It’s the time of year when critics groups get to push the year-end conversation in unexpected directions. It’s a period that’s not necessarily pivotal to how Oscar voters make their choices, but it’s a formative period that crucially weans the competition down to its core contenders. The New York Film Critics Circle (NYFCC) must have had that goal somewhere on their minds while choosing the winners of their annual awards this morning. Few of the choices they made were obvious or expected, and some of them are technically barred from resonating into the Academy Awards season. Foreign Film winner Timbuktu was already nominated this past year, and Frederick Wiseman’s Non-Fiction winner, In Jackson Heights, didn’t even make the documentary shortlist.
One film in particular, though, got a significant nudge from group. At a time when Todd Haynes’ queer romance Carol needed voter attention, NYFCC lent it a significant bit of clout and centrality, awarding it four of the eight awards it was eligible for – I know, it has no lead Actor, but it’d technically be eligible if it did – including Best Film, Director, Screenplay and Cinematography for Edward Lachmann’s delicate, minty lensing.
Carol took no acting prizes, but likely so the NYFCC could spread the love to unexpected corners. Saoirse Ronan and Mark Rylance were gathering momentum as it was, though the plug for Ronan is quite richly deserved in a Carol heavy morning. The group surprised most by awarding Supporting Actress to Kristen Stewart’s nervy, charismatic, psychologically engaging work in Clouds of Sils Maria. And while a win for Michael Keaton wasn’t necessarily a surprise, its presence in Best Actor was. Speaking personally, I found more guilt-ridden energy in Keaton’s Spotlight performance than in Birdman, so this unexpectedly pleased me.
You can see the full list of winners below, including two special awards.
Best Film: Carol
Best Director: Todd Haynes, Carol
Best Actor: Michael Keaton, Spotlight
Best Actress: Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn
Best Supporting Actor: Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies
Best Supporting Actress: Kristen Stewart, Clouds of Sils Maria
Best Screenplay: Phyllis Nagy, Carol
Best Animated Film: Inside Out
Best Cinematography: Edward Lachman, Carol
Best First Film: Son of Saul
Best Foreign Film: Timbuktu
Best Nonfiction Film: In Jackson Heights
Special Award: Posthumous award honoring the legacy of William Becker and Janus Films
Special Award: Ennio Morricone, composer