"Topsy-Turvy is a one-of-a-kind period piece that is thrilling, incredibly entertaining to watch and incredibly profound," said Owen Gleiberman, the circle's chairman. The film, which opens Friday, is about a moment late in the careers of Sir Arthur Sullivan and W.S. Gilbert, pioneers of a singular brand of comic opera.
Richard Farnsworth won the circle's best actor award for his role in The Straight Story, and Hilary Swank was voted best actress for Boys Don't Cry. Spike Jonze won best first film for Being John Malkovich.
"I think overall, our awards this year are a testament not only to new talent coming up but to the extraordinary range of films being made these days," said Gleiberman, a critic for Entertainment Weekly.
"Our best picture is a period piece set in Victorian London, our best first film is Being John Malkovich, this deadpan surrealist comedy, our best actress is Hilary Swank, playing this very up-to-the-minute gender-bending role reversal drama, our best actor is Richard Farnsworth creating one of the most memorable portraits in movie history of a senior citizen," Gleiberman said.
And in a first this year, the circle introduced an award for best animated film. The winner was South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut, produced by Trey Parker and Matt Stone.
The prizes are among a series of critics' awards ahead of the presentation of the Academy Awards in the spring. The Los Angeles Film Critics Circle and National Board of Review announced their awards last week. The prizes of the National Society of Film Critics will come Jan. 8.
The New York Film Critics Circle will present its awards Jan. 9 at Windows On The World, in the World Trade Center in Manhattan.
Other picks by The New York Film Critics Circle:
- Best Director -- Mike Leigh, for Topsy-Turvy.
- Supporting Actress -- Catherine Keener, Being John Malkovich.
- Supporting Actor -- John Malkovich, for Being John Malkovich.
- Foreign Language Film -- All About My Mother (Spain), directed by Pedro Almodovar.
- Screenplay -- Jim Taylor and Alexander Payne, Election.
- Non-Fiction -- Buena Vista Social Club, directed by Wim Wenders.
- Cinematography -- Freddie Francis for The Straight Story.
The New York Film Critics Circle, founded in 1935, is an association of critics from major New York-based newspapers and magazines.