By Kevin Jagernauth | The Playlist November 28, 2011 at 10:59PM
With the New York Film Critics Circle set to announce their award winners tomorrow morning over Twitter (guys, way to make it less meaningless, how about an actual webpage?) and the Gotham Independent Film Awards just wrapped, the fall awards season has officially kicked off. And already, we've got some surprises.
Despite facing stiff competition from the much more buzzworthy "The Descendants," Best Picture was split between Terrence Malick's "The Tree Of Life" and Mike Mills' "Beginners" -- both spring/summer movies that weren't seen as major challengers this fall that now have a considerable boost forward. In a shocking appearance, Malick arrived and a gave a half-hour acceptance speech and then moonwalked across the stage. (No, he didn't, but that would've been awesome). Meanwhile, in the documentary category, the win went to "Better This World," a film noticeably missing from the controversial Oscar shortlist that was recently revealed.
Heading over to the acting categories, another boost for Mills' "Beginners" as Ewan McGregor, Christopher Plummer and Melanie Laurent all shared in the Best Ensemble prize. Meanwhile, another hot contender went home empty handed as Felicity Jones snagged Breakthrough Actor for her turn in "Like Crazy" from the arguable frontrunner, Elizabeth Olsen, for her starmaking performance in "Martha Marcy May Marlene."
In the Breakthrough Director category, we're very pleased that Dee Rees snagged the award, because she deserves it for "Pariah." It's a nice boost for the small film that deserves some attention this fall and marks an exciting debut from a helmer we'll be keeping an eye on. Wrapping things up, the procedural style docuementary "Scenes From A Crime" earned Best Film Not Playing At A Theatre Near You while in a win that could only be given out at a New York centered awards ceremony, the tiny indie "Girlfriend" earned the Audience Award. Yeah, we had no idea about that movie before tonight either, but hey, now we do and we'll have to track it down.
While awards pundits generally like to dismiss the Gotham Awards as reliable Oscar-awards season augurs, one can argue the independent-minded awards have become more and more relevant in recent years. Last year's winner, "Winter's Bone" went on to score four Oscar nominations including Best Picture, Best Actress (Jennifer Lawrence) and Best Adapted Screenplay. In 2009, the cognoscenti scoffed once again at the Gotham's and the bigger winner that year, "The Hurt Locker," which went on to best "Avatar," the highest grossing movie of all time, for the Best Picture Academy Award. So an early Oscar indicator or a champagne toast to the films whose awards season journey ends here? We'll see how things match up (or don't) when the NYFCC announce their honors tomorrow. Winners below.
Best Feature: TIE "The Tree Of Life" by Terrence Malick and "Beginners" by Mike Mills
Best Documentary: "Better This World" directed by Kelly Duane and Katie Galloway
Best Ensemble Performance: "Beginners"
Breakthrough Director Dee Rees for "Pariah"
Breakthrough Actor Felicity Jones in "Like Crazy"
Best Film Not Playing At A Theater Near You "Scenes From A Crime" directed by Blue Hadaegh and Grover Babcock
Audience Awards "Girlfriend" directed by Justin Lerner
Original nominees here.