"Lady Bird" just took flight.
Greta Gerwig's warm, personal, poetic salute to a Sacramento girlhood won two of the biggest prizes from the New York Film Critics Circle on Thursday - best picture and best actress, for star Saoirse Ronan.
And Summit native Sean Baker's heartbreaking "The Florida Project," about a struggling single mother and her amazingly resilient daughter, was not far behind, with a best director award for Baker and a best supporting actor prize for Willem Dafoe.
The rest of the annual awards? Widely divided among fashion-forward dramas, foreign imports, savage satires and raucous comedies.
France was well-represented, with "BPM (Beats Per Minute)," a story of the AIDS years, winning the best foreign language award and "Faces Places," a quirky doc from JR and 89-year-old legend Agnes Varda, being honored for best non-fiction film.
And there was a good dose of diversity, with African-American comic Tiffany Haddish winning best supporting actress for "Girls Trip," and Jordan Peele's stinging racial commentary "Get Out" winning best first film.
Rachel Morrison of "Mudbound" made history as the first woman to win the group's cinematography award; "Coco," the Disney/Pixar cartoon set during Mexico's Day of the Dead festival, won best animated feature.
Other honorees included Timothee Chalamet as best actor, for the coming-of-age story "Call Me By Your Name" and Paul Thomas Anderson for best screenplay for the '50s haute-couture drama "Phantom Thread."
A special award was voted to Molly Haskell, the veteran critic and author whose 1974 book "From Reverence to Rape" played an early, central part in examining images of women in film.
Held in the Elinor Bunin Monroe Film Center at Lincoln Center, the meeting was both congenial and exhausting, lasting four hours and 15 minutes. Thirty-eight members attended, four sent proxies, and coffee and bagels fueled the deliberations.
Under the bylaws, actual vote counts remain a secret, but only one category was decided on the first ballot. Others took several rounds of voting, although only two categories took more than three.
With a wide variety of films and artists being considered, and only twelve prizes to award, naturally the list of winners contained some omissions.
There was, for example, no representation for Steven Spielberg's "The Post," Christopher Nolan's "Dunkirk" or Martin McDonagh's "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri," all nonetheless expected to soon begin high-profile runs at the Oscars.
Also shut out? "The Shape of Water," "I, Tonya," "The Big Sick" and Gary Oldman's performance in "Darkest Hour," considered a shoo-in for an Academy Award almost since it began screening.
But the only thing predictable about the NYFCC is that it's not very predictable.
Made up of 42 film critics for New York-area publications and websites - including NJ Advance Media - the Circle is the nation's oldest critics' organization. It will present its awards on January 3 at Tao Downtown in Manhattan.
Stephen Whitty may be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @stephenwhitty. Find him on Facebook....Read more