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It's Michelle/Marilyn for Dallas, Florida, Vegas and Chicago

The critical map continues to unfold with only three films scoring repeatedly: The Artist, The Descendants and The Tree of Life. All of them recently picking up another "best of year" prize. I had expected Hugo to feature more prominently after its high profile NBR win but that hasn't come to pass. But isn't it awfully nice to see a year with three major critical players even if you don't much like one of them (for me that's The Descendants). In short: Death to sweeps!

Michelle Williams is dominating the critics awards

While she's not quite a sweeper Michelle Williams is going to be on a lot of airplanes if she intends to attend all of these critics ceremonies that plan to honor her work in My Week With MarilynAfter the jump prizes from... Chicago and St. Louis who both just announced, Dallas Ft Worth, Florida, and Las Vegas (which I missed last week oopsie).

Picture The Descendants (ru: The Artist)
Director Alexander Payne, The Descendants (ru: Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist)
Actress: Michelle Williams, My Week With Marilyn (ru: Tilda Swinton, We Need To Talk About Kevin)
Actor: George Clooney, The Descendants (ru: Jean Dujardin, The Artist)
Supporting Actress: Shailene Woodley, The Descendants (ru: Bérénice Bejo, The Artist)
Supporting Actor: Christopher Plummer, Beginners (ru: Albert Brooks, Drive)
Foreign Language Film: A Separation (ru: The Skin I Live In)
Documentary: Cave of Forgotten Dreams
Animated Film: Rango
Screenplay: The Descendants (ru: Midnight in Paris)
Cinematography: The Tree of Life (ru: War Horse)
Russell Smith Award: We Need To Talk About Kevin 

They went Descendants crazy with 5 prizes. Dallas critics are packing up for Hawaii apparently.

Picture The Tree of Life
Director Terrence Malick, The Tree of Life
Actress: Michelle Williams, My Week With Marilyn
Actor: Michael Shannon, Take Shelter
Supporting Actress: Jessica Chastain, The Tree of Life
Supporting Actor: Albert Brooks, Drive
Promising Performer: Elizabeth Olsen, Martha Marcy May Marlene
Promising Filmmaker: Sean Durkin, Martha Marcy May Marlene
Foreign Language Film: A Separation 
Documentary: The Interrupters
Animated Feature: Rango
Original Screenplay: The Artist, Michel Hazanavicius
Adapted Screenplay: Moneyball, Steven Zaillian & Aaron Sorkin
Cinematography: Emmanuel Lubezki, The Tree of Life 
Score: Cliff Martinez, Drive

I guess I need to listen to the Drive soundtrack. I keep seeing Drive mentioned for score but while watching it I thought it was mostly a song score. Maybe I just enjoyed the synth pop too much to notice the underscoring?

Also, while I applaud any critics group brave enough to pick a Jessica Chastain performance rather than saying the cop-out "ALL!" The Tree of Life seems like a strange choice. The film is wonderful but she is being asked to embody a concept. Isn't it less of an acting challenge and more like a single note state of being?

Picture The Artist
Director Nicolas Winding Refn, Drive
Actress: Michelle Williams, My Week With Marilyn
Actor: Jean Dujardin, The Artist
Supporting Actress: Melissa McCarthy, Bridesmaids
Supporting Actor: Albert Brooks, Drive
Foreign Language Film: 13 Assassins
Documentary: Project Nim
Animated Feature: Rango
Family Film: Hugo
Youth in Film: Asa Butterfeld, Hugo
Screenplay: Moneyball, Steven Zaillian & Aaron Sorkin
Cinematography: Emmanuel Lubezki, The Tree of Life
Costume Design: Mark Bridges, The Artist
Editing: Thelma Schoonmaker, Hugo
Art Direction: Gregory S Hooper, The Artist
Visual Effects: Rise of the Planet of the Apes 
Score: Ludovic Bource, The Artist
Song: "Man or Muppet" from The Muppets
Best DVD Packaging: Jurassic Park Ultimate Trilogy
Lifetime Achievement: Albert Brooks

Las Vegas will get Albert Brooks to attend their ceremony. They will they will they will. Even if it means giving him two prizes!

