If you're an 11 year old boy, this is the girl you want to meet - Chloe Grace Moretz in Hugo.

If you’re an 11 year old boy, this is the girl you want to meet – Chloe Grace Moretz in Hugo.

My Top 20:

  1. Hugo
  2. The Descendants
  3. The Artist
  4. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
  5. Midnight in Paris
  6. A Separation
  7. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
  8. The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn
  9. The Tree of Life
  10. The Ides of March
  11. Incendies
  12. Jane Eyre
  13. Beginners
  14. Contagion
  15. My Week With Marilyn
  16. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
  17. Rango
  18. Moneyball
  19. Margin Call
  20. Take Shelter

note on the picture caption:  The following was suggested by my mother: “Would an 11 year old boy be interested in girls?”  I give as the following evidence, the girls I had crushes on by the time I turned 11 on 24 October 1985 (in chronological order):  Elaine Ermides, Jessica Checco, Alyssa Hartwell, Debbie Edelman, Carrie Beth Kerns.  I end by quoting Alvy Singer: “Well, I never had a latency period.  I can’t help it.”

random trivia question for 2011:  What do The Bourne Legacy, The Dark Knight Rises, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, The Avengers and The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 all have in common?  Answer, just below the Nighthawk Notables.

Consensus Awards:

  • Best Picture:  The Artist
  • Best Director:  Michel Hazanavicius  (The Artist)
  • Best Actor:  Brad Pitt  (Moneyball  /  The Tree of Life)
  • Best Actress:  Meryl Streep  (The Iron Lady)
  • Best Supporting Actor:  Christopher Plummer  (Beginners)
  • Best Supporting Actress:  Jessica Chastain  (The Help  /  The Tree of Life  /  Take Shelter)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay:  Moneyball
  • Best Original Screenplay:  Midnight in Paris
  • Best Cinematography:  The Tree of Life
  • Best Animated Film:  Rango
  • Best Foreign Film:  A Separation

Academy Awards:

  • Best Picture:  The Artist
  • Best Director:  Michel Hazanavicius  (The Artist)
  • Best Actor:  Jean Dujardin  (The Artist)
  • Best Actress:  Meryl Streep  (The Iron Lady)
  • Best Supporting Actor:  Christopher Plummer  (Beginners)
  • Best Supporting Actress:  Octavia Spencer  (The Help)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay:  The Descendants
  • Best Original Screenplay:  Midnight in Paris
  • Best Cinematography:  Hugo
  • Best Animated Film:  Rango
  • Best Foreign Film:  A Separation
The critics loved it.  The audiences?  Well, let's just say they were confused.

The critics loved it. The audiences? Well, let’s just say they were confused.

Top 10 Films  (Top 1000):

  1. The Tree of Life  –  (#37)
  2. A Separation  –  (#95)
  3. The Artist  –  (#115)
  4. The Descendants  –  (#124)
  5. Hugo  –  (#137)
  6. Take Shelter  –  (#166)
  7. Drive  –  (#174)
  8. Moneyball  –  (#180)
  9. Melancholia  –  (#212)
  10. Margaret  –  (#240)

note:  Because so much of the focus for the Top 1000 is on classic films, because they have had a longer time to sink into the critical consciousness, they have a separate list called the Top 250 of the 2000′s.  The number in parenthesis is for their rank in the Top 250 for the 21st Century.  There are no post-2007 films on the Top 1000.  And with this list, there has only been the original update from January of 2011, so there hasn’t been much time for reflection on these films.

Top 10 Films  (Awards Points):

  1. The Artist  –  2486
  2. Hugo  –  1682
  3. The Descendants  –  1355
  4. The Help  –  1297
  5. The Tree of Life  –  1249
  6. Moneyball  –  1189
  7. Drive  –  751
  8. Midnight in Paris  –  732
  9. War Horse –  658
  10. My Week with Marilyn  –  634

note:  The 206 points for Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is the lowest total for a Best Picture nominee since 1954.  It’s 26th place finish on the year is the lowest ever for a BP nominee.

Top 10 Films  (2011 Best Picture Awards):

  1. The Artist
  2. The Descendants
  3. Hugo
  4. The Help
  5. War Horse
  6. Moneyball
  7. Midnight in Paris
  8. The Tree of Life
  9. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
  10. Drive

note:  War Horse and Moneyball actually tie for 5th place.  For the first time since 2000 five different films win a critics award for Best Picture making Melancholia the first film ever to win a major critics award for Best Picture and not finish in the Top 10 for the year.

Harry Potter goes out with a bang and the box office record for a franchise.

Harry Potter goes out with a bang and the box office record for a franchise.

