Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest work of genius, “The Master.” With very little box office support and a topic that’s not much of a crowd-pleaser, this film is definitely dependent on its critical success to attempt to revive itself. Despite showing up in late ballots for Picture, Director, Actor (Phoenix) and Cinematography, its failure to claim a single honor is not a good sign. It still has a chance for redemption with the Los Angeles Critics or NYFCO this weekend, but it’s chances of winning any major awards are fading fast.

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Some pundits are already claiming the race down to “Zero Dark Thirty” and “Lincoln,” but I am nowhere near sold. Tomorrow brings about the National Board of Review which might just change the landscape all over again. Plus, the potential success that “Argo” and “Les Miserables” will find once guild nominations start rolling out may make all the difference in the world. No doubt about it, though, things are certainly getting interesting.

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