Picture The Descendants
Director Martin Scorsese, Hugo
Actress: Michelle Williams, My Week With Marilyn
Actor: Michael Fassbender, Shame
Supporting Actress: Shailene Woodley, The Descendants
Supporting Actor: Albert Brooks, Drive
Foreign Language Film: The Skin I Live In
Documentary: Project Nim
Animated Feature: The Adventures of Tintin
Golden Orange: no award given
Breakout: Elizabeth Olsen, Martha Marcy May Marlene
Adapted Screenplay: The Descendants
Original Screenplay: The Artist
Cinematography: Emmanuel Lubezki, The Tree of Life
Art Direction: Dante Ferretti, Hugo
Visual Effects: Rise of the Planet of the Apes 

To wrap: That's four more BEST ACTRESS prizes for Michelle Williams with all of these organizations in for her Marilyn Monroe. While I thought she was good in the film and particularly strong in the slurry druggy scenes late in the picture I didn't imagine while watching it months ago that she would end up leading critics awards. I always forget that critics are as enamored of biographical performances as Oscar voters. It's a mental block I have. My theory is that each year I am blinded in the summer by Cannes and end up thinking that the more auteur vessel performance will be beloved by US critics. But this is a foolish assumption since the vast majority of critics working these days seem to have very Oscary taste... (at least if their annual awards are any indication) even whilst constantly complaining about Oscar.

What do you think it is exactly about the Michelle as Marilyn performance that has people declaring "BEST" in the way they are though... especially considering the people that that vaults her over (in this case Chicago's other nominees: Dunst, Olsen, Paquin and Streep). It mystifies. 

Finally we have St. Louis which is the only group not to go for Michelle Williams. They give Rooney Mara her first prize. Their awards went like so...

Picture The Artist (ru: The Descendants)
Director Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist (ru: Malick)
Actress: Rooney Mara, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (ru tie: Streep & Williams)
Actor: George Clooney, The Descendants (ru: Ryan Gosling, Drive)
Supporting Actress: Bérénice Bejo, The Artist (ru tie: Octavia Spencer and Shailene Woodley)
Supporting Actor: Albert Brooks, Drive (ru: Alan Rickman in Deathly Hallows Part 2)
Foreign Language Film: 13 Assassins (ru: Winter in Wartime)
Documentary: Being Elmo (ru: Tabloid)
Animated Film: The Adventures of Tintin (ru: Rango)
Comedy: Bridesmaids (ru: Midnight in Paris)
Original Screenplay: The Artist (ru: 50/50)
Adapted Screenplay: The Descendants (ru: Moneyball)
Cinematography: The Tree of Life (ru tie: War Horse and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo)
Best Music: The Artist (ru: Drive)
Visual Effects: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 (ru: Rise of the Planet of the Apes)
Artistic/Creative Film (Excellence in Art House Cinema): We Need To Talk About Kevin (ru: Win Win)
Special Merit (for best scene or memorable aspect): The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo's opening credits (ru: The Artist: dance scene finale)

Hmmm... St. Louis has some oddities. Looks like sentiment got the best of them when they realized Harry Potter wasn't going to win anything. Best visual effects over Apes? Uh... okay. Their prize for arthouse cinema only emphasizes how fucked up distribution for non-blockbustery cinema is these days. I like Win Win a lot but it's not really an "art house" movie by any stretch of the imagination outside of the fact that it happened to only receive a limited release. 

The Best Picture Critical Map As Of Now...

The map: 8 wins for The Artist, 4 for The Descendants, 4 for The Tree of Life (the AAFCA not pictured until I figure out what to do with them and the NSFC and the other non-region specific critics groups who have yet to announce.) Interesting that the South and Southwest are so into The Descendants. Any theories as to why?

Upcoming announcements
Dec 26th -Online Film Critics Society (nominations... winners on January 2nd)
Dec 27th - Phoenix 
Jan 7th - National Society of Film Critics 

Unknown Dates
Oklahoma Film Critics Circle, Iowa Film Critics Association, Utah Film Critics Association, and The Kansas City Film Critics Circle though their website has not been updated in two years so perhaps the circle is closed?