Top 10 Films  (Domestic Box Office Gross):

  1. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2  –  $381.01 mil
  2. Transformers: Dark of the Moon  –  $352.39 mil
  3. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1  –  $281.81 mil
  4. The Hangover Part II  –  $254.46 mil
  5. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides  –  $241.07 mil
  6. Fast Five  –  $209.83 mil
  7. Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol  –  $209.39 mil
  8. Cars 2  –  $191.45 mil
  9. Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows  –  $186.84 mil
  10. Thor  –  $181.03 mil

note:  The top 9 are all sequels and #10 is a quasi-sequel.  To get to a film with no prior film connection you have to go down to The Help at #13 and there are only two non-connected films in the top 17 (Bridesmaids is the other).

Top 10 Films  (Worldwide Box Office Gross):

  1. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2  –  $1328.1 mil
  2. Transformers: Dark of the Moon  –  $1123.7 mil
  3. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides  –  $1043.9 mil
  4. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1  –  $712.2 mil
  5. Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol  –  $694.7 mil
  6. Kung Fu Panda 2  –  $665.7 mil
  7. Fast Five  –  $626.1 mil
  8. The Hangover Part II  –  $581.5 mil
  9. The Smurfs  –  $563.7 mil
  10. Cars 2  –  $559.9 mil

note:  In spite of under-performing on the domestic scene, Pirates and Panda both do incredible box office overseas.  In fact, overseas box office goes through the roof.  While none of the film breaks the Top 12 all-time on the domestic list, Harry Potter ends up 3rd all-time on the international list, Pirates is 4th and Transformers is 5th.  Pirates earns over $90 million less domestically than any previous film to earn over $1 billion worldwide.  Although Tintin actually has the highest percentage of any major film (79.3%) while The Help has the smallest percentage on the international market (19.8%).

Nighthawk Golden Globes:


  • Best Picture:  Hugo
  • Best Director:  Martin Scorsese  (Hugo)
  • Best Actor:  George Clooney  (The Descendants)
  • Best Actress:  Meryl Streep  (The Iron Lady)
  • Best Supporting Actor:  Christopher Plummer  (Beginners)
  • Best Supporting Actress:  Octavia Spencer  (The Help)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay:  The Descendants
  • Best Original Screenplay:  Beginners
Marilyn was an under-appreciated actress.  But Michelle is a great actress, especially at being Marilyn.

Marilyn was an under-appreciated actress. But Michelle is a great actress, especially at being Marilyn.


  • Best Picture:  The Artist
  • Best Director:  Michel Hazanavicius  (The Artist)
  • Best Actor:  Jean Dujardin  (The Artist)
  • Best Actress:  Michelle Williams  (My Week with Marilyn)
  • Best Supporting Actor:  Corey Stoll  (Midnight in Paris)
  • Best Supporting Actress:  Berenice Bejo  (The Artist)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay:  My Week with Marilyn
  • Best Original Screenplay:  Midnight in Paris

Nighthawk Awards:

  • Best Picture:  Hugo
  • Best Director:  Martin Scorsese  (Hugo)
  • Best Actor:  George Clooney  (The Descendants)
  • Best Actress:  Michelle Williams  (My Week with Marilyn)
  • Best Supporting Actor:  Christopher Plummer  (Beginners)
  • Best Supporting Actress:  Octavia Spencer  (The Help)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay:  The Descendants
  • Best Original Screenplay:  Midnight in Paris
  • Best Editing:  Hugo
  • Best Cinematography:  Hugo
  • Best Original Score:  The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn
  • Best Sound:  Hugo
  • Best Art Direction:  Hugo
  • Best Visual Effects:  Hugo
  • Best Sound Editing:  Hugo
  • Best Costume Design:  Hugo
  • Best Makeup:  Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
  • Best Original Song:  “Life’s a Happy Song”  (The Muppets)
  • Best Animated Film:  The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn
  • Best Foreign Film:  A Separation
This one's not even close.  Easily the best Foreign Film of 2011.

This one’s not even close. Easily the best Foreign Film of 2011.  In fact, the best Foreign Film since 2006.

Top 5 Foreign Films:

  1. A Separation
  2. Le Havre
  3. Footnote
  4. The Skin I Live In
  5. Circumstance

Well, at least pretty much everybody got it right in 2011.  A Separation won the Oscar, Globe, BFCA, NYFC, NSFC, CFC and NBR awards for Best Foreign Film and is easily my first place film here.  The Boston Society of Film Critics chose Incendies, which would rank second here if it hadn’t been from 2010.  The LAFC went with City of Life and Death which wasn’t a particularly great choice (though not a particularly bad choice either), but they at least gave A Separation Best Screenplay.  And the BAFTA Award went to The Skin I Live In, which was pretty good.  There wasn’t a lot of consensus aside from A Separation.  The Skin I Live In was nominated at the Globes and the BFCA.  But the only other film to earn multiple nominations was In Darkness (Oscar, BFCA noms) which was good but not great.  Meanwhile, Le Havre only got a BFCA nom (it didn’t even make the semi-finals at the Oscars), Footnote only got an Oscar nom and Circumstance, a really wonderful film about two Iranian girls discovering their sexuality was overlooked by almost everyone.

