<p>Michael Shannon was nominated for his leading performance in Jeff Nichols's &quot;Take Shelter,&quot;&nbsp;which sahred the lead on nominations.</p>

Michael Shannon was nominated for his leading performance in Jeff Nichols's "Take Shelter," which sahred the lead on nominations.

Credit: Sony Pictures Classics

Film Independent spotlights the right stuff in Independent Spirit Award nominations

'The Artist' and 'Take Shelter' lead the field with strong showings from 'Drive' and 'Take Shelter'

Much more interesting to me this morning was Film Independent's list of nominees for the Independent Spirit Awards. Any slate that features multiple tips of the hat for "Drive," "Take Shelter" and "Beginners," love for Woody Harrelson in "Rampart" and recognition for Corey Stoll in "Midnight in Paris" is fine by me.

The announcement was made via Film Independent's Twitter feed. No online stream or TV announcement. The economy route. Which made things kind of hairy if you were also following the New York Film Critics Circle's feed at the same time. But it also brought a smile to my face to see, say, Albert Brooks winning a Best Supporting Actor prize for his work in "Drive" while at the same time receiving a nomination for same at the Independent Spirit Awards. Ditto Jessica Chastain and her work in "Take Shelter."

Still, let's not do this again, okay? Too much at once.

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<p>John&nbsp;Goodman in NYFCC&nbsp;Best Picture winner &quot;The&nbsp;Artist&quot;</p>

John Goodman in NYFCC Best Picture winner "The Artist"

Credit: The Weinstein Company

'The Artist' wins Best Picture, Best Director from NYFCC

Gotham crowd spotlights 'Moneyball' and 'The Tree of Life' as well

After all the extraneous stuff surrounding the New York Film Critics Circle and their vote, the organization finally sat down and painstakingly settled on its list of award winners for 2011 this morning. They were lapped by Film Independent's Independent Spirit Awards announcement (more on that in a moment), which was revealed via Twitter, just as the NYFCC announcement was. But when the dust finally settled, it was an ode to silent cinema that walked away with the goods.

Jessica Chastain and Brad Pitt were each cited for their work in "The Tree of Life," alongside other projects they have in play this year, while Meryl Streep ("The Iron Lady") and Albert Brooks ("Drive") rounded out the acting honors. "Moneyball" also did quite well, nabbing Best Screenplay and getting cited alongside "The Tree of Life" for Pitt's award.

If you didn't keep track in real time, you can read my commentary on all of the award winners below. From here, the National Board of Review takes the baton on Thursday and the circuit marches on.

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<p>Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill in&nbsp;&quot;Moneyball&quot;</p>

Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill in "Moneyball"

Credit: Columbia Pictures

Oscarweb Round-up: Paging 'Moneyball'

Also: 'Hugo' aims to win the marathon and the original ending to 'The Muppets'

Yesterday I asked via the Off the carpet column what films and/or performances needed some wind in their sails from the upcoming critics awards circuit. But now is also the time to strike for a film like "Moneyball," which has that flash of effortless panache that seems to be missing this season. Smartly, the campaign has started showing signs of life as Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill participated in a Los Angeles post-screening Q&A for the film Sunday night. I wouldn't say anything is falling away, but nothing appears to be running away with it. So, carpe diem. Sophia Savage was on hand Sunday. [Thompson on Hollywood]

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Martin Scorsese's cameo appearance in "Hugo"
Martin Scorsese's cameo appearance in "Hugo"
Credit: Paramount Pictures

Martin Scorsese embraces 3D beyond the realm of 'Hugo' and fantasy

The director says he would like to shoot future films with the technology

As I walked past the offices of Technicolor on my way to see a screening of what may (one day) be considered the film that represents the first true step the entertainment industry at large took in its embrace of 3D as a legitimate cinematic tool, Martin Scorsese’s “Hugo,” I could not help but think of Kris’s piece on the company’s efforts to restore and preserve cinema’s classics. There is something beautiful and compelling about the symmetry of a film that is reverential in its depiction of cinema history nudging a business that is still at odds with itself about a new technology. And there's something about a company that is responsible for one of the most significant advances in film restoring its past that I find intriguing.