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Reader Comments (37)

I love it. Michelle Williams is the kind of actress that could've easily been ignored during her career doing quiet, subtle, and solid work. But somehow she will be receiving her third Oscar nomination and that's just fabulous.

Now, her Marilyn isn't as great as her roles in Brokeback Mountain or Blue Valentine, but it's great enough for Oscars. I'm not yet sure if she's the best actress of the year (I haven't seen Kevin or Iron Lady), but I've been rooting for her all year (and then some). So to summarize... yay Williams!

December 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRyan T.

I actually preferred Chastain in Tree of Life to any of her other work this year, just sneaking past her performance in The Help for me. One of my favourite scenes of the year is the segment where “Father” is away on business, and it’s just Chastain and the kids. There’s so much unbridled joy and poorly-concealed sadness to her performance, and the way the two feelings are in constant conflict throughout the film. She could have seemed flat and uninteresting, but she fascinates.

December 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBen

St. Louis announced their nods on the 12th. According to their website, winners will be announced today.

December 19, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterciski77

Well, I'm one of the few who prefers Chastain as the eteral mother than the blonde bimbo with a golden heart. I believe it must be quite a challenge being ask to represent a concept (motherhood) rather than a conventional character that we've seen so many times.

Michelle could really use an Oscar. She's not as popular as she deserves to be.

December 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

I think Swinton and Williams have both racked up an incredible amount of critical good will in recent years, which is really helping push them over the line for these prizes. It helps that a lot of people seem to genuinely admire their performances, even though I'm exactly with you on both of them: good work, but far from either actress's best, or the year's best.

NSFC plans to announce on January 7, according to Variety.

December 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterNick Davis

I guess Emmanuel Lubezki is the Aaron Sorkin of this year, love it! I think Michelle Williams is winning all for all the good work that she delivered in the last years, and this is her more academy-friendly role in a while.

December 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLuiserghio

On Jessica Chastain:

I think that embodying a concept sometimes seems very very difficult. You have to act not to reach the variations of an arc, but to sustain a state and represent that state.

It seems easy, but I don't believe you can just look at camera dressed in something nice and look angelical. It's a very soulful type of acting, in which you have to deconstruct your acting, to empty it, instead of build something from the screenplay. You empty yourself and let the pure concept emerge from you. Not every concept is easy to reach, like being the muse or the terminator...

I say this shall not easy because a lot of actors do it that way. See for example Monica Vitti and Jeanne Moreau in a lot of movies.

They are not playing parts. They are sustaining them. And they still incredible.

For a recent example, look at Juliette Binoche in The Red Balloon, or The English Patient, or Blue. She is not playing these women. She is what these women represent.

I don't know, but Chastain work never seemed that easy. It's not like you can put any actor in her place and they'd be the divine grace in such an arresting way, like she does. She is grace and she sustain it brilliantly. I think it's a hell of a performance.

December 19, 2011 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

St. Louis and the Southeastern Film Critics Association just announced.

December 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJohnn

Nick -- we disagree a lot but it's always kind of a relief when we agree on something as tricky as an actress you hugely admire suddenly being admired for somethign you aren't into. ;) so i welcome your company here. and i think you're exactly right about what's happening.

December 19, 2011 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Michelle Williams is a brilliant actress, and I greatly admire that a desire for longevity and challenge appears to motivate her career choices. That being said, I'm disappointed that a performer with a penchant for taking risks is winning her plaudits for being the eleventh woman to play Marilyn Monroe in an insipid biographical film.

After seeing Blue Valentine, I hoped Williams would win an Oscar one day. I should have been more specific.

December 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMike M.

Mara won St. Louis

December 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMike F

Mike and Johnn -- thank u. i have updated with St. Louis.

Mike M -- i guess that's my issue (as always). same with Streep. That actresses with such fierce imaginations and soulful power at creating characters can only win stuff when they do mimicry make-a-me-crazy.

Cal -- thank you for the thoughtful defense of her work. I shall think on that.

December 19, 2011 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Can't wait to see My week with Merylin!
Agree on Michelle Williams... amazing actress! She's going to have a brilliant career!
So... what do you think guys? Is it a three players competition yet, Viola vs Meryl vs Michelle? Or the "battle" is taking the Streep vs Williams path?