Actually, every line that Corey Stoll says in Midnight in Paris is the best line of the year.

Actually, every line that Corey Stoll says in Midnight in Paris is the best line of the year.

Nighthawk Notables:

  • Best Film to Watch Over and Over:  Midnight in Paris
  • Best Line  (comedic):  “A man in love with a woman from a different era.  I see a photograph.”  “I see a film.”  “I see an insurmountable problem.”  “I see a rhinoceros.”  Tom Cordier, Adrien de Van, Owen Wilson and Adrian Brody in Midnight in Paris
  • Best Line  (dramatic):  “Yes. It was a good book because it was an honest book, and that’s what war does to men. And there’s nothing fine and noble about dying in the mud unless you die gracefully. And then it’s not only noble but brave.”  Corey Stoll in Midnight in Paris
  • Best Opening:  Beginners
  • Best Ending:  Contagion
  • Best Scene:  the courtyard apocalypse in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
  • Best Use of a Song  (comedic):  “Life’s a Happy Song”  (The Muppets)
  • Best Use of a Song  (dramatic):  “All I Want is You”  (Contagion)
  • Best Ensemble:  Midnight in Paris
  • Funniest Film:  The Trip
  • Funniest Performance:  Stephen Fry in Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows
  • Most Over-rated Film:  We Need to Talk About Kevin
  • Worst Film:  Your Highness
  • Worst Sequel:  Transformers: Dark of the Moon
  • Worst Remake:  Footloose
  • Performance to Fall in Love With:  Berenice Bejo  (The Artist)
  • Sexiest Performance:  Michelle Williams  (My Week with Marilyn)
  • Highest Attractiveness / Acting Ability Ratio:  Natalie Portman in Your Highness
  • Most Awkward Sex Scene:  Tiny Furniture
  • Best Guilty Pleasure:  Burke and Hare
  • Best Soundtrack:  The Muppets
  • Watch the Film, SKIP the Book:  The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
  • Female Star of the Year:  Jessica Chastain  (The Tree of Life  /  The Help  /  Take Shelter  /  Coriolanus  /  The Debt  /  Texas Killing Fields)
  • Male Star of the Year:  Michael Fassbender  (Shame  /  A Dangerous Method  /  Jane Eyre  /  X-Men: First Class)
  • Coolest Performance:  Corey Stoll  (Midnight in Paris)
  • Best Teaser:  Puss in Boots
  • Best Trailer:  Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
  • Best Tag-line:  “Looking good never looked so good.”  (Puss in Boots)
  • Funniest Cameo:  Hunter S. Thompson in Rango
  • Best Cameo:  Gary Oldman in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
  • Best Animated Character Performance:  Ashley Jenson in Arthur Christmas  (Bryony)

Trivia Answer:  In spite of the fact that all five films above (The Bourne Legacy, The Dark Knight Rises, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, The Avengers and The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2) might seem the last thing to have anything in common with a Woody Allen film, they are all related in that everyone has someone in it who had been in the most commonly listed film in the Notables – Midnight in Paris.  We have Corey Stoll as Hemingway (The Bourne Legacy), Marion Cotillard (The Dark Knight Rises), Léa Seydoux as the French woman from the antique shop (M:I – GP), Tom Hiddleston as Scott Fitzgerald (Avengers) and Michael Sheen (Twilight).

Film History:  The Harry Potter franchise (the largest-grossing franchise in film history) comes to an end when Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 sets a new record for opening weekend box office ($169 million), but one that will only last until the following May.  Its worldwide box office opening weekend record ($483 million) still stands (at the moment).  For the first time we have 3 films break $1 billion at the worldwide box office; we also have a record 12 films make over $500 million worldwide.  The Tree of Life wins the Palme d’Or at Cannes while Alexander Sokurov’s Faust wins the Golden Lion in Venice.  Like Crazy wins the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance.  The Artist wins Best Picture, Director and Actor at the Independent Spirit Awards, the first film to do so and go on to win the Oscar since Platoon in 1986.  The Descendents wins Best Picture at the Satellite Awards.  Adam Sandler earns a record 6 Razzie nominations and Jack and Jill, which he stars in, does a complete sweep of the Razzies – winning in all 10 categories.  Pete Postlethwaite dies in January (and then earns a posthumous BAFTA nomination), Maria Schneider dies in February (causing the stats for my Year in Film 1973 post which has a picture of her in the bathtub in Last Tango in Paris to go through the roof), Elizabeth Taylor dies on 23 March (my Year in Film 1958 has a similar jump, though she’s not in the bath), Sidney Lumet in April, Peter Falk in June, Ken Russell in November and Nicol Williamson in December.

