By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood December 19, 2011 at 1:44PM
Critics are lining up behind Terrence Malick's "The Tree of Life." While critics groups don't have as much predictive impact as Guild awards like the Screen Actors Guild, they do add to to winners' patina, build credibility and consensus, and keep attention on some must-see titles.
The Chicago Film Critics Association is the latest to give "Tree of Life" Best Picture. The Cannes Palme d'Or winner scored a total of four awards including Director, Supporting Actress for newcomer Jessica Chastain and Cinematography for Emmanuel Lubezki (who looks good to win the cinematography Oscar).
With 63 votes among 162 critics, journalists and other cinephiles, “The Tree of Life” dominated Indiewire's Poll For the Best of 2011 Film. Malick also landed in first place for Best Director with 18 mentions. The film also won the Film Comment and Sight & Sound critics polls last week. Also scoring well in the Indiewire poll were Iranian drama “A Separation” (December 30) and Lars Von Trier’s “Melancholia.” Von Trier and Malick duked it out for best director, with Malick winning 18 votes to 11. For Cinematography, “The Tree of Life” won easily.
All other categories were close races. So close was Best Performance that two actors earned the same ranking score: Michael Shannon (“Take Shelter”) and Michael Fassbender (“Shame”). Christopher Plummer (“Beginners”) squeaked ahead of Albert Brooks (“Drive”); “A Separation” took Best Screenplay, just ahead of Kenneth Lonergan’s “Margaret," which won Best Ensemble for Anna Paquin, J. Smith Cameron, Jeannie Berlin, Mark Ruffalo and Matt Damon.
Best First Feature went to Fox Searchlight's Sundance pick-up “Martha Marcy May Marlene,” and another Sundance title, Steve James' “The Interrupters” won Best Documentary, squeezing past Patricio Guzman’s “Nostalgia for the Light.” Best Undistributed Film went to Alex Ross Perry’s sibling comedy “The Color Wheel.”
In Chicago, Albert Brooks won Supporting Actor for violent film noir "Drive" and Original Score went to composer Cliff Martinez. "Drive"'s two wins tied with "Martha Marcy May Marlene," which won Most Promising Performer for Elizabeth Olsen and Most Promising Filmmaker for director Sean Durkin.
Chicago gave Michael Shannon Best Actor for his performance in Jeff Nichols' apocalyptic drama "Take Shelter." Michelle Williams won the Best Actress award for her tour-de-force turn as Marilyn Monroe in "My Week with Marilyn." Even though it is silent, "The Artist" won Original Screenplay for French outsider Michel Hazanavicius. Screenwriters Steve Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin won the Adapted Screenplay prize for "Moneyball," marking "The Social Network"'s Sorkin's second consecutive victory in his category. Continuing its sweep of critics groups, Iranian drama "A Separation" won Foreign-Language Film, while continual winner "Rango" also won Best Animated Film. On the doc side, hometown favorite Steve James won for "The Interrupters," which follows people who intervene against violence in Chicago.