December 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTerris

I thought Michelle was great, but the movie...I didn't love it. That was a big problem for me, and that also seems to be the problem with the Best Actress race this year as opposed to last year. The actresses in the lead are in very weak movies.

December 19, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterbia

From five predicted nominees,Williams was easily the best.She was simply amazing as Marilyn.Every time she was on screen i was watching real Marilyn Monroe.I really think this is Streep vs. Williams race,and hope Williams prevails at Oscars

December 19, 2011 | Unregistered Commentervlad

Best Director is such an up in the air category at this point. Scorsese, Payne, Hazanavicius, and Malick all seem to have a fair shot at winning.

And as for Supporting Actress, Octavia Spencer seems to be losing her lead very quickly. Chastain, despite BFCA, SAG, and the Globes lining up, still seems to be a bit of a mystery too.

December 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAlex

I have to admit that as of this moment, Michelle Williams is my favorite actress. I thought she was great in MARILYN, even if the film wasn't. I can't say this is her best work or that she deserves the Oscar (Charlize floored me, still waiting for mara, close, streep, swinton), but I desperately want her to win! Do I think it will happen? I doubt it, but maybe. Remember Tom O'Neil's (and possibly others') theory about the "Babe factor" in the Lead Actress race? Well, if the lineup is indeed Close, Davis, Streep, Swinton, Williams, Michelle will be 15 years younger than Viola Davis who is the second youngest. In fact, the median age of the other four nominees would be just under 56 years of age. I don't necessarily buy into all of this, but if the race is thought to be tight between Davis and Streep, watch out for Michelle!

December 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAquila Henry

Alex: Really? I think Hazanavicus will win fairly easily, and Malick's chances at a win are as big as Madonna's.

December 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRax

Best Picture: The Artist 8/The Descendants 6/The Tree of Life 4
Best Director: Martin Scorsese 5/Michel Hazanavicius 5/Terrence Malick 4
Best Actor: George Clooney 5/Michael Fassbender 4/Michael Shannon 3
Best Actress: Michelle Williams 8/Meryl Streep 3/Tilda Swinton 3
Best Supporting Actor: Albert Brooks 12/Christopher Plummer 7
Best Supporting Actress: Jessica Chastain 5/Shailene Woodley 4/Malissa McCarthy 3

All Critics Awards Winners 2011 (Announced yet)

December 19, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterscary

It does seem like she is emerging as the frontrunner,i bet she bests streep again.

December 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMARK

Elizabeth Olsen is picking up some heat. IT'S A SIGN!</B>

December 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJonathon

No love for Viola? Surprising. (But I'm with you on the whole mimicry-makes-me-crazy memo Nat. Or perhaps simply "biographical roles" rather than mimicry per se. Kidman, for instance, was not going for outright mimicry in The Hours; she heard recordings of Woolf's voice but decided not to try to imitate it to her credit. But it's still yet another in the chain of "playing a real person will get you an Oscar" perfs.)

December 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJanice

I've seen My Week with Marilyn and The Artist both twice, on high-quality cinema screens. Marilyn I liked less the second time, and I wasn't exactly raving after the first screening. But Michelle Williams' performance looks even more incredible in a repeat viewing. I would argue that although the film is slight, her work is in some ways stronger, more assured and more nuanced than much of her past work. As for The Artist, it was even more fun on a second viewing, but the use of the Vertigo score at the climax was even more off-putting.

December 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

I think Williams will win becasue of the goodwill she's racked up. Its a good enough performance to finally reward without be ridiculed. I think it will be in line with Renee Zellwegers win.

December 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLeigh

I still believe Meryll will walk away with the Oscar. Sandra Bullock, Kate Winslet and Marion Cotillard had less critics' attention than Meryl / Carey Mulligan (in 2009), Anne Hathaway / Sally Hawkins (in 2008) and Julie Christie / Ellen Page (in 2007). And Meryl has the NYFCC which is the big one that gets real press and she's really overdue. In a battle between Meryl and Michelle Williams, I believe Meryl has the edge with Oscar voters.

And Meryl just won Southeastern.