Academy Awards:  You can find a variety of trivia here, which I pointed out on the morning of the Oscar nominations, but there are a few other things which I either didn’t realize at the time or wouldn’t know until after the actual awards.  The Help becomes the first film since 2001, the second since 1981 and only the third since 1965 to get three acting nominations without a Director or Screenplay nomination.  It becomes the first film since 1944 to get three acting nominations and a Picture nomination but not Director or Screenplay.  The Help and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close join The Blind Side as the only Best Picture nominees since 1935 to get acting nominations but nothing else (and The Help is the only film to ever get multiple acting nominations to go along with Best Picture but receive no other nominations).  The Artist, of course, becomes the first silent film to win Best Picture since 1928; it is also the first black-and-white winner since 1993 and only the second since 1960.  For the third time Martin Scorsese has a film that has the most nominations in the year (or is tied for the most) and for the third time that film loses Best Picture.  A Separation becomes the first film to win Best Foreign Film while also earning other Oscar nominations since 2004 (during that time Pan’s Labyrinth, The White Ribbon and Biutiful all lost).  Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close becomes the lowest ranked film on metacritic to earn a Best Picture nomination (a 46).  The Artist becomes the first Best Picture winner since 2004 to not win a Screenplay award but is the first since 2003 to win Best Costume Design.

First of all, Academy make up your mind.  If motion-capture is eligible (and your list says it is), then Tintin belongs among the nominees.  If it’s not, then decide that.  Quit being stupid about it.  Oh, and Arthur Christmas belonged in the nominees as well.  Second, you gave an Oscar for Makeup to The Iron Lady over Harry Potter?  Were you that determined not to give any Oscar to any Harry Potter film?  And you thought the costumes from W.E. were better than the ones from three different eras in Midnight in Paris?  And since I’ll deal with Picture in the other post, I’ll end here with Best Original Song.  It wasn’t a great year for original songs from films.  But Elton John’s “Hello Hello” from Gnomeo and Juliet was charming and “Coeur Velant” from Hugo was good.  But that they only nominated two songs and one of them was the song from Rio is bad enough.  But how they could possibly not nominate “Life’s a Happy Song”?  I had mixed feeling on The Muppets, but that song is absolutely brilliant, a wonderful song, with wonderful lyrics.  It even has not one, not two, but three magnificent scenes where it is used, since it breaks in half the first time and is perfectly reprised at the end of the film.  So many songs are just love songs.  This is more than that – a wonderful song that can be about love or simply about friendship and it’s funny and charming and simply great.  In a century that has already given us songs like “A Mighty Wind” and “Jai Ho”, it might be the best song written for a film so far.

  • Worst Oscar:  Best Makeup for The Iron Lady
  • Worst Oscar Nomination:  Best Picture for Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
  • Worst Oscar Omission:  Best Original Song for “Life’s a Happy Song” from The Muppets
  • Worst Oscar-Nominated Film:  Transformers: Dark of the Moon
  • Best Eligible Film with No Oscar Nominations:  Contagion
  • Worst Oscar Category:  Best Original Song
  • Best Oscar Category:  Best Director
  • Oscar / Nighthawk Award Agreements:  Best Adapted Screenplay, Original Screenplay, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Cinematography, Sound, Art Direction, Visual Effects, Sound Editing, Foreign Film

Golden Globes:  Hugo becomes only the second film since 2001 to win Best Director but no other awards; it is also the second Martin Scorsese film since 2001 to do so (The Departed was the other).  The Artist becomes only the second film since 2003 to win Best Picture at the Golden Globes and repeat at the Oscars.  After two awful years for Best Picture – Comedy / Musical, the category bounces back with The Artist, Midnight in Paris, My Week With Marilyn, 50/50 and Bridesmaids (though they would have done better with Young Adult in place of one of the last two).  Meryl Streep earns her 24th feature film nomination and 7th win, though it is her first win in Best Actress – Drama since 1982.  Woody Allen earns his 12th and 13th nominations but amazingly his Best Screenplay win is only his second Globe (having won Best Screenplay in 1985).  George Clooney, on the other hand, wins his 3rd feature film Globe, earning his 7th, 8th and 9th nominations; it is the second time (after 2005) in which Clooney wins an acting award but also earns directing and writing nominations for a different film (both times the film that Clooney directs is nominated for Picture – Drama, Director, Screenplay and Actor – Drama, with Clooney not that lead actor and both times his film loses all four nominations).  Clooney’s Ides of March becomes the first film since 2005 to be nominated for Picture, Director and Screenplay at the Globes and not go on to earn a Best Picture nomination at the Oscars.  Just like in 2006 and 2007, the two Best Picture awards, Best Director and Best Screenplay are split among four films.  In fact, The Artist (Picture – Comedy, Actor – Comedy, Score) and The Descendants (Picture – Drama, Actor – Drama) are the only films to win multiple awards.

