by Erik Childress
For the first time since 2005 with Brokeback Mountain, the New York Film Critics have agreed with Los Angeles in their selections for Best Film and Director. Today the East Coast Circle announced The Hurt Locker and director Kathryn Bigelow have taken their top prizes, just one day after Boston and L.A. did the same. This is the fifth straight critic's group to honor Bigelow as director of the year after the National Board of Review led off awards season by choosing Clint Eastwood for Invictus. Apparently they felt Eastwood was a better "get" for their annual celebrity party than Bigelow, but there's currently no bigger shining star than her. The only times that NY & LA agreed on their choice for director since 1999 - 2000's Steven Soderbergh and 2005's Ang Lee - they went on to victory at the Oscars.
This is also the fifth straight victory for the pairing of Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds) and Mo'Nique (Precious). One is the distinguished star of German television snatched up by Quentin Tarantino to play the calculating Nazi hunter and the other is the star of such distinguished features as Soul Plane, Phat Girlz and Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins. This is only the second time since 1999 that NY & LA have doubled up on their choice for Supporting Actor. The other was William Hurt for 2005's A History of Violence, Oscar-nominated but not victorious.
On the Supporting Actress side they have proven to be more agreeable. Mo'Nique's victory on both coasts represents the fifth time over the past decade the group's have been in accordance. Their choices included Shohreh Aghdashloo (2003's House of Sand and Fog), Virginia Madsen (2004's Sideways) and Amy Ryan (2007's Gone Baby Gone). All nominated. All walked home empty on Oscar night. Only last year's dual choice of Penelope Cruz (Vicky Cristina Barcelona) went for Oscar gold and even that may have been helped by Kate Winslet's shift into the lead category for The Reader.
Speaking of leads, New York didn't throw any new gas on the fire. George Clooney (Up In The Air) and Meryl Streep (Julie & Julia) both received their third victories of the season and should be clearing a path for eventual Oscar nominations. Eight of their last ten choices for Best Actress and nine of their previous ten for Best Actor have been nominated, while only three apiece have won. Better news for Clooney (who was also cited for his work in Fantastic Mr. Fox) as New York has forecasted the past three winners in Forest Whitaker, Daniel Day-Lewis and Sean Penn.
Also receiving a pleasant boost is the Screenplay for In The Loop. It was only the runner-up in Los Angeles to Up In The Air, but New York critics gave it their seal of approval as the best of 2009. With only the one Screenplay category, they have divided their choice between an Original or Adapted draft right down the middle since 1999 and eight of those ten found themselves Oscar-nominated. Gosford Park (2001), Sideways (2004), and No Country for Old Men (2007) all won.
Completing the awards and spreading the wealth around, New York agreed with L.A. again on their choices of Christian Berger for Cinematography (The White Ribbon), Wes Anderson's Fantastic Mr. Fox for Animated Feature and Summer Hours for Best Foreign Language Film (also awarded by Boston). Best Non-fiction Film (or Documentary) went to Of Time and the City and the Best First Feature award was given to Steve McQueen for Hunger, an award he either won or was nominated for in 2008 by critics in Los Angeles and Chicago. Perhaps next year they will get around to honoring either Marc Webb, Duncan Jones or Neill Blomkamp.