I was struck again by a sense of synchronicity when I read Mr. Scorsese’s interview with Deadline this weekend in which the director indicated that he would be interested in shooting his future projects in 3D. He, as James Cameron frequently does, compared 3D to the advent of Technicolor in the mid-1930s. "We view everyday life with depth,” he said. “You have to go back to Technicolor; when it was used in 1935 with Becky Sharp. For about 10-15 years, Technicolor was relegated to musicals, comedies and westerns. It wasn't intended for the serious genres, but now everything is in color.

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<p>Vanessa Redgrave (center) in Ken Russell's &quot;The Devils.&quot;</p>

Vanessa Redgrave (center) in Ken Russell's "The Devils."

Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Remembering the madness of Ken Russell

Oscar-nominated British director passed away on Sunday at 84 years of age

Back in July, I had the rare privilege of seeing Ken Russell's grandly insane 1971 ecclesiastical drama "The Devils" in all its pristinely restored, newly uncut glory on the generous screen of London's BFI Southbank -- and left feeling rather as if I'd pummelled in the face with a movie camera. In a good way.

I'd never seen this hard-to-access film before, and was glad I'd waited to meet it with no missing parts: a feverish, alarming story of sexual repression and religious persecution in 17th-century France, it's the kind of fearlessly unhinged filmmaking that is best served by being permitted to go all the way. (And by 'all the way,' I do mean a mass of nuns sexually assaulting a church crucifix and Vanessa Redgrave masturbating with the charred bones of an executed priest. Christmas is coming -- order in the DVD!) "Chilling, silly, beautiful, usually at once," I tweeted, slightly dazed and in need of a drink, after the screening. "Ken Russell's bravura barminess, as possessed as his subjects, never met apter material."

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<p>Christopher Plummer in a scene from &quot;Beginners,&quot;&nbsp;which won Best&nbsp;Ensemble and tied for Best&nbsp;Feature</p>

Christopher Plummer in a scene from "Beginners," which won Best Ensemble and tied for Best Feature

Credit: Focus Features

Focus Features has a big night at the Gothams

'Beginners' and 'Pariah' netted awards while nomination leaders 'The Descendants' and 'Martha Marcy May Marlene' went home empty-handed

After all that clamoring to anoint this or that contender, the New York Film Critics Circle was stuck in a theater being the FIRST! to see "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" while preparations for the first legitimate awards show of the season were being finalized. And say what you might about the Gotham Awards, which some argue turn in dubious representation of the independent film scene year after year, but I'm glad it was them, instead of a group led by outright ego, who fired the starting gun.

Alas, the starting gun didn't come with any particular dose of authority, as things ended in a tie for Best Feature. Two of the year's absolute best films shared the prize, however: Terrence Malick's "The Tree of Life" and Mike Mills's "Beginners." I am so okay with that.

The surprises actually started early, though, with a heartening win for Dee Rees in the Breakthrough Director category. Rees, whose "Pariah" has been nurtured all season by Focus Features, beat out high profile contenders such as Sean Durkin ("Martha Marcy May Marlene") and Vera Farmiga ("Higher Ground"), as well Evan Glodell ("Bellflower") and Mike Cahill ("Another Earth") for the honor.

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<p>Jessica Chastain in &quot;The Tree of Life.&quot;</p>

Jessica Chastain in "The Tree of Life."

Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures

'Tree of Life' easily tops Sight & Sound's Best of 2011 poll

'A Separation' takes runner-up spot in survey of 100 international critics

I'm always interested in the outcome of Sight & Sound magazine's annual critics' poll, since it's perhaps the broadest and most international of its type: its 100 contributors range from their own writers to Peter Bradshaw to Armond White, ensuring a list that's reflective of the year's critical trends. This year, I feel slightly more invested than usual, because for the first time, I was invited to participate.

Every critic was asked to submit a list of their five "best, favorite or most important" films of the year. You'll be able to see mine, along with everyone else's, when Sight & Sound publish the full results of the poll online next week. For now, however, we have the Top 10 (or 11, given a tie at the bottom), and it's a typically credible if not terribly surprising one.