Awards:  The Artist would only come in third in points at the critics, but in a sense would be the big winner; it would be the only film to win more than one Best Picture award (New York Film Critics and Boston Society of Film Critics).  But its only other awards would be Director (New York), Screenplay (Chicago) and Score (Boston).  The other four Best Picture awards would be split among Tree of Life (Chicago), The Descendants (LA Film Critics), Hugo (National Board of Review) and Melancholia (National Society of Film Critics).  And while Moneyball wouldn’t win any Best Picture awards, it would have the second most points by winning three Best Actor awards (NYFC, NSFC, BSFC) and three Best Screenplay awards (NYFC, BSFC, CFC).  But the big winner by far would be Tree of Life, taking home, in addition to its Best Picture award, two Best Actor awards shared with Moneyball (NYFC, NSFC), four Best Supporting Actress awards (NYFC, NSFC, LAFC, CFC – all but Chicago shared with at least two other Jessica Chastain performances), three Best Director awards (NSFC, LAFC, CFC) and a clean sweep of all five Best Cinematography awards (the NBR doesn’t give out the award).  The other dominant film would be A Separation, which would win Best Screenplay from the LAFC and NSFC and would win four Best Foreign Film awards (NYFC, NSFC, NBR, CFC).

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo does what many thought might never happen again with the expanded Oscar lineup – earns nomination from the PGA, DGA and WGA but fails to earn a Best Picture nomination at the Oscars; indeed, it shares with The Dark Knight the ignominious distinction of being nominated by all three guilds but failing to earn Oscar nominations for any of those categories (Picture, Director, Screenplay) – the only two times this has ever happened.  Woody Allen wins his 5th WGA award; his 1000 career points are 200 more than any other writer in history.  His win for Midnight in Paris also makes it the sixth straight decade he has earned a nomination from the WGA.  The Help ties American Beauty and Chicagos‘ record for most SAG awards with 3, winning Ensemble, Actress and Supporting Actress.  Its 260 points at SAG (also earning a second Supporting Actress nom) is the 4th most ever, behind American Beauty, Chicago and Shakespeare in Love.  While SAG disagrees with the Oscar on Best Actress for the third time in five years, it marks the 4th year in a row they’ve agreed on Supporting Actress, the 5th year in a row for Supporting Actor and the 8th year in a row for Actor.  The 9 nominations and 4 wins for The Artist at the guild awards are the fewest for an Oscar champ since 2006 (it wasn’t eligible for the WGA – the second straight Best Picture winner to be so).  The King’s Speech and The Artist become the first back-to-back Best Pictures at the Oscars to fail to earn WGA nominations since 1981 and 82 when Chariots of Fire and Gandhi were similarly ineligible.  The one guild nomination for Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (for Sound Editing) is the worst showing for any Oscar nominee for Best Picture since Kiss of the Spider Woman in 1985 (when there were only four guild awards).  Only two films manage to secure all four major nominations (PGA, DGA, WGA, SAG Ensemble) – Midnight in Paris and The Descendants, which split the WGA awards.  Hugo and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo miss out on SAG, The Artist (which wins the PGA and DGA) on the WGA (where it is ineligible) and The Help and Bridesmaids on the DGA.

The Artist becomes the first film since Atonement in 2007 to get nominated for the big 5 awards at the BAFTAs (Picture, Director, Screenplay, Actor, Actress); it becomes the first film since Annie Hall in 1977 to win four of them (all but Actress).  It wins 7 awards (tied for 2nd all-time), out of 12 nominations (tied for 15th all-time) and earns 580 points (7th all-time), yet exceeds The King’s Speech, from 2010, in none of them (they tie for wins).  The Artist leads in nominations but was tied for fourth in the longlist with 13 bids.  It was beaten out by My Week with Marilyn (16 bids, 6 noms), Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (16 bids, 12 noms) and The Iron Lady (14 bids, 4 noms) and tied with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (13 bids, 2 noms) and Midnight in Paris (13 bids, 1 nom), making it the most successful at converting the longlist to nominations.  Tinker Tailor wins only 2 awards – Best British Film and Best Adapted Screenplay.  Hugo earns 9 noms, including Director but doesn’t get a Picture nomination.

