NEW YORK – “La La Land,” Damien Chazelle’s evocative musical in which a couple of besotted artists meet and fall in love in a dream-like Los Angeles, was named Best Picture of 2016 on Thursday by the New York Film Critics Circle.
The Best Picture choice was announced after other major categories had been split between two other critics favorites: “Manchester by the Sea,” Kenneth Lonergan’s humorous and heart-wrenching story of personal tragedy and how its repercussions tear apart a family -- and briefly, years later, bring it back together; and “Moonlight,” Barry Jenkins’ luminous tale consisting of three chapters in the life of a young African American man as he grows from a child to adulthood.
Casey Affleck won Best Actor as a withdrawn man who is tasked with becoming the guardian of his nephew in “Manchester by the Sea.” Lonergan was also recognized for his screenplay. Affleck’s co-star Michelle Williams, who plays his ex-wife, was picked for Best Supporting Actress, cited both for her work in “Manchester by the Sea” and in Kelly Reichardt’s “Certain Women.”
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Isabelle Huppert earned the group’s Best Actress Award for her starring work in two European films: Mia Hansen-Løve’s “Things to Come,” as a philosophy professor who undergoes soul-searching after her husband leaves her; and “Elle,” Paul Verhoeven’s darkly-comic psychodrama of a rape victim.
Mahershala Ali won Best Supporting Actor as a drug dealer who becomes a parental figure for a bullied young boy in “Moonlight,” for which Barry Jenkins also earned Best Director honors.
“Moonlight” also picked up the Best Cinematography Award for James Laxton’s bold, dreamlike images that replicated the saturated look of film stocks.
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German director Maren Ade’s delightful comedy “Toni Erdmann,” about a stuffy young businesswoman whose prank-playing father intrudes upon her professional relationships as a means to teach her how to enjoy life, won the Best Foreign Language Film award.
“O.J.: Made in America,” Ezra Edelman’s five-part documentary about the life and tragedies surrounding O.J. Simpson, and about America’s fixation on race and celebrity, won the group’s Best Non-Fiction Award.
The Best First Film Award vote ended in a tie, with the prize going to writer-director Kelly Fremon Craig’s “The Edge of Seventeen” (a comedy starring Haylee Steinfeld as a miserable high school student); and “Krisha,” Trey Edmund Shults’ story of a young woman who rejoins the family she had abandoned years earlier.
Disney’s “Zooptopia,” in which a bunny longs to be a police officer (a profession not exactly open to bunnies), won Best Animated Film.
The group gave a special career award to the three-time Oscar-winning film editor Thelma Schoonmaker (whose latest is Martin Scorsese’s upcoming religious drama, “Silence”), and for the restoration of Julie Dash’s seminal 1991 film, “Daughters of the Dust,” about Gullah women on St. Helena Island off the South Carolina coast. The film is now in re-release in select cities.
The New York Film Critics Circle, chaired by David Edelstein of New York Magazine, is comprised of 37 print and online reviewers based in the city. It is the first critics’ group to announce its best-of choices, which are a major precursor for the Academy Award nominations (which will be announced on Tuesday, January 24, 2017).
However, the NYFCC’s choices often don’t match up with the ultimate Academy Award-winners. Among the group’s picks last year, only Mark Rylance (“Bridge of Spies”) and the animated film “Inside Out” repeated their honors at the Oscars.
Among this year’s most celebrated films which did not receive a mention among today’s honorees were “Arrival,” “Don’t Breathe,” “Don’t Think Twice,” “Eye in the Sky,” “Fences,” “Finding Dory,” “The Handmaiden,” “Hell or High Water,” “Hunt for the Wilderpeople,” “I, Daniel Blake,” “Julieta,” “The Jungle Book,” “Lion,” “Little Men,” “The Lobster,” “Loving,” “Nocturnal Animals,” “Paterson,” “13th” and “A War.”
The New York Film Critics Circle Awards will be handed out in early January.
2016 NYFCC Winners:
Best Picture: “La La Land”
Best Actor: Casey Affleck, “Manchester by the Sea”
Best Actress: Isabelle Huppert for “Elle” and “Things to Come”
Best Supporting Actor: Mahershala Ali for “Moonlight”
Best Supporting Actress: Michelle Williams for “Manchester by the Sea” and “Certain Women”
Best Director: Barry Jenkins, “Moonlight”
Best Screenplay: Kenneth Lonergan, “Manchester by the Sea”
Best Cinematographer: James Laxton, “Moonlight”
Best Foreign Film: “Toni Erdmann”
Best Animated Film: “Zooptopia”
Best Documentary: “O.J.: Made in America”
Best First Film (tie): “The Edge of Seventeen” and “Krisha”
Special Awards: Film editor Thelma Schoonmaker, and the restoration of Julie Dash’s “Daughters of the Dust”
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