It was pretty much a foregone conclusion that Terrence Malick's "The Tree of Life" would top the list: divisive it may be, but the film remains unrivalled as the critical talking point of 2011. It won the poll by a comfortable margin: editor Nick James reveals that it had half as many votes again as the similarly predictable runner-up, Asghar Farhadi's "A Separation." Check out the full list below.

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<p>Hugo Weaving in &quot;V for Vendetta.&quot;</p>

Hugo Weaving in "V for Vendetta."

Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

The unexpected legacy of 'V for Vendetta'

Graphic novelist Alan Moore on the unlikely resurgence of an iconic mask

I'd been dimly aware of the re-appropriation of the sinister Guy Fawkes mask from Alan Moore and David Lloyd's "V for Vendetta" graphic novel -- and, of course, its Wachowski-branded 2006 film adaptation -- as a symbol of protest by present-day political and environmental demonstrators. I have only recently begun noticing it in the real world, however.

As the Occupy movement took shape -- in the past few weeks, chiming in neatly with Guy Fawkes Day (November 5) three weeks ago, I've spotted that leeringly stylized visage stencilled on more than a few walls in London, including one on my own block. It was in front of this one that I heard the following dry exchange between two skinny-jeaned students that put things, I felt, nicely in perspective:

"Isn't that from the film where Natalie Portman shaved her head?"

"Yeah, protesters are using it to make a point."

"Huh. It was a rubbish film, but I wouldn't bother protesting about it."

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<p>Now's the time for a performance like Brad Pitt's in &quot;The Tree of Life&quot;&nbsp;to strike.</p>

Now's the time for a performance like Brad Pitt's in "The Tree of Life" to strike.

Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures

Off the Carpet: Critical condition

With the Gothams tonight and the NYFCC tomorrow, precursor season is primed

I probably use the phrase "take a deep breath" to signal a pause before an awards frame plunge a bit too often this time of year, but the fact is this afternoon really is your last chance to breathe in some (somewhat) unsullied air before the precursor circuit really starts to mold this season into something resembling what it will be in three months' time.

Today, the New York Film Critics Circle will be screening David FIncher's "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo." Today was the group's original date for voting on its year-end superlatives (already noted as asinine in its early nature), but due to the fact that this film had a ready-by date that was immovable (and it still has color timing to be completed, but is nevertheless in a shape in which Fincher is comfortable screening it), they decided to move the date one day. No one asked them to do it, but they did.

The issue with "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" was different. It really isn't ready and wouldn't be before December 2. So, NYFCC president John Anderson publicly and other members privately cast doubts on the film's quality as a result. I'll let you be the judge of that professionalism.

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<p>Matt Damon,&nbsp;Scarlett Johansson and Cameron&nbsp;Crowe on the set of &quot;We Bought a Zoo&quot;</p>

Matt Damon, Scarlett Johansson and Cameron Crowe on the set of "We Bought a Zoo"

Credit: 20th Century Fox

Tom Petty, Bob Dylan, Temple of the Dog: Cameron Crowe and his tunes

The director assembles another killer soundtrack for 'We Bought a Zoo'

I mentioned my thoughts on Cameron Crowe's "We Bought a Zoo" in this morning's round-up. To elaborate a bit, the film has problems. But I don't know if "problems" is the word, because there's no denying that the film works. It's just heavy-handed in a way that doesn't feel organic to the material (unlike the heavy-handedness of, say, "War Horse").

Nevertheless, I have zero desire to dismantle it because its heart is in the right place. It mines legitimate emotion in a number of areas and, knowing what Crowe has been through in his personal life as of late (divorcing his wife of many years, Nancy Wilson), you can see him working through some things with this material. And much of it rings true. It's an uptick from "Elizabethtown," no doubt, and I think he'll find his stride again very soon and before long, we'll have another top-notch Crowe film on our hands.

One thing that stuck out in "We Bought a Zoo," though, was the soundtrack. Of course, it would.

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