The Broadcast Film Critics continue to prove themselves the best barometer for the Oscars, with all 9 of the Oscar BP nominees earning BP nominations at the BFCA.  The lone film to earn a Picture nomination not to continue on to the Oscars is Drive.  With 445 points, The Artist sets a new record for the BFCA, earning 10 noms and winning 4 awards, including Picture and Director.  Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese are both nominated – the first directors to earn 4 BFCA noms while Meryl Streep earns her 5th BFCA nom (tying Cate Blanchett and Nicole Kidman for 1st).  Hugo ties The Artist with 10 noms but only manages to win Art Direction.  Joining them with Picture, Director and Screenplay noms are The Descendants and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (the only major precursor to give it nominations).

Best Director:  Michel Hazanavicius graduates from French spy spoofs to the big-time with The Artist.  He wins the NYFC, DGA, Oscar, BAFTA, BFCA and Indie Spirit (and earns Globe and Satellite noms) and outdistances Martin Scorsese for the Consensus Award.  Marty’s second place finish is the fourth time he’s finished second in the Consensus (Raging Bull, Gangs of New York, The Aviator) to go along with his two overwhelming wins (GoodFellas, The Departed); he wins the BSFC, NBR and the Globe and earns DGA, Oscar, BAFTA, BFCA and Satellite noms.  Marty also wins the Nighthawk – the fifth time he has done so – while Hazanavicius comes in second.  The rest of the Consensus list are Terrence Malick for The Tree of Life (LAFC, NSFC, CFC wins, Oscar nom), Alexander Payne for The Descendants (DGA, Oscar, Globe, BFCA, Satellite, Indie noms) and Woody Allen for Midnight in Paris (DGA, Oscar, Globe, Satellite noms).  My other nominees are Tomas Alfredson for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (BAFTA, Satellite noms), Malick and Allen.  My 6 through 10 are Payne, Steven Spielberg for The Adventures of Tintin, Asghar Farhadi for A Separation, David Fincher for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (DGA nom) and Steven Soderbergh for Contagion.

Best Adapted Screenplay:  In spite of losing to The Descendants at the Oscars and WGA, Moneyball is the Consensus winner.  It beats The Descendants at the BFCA and wins critics award in New York, Boston and Chicago (and earns Globe and BAFTA noms as well).  The Descendants wins the NBR and also earns Globe and BAFTA noms for a solid second.  They are followed by BAFTA winner (and Oscar nominee) Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy in third and a three-way tie for fourth between Hugo (Oscar, WGA, BFCA noms), The Ides of March (Oscar, Globe, BAFTA noms) and The Help (WGA, BAFTA, BFCA noms).  My own top 5 are The Descendants, Hugo, Tinker, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 and Ides.  My 6 through 10 are Moneyball, Incendies, Jane Eyre, My Week with Marilyn and The Adventures of Tintin.

Best Original Screenplay:  We easily could have been headed for another year where the lack of a film’s eligibility for the Writers Guild determined the winner of the Consensus.  But, with the final win for Midnight in Paris at the Oscars, it affirmed it as the Consensus winner over The Artist (and it had beaten it head to head at the Globes and BFCA).  The Artist had beaten Midnight at the BAFTAs (and The Artist added the CFC Award to its haul) but Midnight had won the WGA where The Artist wasn’t eligible.  In third was A Separation, with an Oscar nom and wins from the LAFC and NSFC.  The final two consensus spots went to 50/50 (WGA, BFCA noms, NBR win) and Bridesmaids (Oscar, WGA, BAFTA noms).  My own winner is Midnight in Paris, followed by The Artist, A Separation, Beginners (a great script that went unrewarded) and Margin Coll (Oscar nom).  My 6 through 10 are Young Adult (WGA and BFCA noms), Contagion (see below), Rango, Take Shelter and Circumstance (not a great year for original scripts).

