The National Society of Film Critics became the first major U.S. critics association to honor Inside Llewyn Davis with their top prize on Saturday, bringing the critics' awards season to a close. Joel and Ethan Coen also won Best Director for Llewyn, Oscar Isaac took home Best Actor, and Best Cinematography went to Bruno Delbonnel. The awards were dedicated to late NSFC members Stanley Kauffmann and Roger Ebert.
Voting began with a tie -- over the dates of the 2014 meeting -- which turned out to be a harbinger for a session in which few awards were determined on the initial ballot. The NSFC's voting rules state that a winner must get the most points (based on a system of 3 points for first, 2 for second and 1 for third) and also appear on a majority of ballots. As proxies for those not present drop out after the first round of voting, the dynamic can shift dramatically in subsequent votes. This proved a deciding factor in many categories, including Best Picture. In nearly every case where the vote went to a second ballot, the winner was different from the first-round leader.
Best Picture: Inside Llewyn Davis (second ballot)
12 Years a Slave led the initial vote, but did not appear on a majority of ballots; the three-way tie for second -- between American Hustle, Gravity and Her -- showed the lack of consensus.
Dropping out proxies turned the vote over to the 17 members present, at which point Inside Llewyn Davis surged from a distant fifth into first place.
Best Director: Joel and Ethan Coen, Inside Llewyn Davis (second ballot)
Alfonso Cuaron had the points but not the ballots in the first round, with Steve McQueen in second and Spike Jonze and the Coen brothers tied for third. But in the room, the Coens ruled again, topping Cuaron in second and McQueen in third.
Best Actor: Oscar Isaac, Inside Llewyn Davis (second ballot)
Isaac was tied for fourth after the first ballot, trailing Chewitel Ejiofor, Matthew McConaughey and Robert Redford. But he surged into first on the second ballot, with 28 points to Ejiofor's second-place 19.
Best Actress: Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
Although just narrowly on a sufficient number of ballots, Blanchett's Passiondex was high enough to give her a commanding first-round victory, with 57 points over Adele Exarchopoulos (36) and Julie Delpy (26).
Best Supporting Actor: James Franco, Spring Breakers (second ballot)
Jared Leto led the first vote, with 47 points to Franco's 36, but did not appear on a majority of ballots. In the second round, the positions were switched, with Franco prevailing 24 to 20. A motion was made to honor Franco for both Spring Breakers and This Is the End, but it was voted down in favor of a stronger pro-Alien statement.
Best Supporting Actress: Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle
An easy first-ballot victory, with Lupita Nyong'o in second and Lea Seydoux and Sally Hawkins tied for third.
Best Screenplay: Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke, Before Midnight (second ballot)
The only time a first-ballot lead held for a second, with Before Midnight holding onto a slight lead over Inside Llewyn Davis.
Best Cinematography: Bruno Delbonnel, Inside Llewyn Davis (second ballot)
Gravity had a large lead in the first vote but fell one ballot short of a plurality. Once again, positions flip-flopped on the second ballot, with Llewyn Davis gaining a slight lead.
Best Foreign Film: Blue Is the Warmest Color (second ballot)
Paolo Sorrentino's The Great Beauty had a narrow lead over Blue Is the Warmest Color in the first round, with A Touch of Sin in third, but none had enough ballots. Second-round balloting scrambled the order, with Blue coming in first, A Touch of Sin second and The Great Beauty third.
Best Documentary: The Act of Killing/At Berkeley (tie) (second ballot)
Sarah Polley's Stories We Tell led the first ballot, followed by The Act of Killing, Leviathan and At Berkeley.
Best Experimental Film: Leviathan