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The International Cinephile Society may be the last of innumerable critics' groups to announce their top film achievements of 2011 before the Oscars finally call a moratorium on the practice -- but in a season that has long since fallen prey to fatigue, this fresh, imaginative list of winners couldn't come as a more welcome pick-me-up. As a voting member of the ICS, I'm pleased to say I'm as surprised as anyone by some of the results, which stray far from the Oscar pack and include a handful of unique choices.
I'm pretty sure, for example, that this is the first group to hand their Best Actor prize to British newcomer Tom Cullen for "Weekend" -- my own first choice in the category. And if the London Critics' Circle pre-empted the ICS by choosing Anna Paquin as Best Actress, this is certainly the first mention for Paquin's onscreen mom in "Margaret," J. Smith-Cameron, in the Best Supporting Actress category. Kenneth Lonergan's beleaguered little film just keeps chugging along -- who knows what could have happened had it received more critical and studio support upon its September release?
Rounding out a wholly original (and Oscar-ignored) slate of acting winners is Brad Pitt for "The Tree of Life." The top prize, meanwhile, goes to "A Separation," with "The Tree of Life" at its heels; the two swap positions in the Best Director category, suggesting a close race. The Iranian marital drama did very well indeed, also nabbing wins for Best Original Screenplay, Best Ensemble and (duh) Best Foreign Language Film. "The Tree of Life" was right there with four wins, too, including Best Supporting Actor for Brad Pitt, Best Cinematography and Best Editing.
Finally, I must sheepishly admit to not having seen the group's Best Production Design winner, despite having voted. What can y'all tell me about "The Mill and the Cross?" I gather it's purty.
Check out the full list of ICS winners below.
Best Picture: "A Separation" (Runner-up: "The Tree of Life")
Best Director: Terrence Malick, "The Tree of Life" (Runner-up: Asghar Farhadi, "A Separation")
Best Actor: Tom Cullen, "Weekend" (Runner-up: Peyman Moaadi, "A Separation")
Best Actress: Anna Paquin, "Margaret" (Runner-up: Juliette Binoche, "Certified Copy")
Best Supporting Actor: Brad Pitt, "The Tree of Life" (Runner-up: Shahab Hosseini, "A Separation")
Best Supporting Actress: J. Smith-Cameron, "Margaret" (Runner-up: Jessica Chastain, "Take Shelter")
Best Adapted Screenplay: (tie) "Mysteries of Lisbon" and "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" (Runner-up: "The Skin I Live In")
Best Original Screenplay: "A Separation" (Runner-up: "Weekend")
Best Cinematography: "The Tree of Life" (Runner-up: "Mysteries of Lisbon")
Best Editing: "The Tree of Life" (Runner-up: "Drive")
Best Production Design: "The Mill and the Cross" (Runner-up: "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy")
Best Original Score: "Drive" (Runner-up: "Mysteries of Lisbon")
Best Ensemble: "A Separation" (Runner-up: "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy")
Best Animated Film: "Rango" (Runner-up: "Winnie the Pooh")
Best Documentary: "The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceausescu" (Runner-up: "Nostalgia for the Light")
Best Film Not in the English Language: "A Separation" (Runner-up: "Mysteries of Lisbon")
Best Picture Not Released in 2011: "Alps," "Century of Birthing," "Declaration of War," "The Deep Blue Sea," "Elena," "Faust," "The Kid with a Bike," "Once Upon a Time in Anatolia," "This is not a Film," "The Turin Horse"
Top 10 Films of 2011 (in order): "A Separation," "The Tree of Life," "Mysteries of Lisbon," "Certified Copy," "Weekend," "Margaret," "Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives," "Drive," "Meek's Cutoff," "Hugo"/"Melancholia"
Remember to keep track of all the ups and downs of the 2011-2012 film awards season via The Circuit.
For more views on movies, awards season and other pursuits, follow @GuyLodge on Twitter.
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