Best Actor:  In spite of not winning any of the five awards groups (SAG, Oscar, BAFTA, Globe, BFCA), Brad Pitt would win the Consensus for his performances in Moneyball and Tree of Life because of the critics; he would be cited for both films from the NYFC and NSFC while the Boston critics would simply cite Moneyball.  He would be followed on the Consensus list by Jean Dujardin for The Artist (winner of 4 of the awards groups, losing to Clooney at the BFCA), George Clooney for The Descendants (NBR, Globe – Drama, BFCA wins, SAG, Oscar, BAFTA noms), Michael Fassbender for Shame (BAFTA, Globe, BFCA noms, though his win at the LAFC would also cite A Dangerous Method, Jane Eyre and even X-Men: First Class) and Leonardo DiCaprio for J. Edgar (SAG, Globe, BFCA noms).  My own winner would be Clooney, followed by Dujardin, Gary Oldman for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (Oscar, BAFTA noms), Pitt (for Moneyball) and Fassbender (for Shame).  My 6 through 10 would be Michael Shannon for Take Shelter (CFC win), Ryan Gosling for Ides of March (Globe nom), Gosling again, for Drive (BFCA nom), Damien Bechir for A Better Life (SAG, Oscar noms) and Antonio Banderas for The Skin I Live In.

Best Actress:  The Consensus Best Actress award came right down to the wire at the Oscars.  Meryl Streep had to win the Oscar to avoid being squeaked out by Michelle Williams.  If Williams managed to win the Oscar, she would have a solid win.  If she didn’t, it would be a very small win.  But, if Streep won, then she would win her 5th Consensus Best Actress (plus one for Supporting Actress).  Streep won, just as she had won at BAFTA and the Globes and the NYFC (she also was nominated at SAG and the BFCA).  Williams had won in Boston and Chicago and won the Globe – Comedy and earned SAG, Oscar, BAFTA and BFCA noms.  Viola Davis, who had won SAG and the BFCA (and earned Oscar, BAFTA and Globe noms) for her performance in The Help came in third.  They were followed by Tilda Swinton in We Need to Talk About Kevin (NBR win, SAG, BAFTA, Globe, BFCA noms) and Glenn Close for Albert Nobbs (SAG, Oscar, Globe noms).  My own list begins with Williams, for her truly resplendent performance as Marilyn Monroe, followed by Streep and Davis (it probably doesn’t hurt that Williams’ film was much better than the other two).  My final two slots though go Rooney Mara for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Oscar and Globe noms) and Charlize Theron in Young Adult (Globe – Comedy, BFCA noms).  But Swinton is my #6, followed by Mia Wasikowska in Jane Eyre, Close, Kirsten Dunst in Melancholia (NSFC winner) and Catherine Deneuve in Potiche.

Best Supporting Actor:  Albert Brooks had the early lead in the Consensus, winning four critics awards for his performance in Drive (NYFC, NSFC, BSFC, CFC) to the two for Christopher Plummer in Beginners (LAFC, NBR).  But Plummer would win all five awards groups (Oscar, SAG, BAFTA, Globes, BFCA) while Brooks wouldn’t even get nominations from SAG, the Oscars or BAFTAs.  They would be followed by Kenneth Branagh as Laurence Olivier in My Week with Marilyn (earning noms from all five awards groups), ironically since Branagh’s previous Oscar nomination was for Henry V, which Olivier had also earned an Oscar nomination for.  The final two slots would go to Jonah Hill for Moneyball (SAG, Oscar, Globe, BAFTA noms) and Nick Nolte for Warrior (SAG, Oscar, BFCA noms).  My winner is Plummer followed by Corey Stoll for his magnificent performance as Hemingway in Midnight in Paris, Branagh, Patton Oswalt for Young Adult (BFCA nom) and Ben Kingsley as Georges Méliès in Hugo.  My 6 through 10 are Brooks, George Clooney for Ides of March, Kevin Spacey for Margin Call, John Hurt for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and Philip Seymour Hoffman for Ides of March (BAFTA nom).

Best Supporting Actress:  Jessica Chastain takes the Consensus Award for six performances.  For the most part, she is rewarded for The Help, the film for which she received her five nominations (SAG, Oscar, BAFTA, Globe, BFCA).  But the critics took more notice of her other performances.  Her win in Chicago was simply for Tree of Life.  Her wins from the NYFC and NSFC were for The Help, Tree of Life and Take Shelter.  But the LAFC cited six performances, adding on The Debt, Texas Killing Fields and Coriolanus.  In second place is the actress who beat Chastain at all five awards groups, her Help co-star Octavia Spencer.  They are followed by Melissa McCarthy for Bridesmaids (BSFC winner, SAG, Oscar, BAFTA, BFCA noms), Berenice Bejo for The Artist (all five nominations, though her BAFTA nom is as the lead) and Shailene Woodley for The Descendants (NBR win, Globe and BFCA noms).  If I gave my awards for a body of work during the year, Chastain would run away with it; it is a year unlike almost any other in film history.  But, I go with individual performances, so though she appears a whopping 4 times in my Top 12, she never gets above 4th place.  My own winner is Spencer, followed by Woodley, Bejo, Chastain (for Tree) and Carey Mulligan (for Shame).  My 6 through 10 are Leila Hatami for A Separation, Chastain again (for The Help), Mulligan again (for Drive), Chastain a third time (for Take Shelter) and Chloe Grace Moretz for Hugo.  And, after Vanessa Redgrave for Coriolanus, would come Chastain a fourth time (also for Coriolanus).