December 19, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterzooey

I can't get enthused about this year's actress race, for some reason.

I wish Charlize Theron were factoring more prominently in the conversation—I think she's better in Young Adult than Page was in Juno, and it'd be neat to see her unlikeable comedic turn score points with the Academy. Charlize is just such a delicious presence. She has beauty and talent and charisma for miles, and has shrewdly avoided overexposure. I always want more Charlize. Always.

But unfortunately, Williams is certain to best her for the comedy Globe. That's the category fraud that bothers me the most—when weighty dramatic performances take the advantage in Comedy/Musical categories for reasons that have nothing to do with comedy or musicals.

In reality, it ought to be a toss-up between Theron and Wiig.

December 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterHayden W

Did someone just compare Michelle Williams to Renee Zellweger? I'm having aneurysm.

I'm in agreement, though, that Williams and Swinton are two of my absolute favorites--for reasons relating both to their performances and career choices--and neither of them give their best (high bar, I know) performances despite the tricky dismount.

December 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterNick McC.

I also think Streep has the gravitas, public sentiment, and epic history of nominations to win this year for "The Iron Lady."

December 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJuly

It seems to be becoming a Williams v. Streep race, but critics groups don't usually completely align with the highly publicized awards bodies anyway.

I'm still praying for a Viola win. She deserves it. And it's time for another black Best Actress.

December 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPhilip

Streep has built up more good will than all potential Best Actress nominees combined. I think Best Actress race is coming down to Streep vs. Williams. And I still don't think Glenn Close will snag a nomination either. The field is too crowded.

December 19, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterbrandz

Nat, I really hope you to rewatch mwwm sometime. In my opinion,the performance is both an eerie imitation and a touching revelation.That said she is not only mimicking Marilyn but also digging so deeply into the character's loneliness, talent, confusion etc.

December 19, 2011 | Unregistered Commentersolomon

I understand why you hate mimicry and biopic performances getting all the credit, but just because a perfprmance is an accurate impersonation, doesn't mean it can't also be a great peformance. Haven't seen marilyn so am not talking about Williams, just in general...

I love thats there's no true front runner anymore, I truly have no idea who's going to win. Outside the 3 llocks, it could be Swinton/Mara/Theron/Olsen/Close for the last 2 spots, although, considering the Noms that Swinton has picked up, and especially if she gets BAFTA as well, it could be seen as the biggest snub of all time, precurserwise

December 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBrooooke

Brooooke -- i completely agree that impersonations can also be great performances. My objection has always been that they are perceived as being such automatically if the impersonation is any good.

Hayden -- that is a big problem with that category, yes, but i'm still super glad the category exist.

December 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterNathanielR

I agree with what Cal said about embodying a concept not necessarily being an easy task for an actor, but I think Chastain goes beyond a one-note "ethereal mother" in her Tree of Life characterization. Check out her steely sadness when confronted by Brad Pitt's Father ("You've turned my children against me") or her condensed why-wasn't-she-cast-in-We Need to Talk About Kevin moment of soured bewilderedness when Jack shouts at her ("NO!").

For that matter, I think it funny that Pitt is getting lauded over Chastain when he plays just as much of a concept, except his perf gets "leavened" by a heavy-stepped extra "note" of self-acknowledged failure. Chastain gets more layers in without the script or camera as strongly behind those shifts.

December 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterColin Low

Mimicry is difficult to get right but also for an actor the research is a lot easier when there is archives and archives of material on the subject (like Marilyn, Edith Piaf, etc) than from creating a character from just the page, which Williams has done so brilliantly in past performances. I love Williams but really don't want her Oscar win to be for this film but she is of the right age and career 'moment' right now that I think in a few weeks time she'll be the frontrunner in Best Actress (assuming she gets a nomination).

December 20, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterramification

Broooke --well in the past decade about four lead performances have had all the precursors and still come up short so who knows ion Tilda. In the end it's still a really odd film for a nomination in the annals of Hollywood history.

December 20, 2011 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Williams is in. I really think the Oscar is hers. Iron Lady is getting mostly lukewarm reviews. Think it is a three horse race with Davis. Edge for awilliams

January 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDrew Williams
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