The New York Film Critics Circle announced their 2017 year-end winners this morning and everything was just what you’d expect right up until the last award was announced.
Barry Jenkins’ “Moonlight” and Kenneth Lonergan’s “Manchester by the Sea” won three awards each with the duo splitting Best Director and Best Screenplay respectively. You would have assumed the organization would pick between the two films for it’s top honor. And it made a lot of sense as both dramas were rumored to be in the running for the top prize for weeks. Instead they picked “La La Land” for Best Film even though it won no other awards (not that has to be a prerequisite). Needless to say, there is also a wee bit of irony that a New York body picked such an LA centric film (especially if LA’s own critics group goes in a different direction).
Here is the complete list of winners with some awards season analysis for your consideration.
Best Film: “La La Land”
Analysis: This is a huge win for Damien Chazelle’s baby. If NYFCC had awarded “Manchester” it might have been enough momentum for the media to start a mantra that the Lonergan picture had a shot at Best Picture. The “La La Land” win immediately sniffles that opportunity. Not only is “La La Land” the frontrunner now, but it may be a lock to win.
Best Director: Barry Jenkins, “Moonlight”
Analysis: This is the second win for Jenkins this season after the National Board of Review earlier this week. Will LAFCA give him the trifecta?
Best Actress: Isabelle Huppert, “Elle” and “Things to Come”
Analysis: Another great win for Huppert who surprised at the Gotham Awards earlier this week. The “Things to Come” mention won’t make Sony Classics happy – they need as little voter confusion as possible – but a win is a win. Don’t be surprised if LAFCA specifically goes in a different direction, however.
Best Actor: Casey Affleck, “Manchester by the Sea”
Analysis: Expect many of these wins for Affleck from critics’ groups. Some will go for “Fences'” Denzel Washington, but for the most part it should be a drumbeat to give Affleck his due. Whether SAG and the Academy will follow suit remains to be seen.
Best Supporting Actor: Mahershala Ali, “Moonlight”
Analysis: Like Affleck, Ali may become the consensus critics’ choice which only help his shot for an Oscar nomination. The Oscar field is still a major tossup even for a nomination in this category so any win is a big, big deal. As a veteran actor who has never gotten his due this has to be sweet for Ali though.
Best Supporting Actress: Michelle Williams, “Manchester by the Sea” and “Certain Women”
Analysis: Clearly the NYFCC are not fans of “Fences.” Williams eloquent performance in “Manchester” is a worthy winner although the “Certain Women” mention seems unnecessary you could certainly argue she was less memorable than her co-stars in Kelly Reichardt’s indie drama.
Best Screenplay: Kenneth Lonergan, “Manchester by the Sea”
Analysis: Hard to argue with Lonergan’s win although Jenkins (“Moonlight”) or Taylor Sheridan (“Hell or High Water”) are equally deserving.
Best Cinematography: James Laxton, “Moonlight”
Analysis: Very deserved and impressive win for Laxton who shockingly is not a lock for an Oscar nod considering how conservative the Cinematography branch is known to be.
Best Animated Film: “Zootopia”
Analysis: Walt Disney Animated Studios’ timely hit is going to win a lot of these honors. Expect to see it on a lot of top 10 lists as well.
Best Foreign Language Film: “Toni Erdmann”
Analysis: After getting snubbed without an Indie Spirit nomination and losing at NBR the movie that should have one the Palm d’Or finally gets a win and its a big one.
Best Documentary Film: “O.J.: Made in America”
Analysis: Another win for “OJ” as the “it was made for TV” backlash hasn’t really set in yet.
Best First Film: “The Edge of Seventeen” and “Krisha” (tie)
Analysis: This win was probably not even on “Krisha” director Trey Edward Shults radar and it’s likely an even bigger surprise for “Seventeen” writer/director Kelly Fremon Craig. It’s hard to say it means more to a filmmaker who made a movie at a mini-major studio like STX (or with significant resources), but in the long run it probably does.
Special Awards: One for Thelma Schoonmaker, the other for the 25th anniversary restoration of Julie Dash’s “Daughters of the Dust.”