Soderbergh, the master of the ensemble, does it again.

Soderbergh, the master of the ensemble, does it again.

Under-appreciated Film of the Year:

Contagion  (dir. Steven Soderbergh)

Contagion ends with a one-two punch that hits the heart and the head.  Matt Damon is a man who is trying desperately to protect his daughter, Jory.  Her stepmother and half-brother were the first known American victims of a virus that has been devastating the nation and the world.  As the world has struggled to come to grips with what is going on, Damon has watched as society has started to crumble around him.  He has a chance to protect his daughter (it turns out he has a natural immunity to the virus) and he is going to do it.  He was additionally hit emotionally when he discovered that his wife had a tryst with an ex on her way home from Hong Kong and he first thinks that might be how she got sick (though we, as viewers, already know she has brought it back with her from Hong Kong).  Now his daughter wants desperately to have a normal life, wants to be able to kiss the guy she likes, to be able to dance with him at the prom.  But Damon won’t allow her out, won’t allow her to interact with anyone that might potentially get her sick.  He won’t take the chance of losing her.

But the disease is finally being attacked by organizations that are giving people a fighting chance.  A vaccine has finally been delivered and it starts going out, based on a lottery system.  And so we come to the final moments of the film and we see the young man standing at the front door of the house.  He holds up his bracelet, the proof that he has been saved and can no longer be any sort of biological threat to Jory.  And they go inside to the living room which Damon has set up as a prom just for them.

We have watched society struggling to hold together, desperate people who will kidnap a doctor in order to get an early shipment of the vaccine (and the doctor who will return to them to warn them when it turns out she has been traded for a placebo).  We have watched one doctor who is so desperate to track the disease, to be on the spot and discover everything she can that she soon dies along with so many others.  We watch a blogger try to create a panic for a cure, claiming that homeopathic treatment has helped him recover from the virus when he was never really sick.  We see people at their very best, doing everything they can to save as many people as possible; if they start with those that they love, can we really blame them?  We see people at their very worst, doing what they can to make a profit at whatever cost to their humanity.

We have seen all of these roles acted out by some of the very best in the acting profession.  It’s a true ensemble cast.  There is no lead star.  There are just so many good actors in good roles – Matt Damon, Marion Cotillard, Laurence Fishburne, Kate Winslet, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, John Hawkes, Elliot Gould – all of them utterly believable at any moment and difficult to choose one over any other.  And the film perfectly balances all the different parts of the story, never leaving us trailing, but never lacking in detail.  We move seamlessly from one storyline to another just as the virus moves among the people, wiping them out.  And it isn’t just the editing that’s first-rate here, or the acting.  There is the direction, the script which never lacks, the score (especially at the end), and the makeup.  Oh, the makeup.  There is one particular scene and if it’s CGI, I’m impressed and if it’s makeup, I’m more impressed with the acting ability of Paltrow to be able to be there during that scene as they perform an autopsy to find out what killed her.

But to get back to that scene.  Jory calls to her dad.  He’s upstairs and has been looking for the camera.  Downstairs, his daughter has started dancing, a slow dance, the way only young teens can do, that hints that they want more but have no idea what the next step is.  And the music, oh the music of “All I Want is You” by U2, one of the best and most beautiful of all rock ballads, with the wonderful, so appropriate line “All the promises that we make / From the cradle to the grave / And all I want is you.”  But upstairs, her dad has found the camera and there are the pictures of his wife on that fateful (and ultimately fatal) trip.  And there is the past before him and all he can do is cry for all the things that have been lost.  But he goes downstairs and his eyes meet those of his daughter and there is so much future still before them.  And you can almost see it in Damon’s expression – this is what he has been fighting for and what he has saved.  And the scene fades out with the music still playing.  And what a beautiful ending it is.

But it isn’t quite done.  Throughout the film, we have followed the progression of the virus, with captions like “Day 3”.  And now the pounding score comes on and we see a bulldozer knocking over a palm tree.  A bat, who has lost his home, flies away.  It finds a banana and finds a new perch to sit, above a pig pen.  The banana it has been eating falls into the pen and is eaten by a pig.  We follow that pig through its selection for a restaurant and through its preparation by the chef.  And we watch the chef wipe the blood on his apron and go out to meet a high-paying customer and shake her hand.  And we see what Gwyneth has brought back for the world to discover and the words come up on the screen: “Day 1”.