"Zero Dark Thirty" has been named the best film of 2012 by the New York Film Critics Circle, the first and one of the most important critics' groups to make its year-end picks.
The gripping Kathryn Bigelow procedural about the hunt for Osama bin Laden also won awards for its director and for cinematographer Greig Fraser. Steven Spielberg's "Lincoln" won three awards as well, for screenplay (Tony Kusher), best actor (Daniel Day-Lewis) and supporting actress (Sally Field).
"Zero Dark Thirty" didn't start screening until just after Thanksgiving, but it immediately won raves and established itself as a major player in the Oscar race. When Bigelow won Best Director and Best Picture three years ago for "The Hurt Locker," that film's road to the Oscars was helped by its nearly-unanimous sweep through the critics' awards.
While Day-Lewis and Field didn't need any critics' help getting into the Academy Awards picture, the two other acting choices were significant surprises.
Supporting actor Matthew McConaughey was honored for "Bernie" and "Magic Mike" with an award that definitely gave some needed momentum to a performer whose films are not typical Oscar bait.
And Rachel Weisz, whose role as a judge's wife having an affair with an RAF pilot in "The Deep Blue Sea" was barely noticed at the box office, was a surprise best-actress winner whose small awards profile just got a huge shot boost.
Other winners included writer Tony Kushner ("Lincoln") and cinematographer Greig Fraser ("Zero Dark Thirty").
Michael Haneke's "Amour" was named best foreign film, while Tim Burton's "Frankenweenie" won the award for animation.
The documentary "The Central Park Five," about a miscarriage of justice in New York City in the late 1980s, was named the year's best nonfiction film, while another documentary, "How to Survive a Plague," beat "Beasts of the Southern Wild" to become a surprise winner for Best First Feature.
NYFCC best-picture winners match Oscar winners about 40 percent of the time. In the last 10 years, the group has singled out Oscar winners "The Artist," "The Hurt Locker," "No Country for Old Men" and "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King," while bypassing Oscar champ "The King's Speech" in favor of "The Social Network," "Slumdog Millionaire" in favor of "Milk" and "The Departed" in favor of "United 93," among others.
Best Film: "Zero Dark Thirty" Best Director: Kathryn Bigelow, "Zero Dark Thirty" Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis, "Lincoln" Actress: Rachel Weisz, "The Deep Blue Sea" Supporting Actor: Matthew McConaughey, "Bernie" and "Magic Mike" Supporting Actress: Sally Field, "Lincoln" Screenplay: Tony Kushner, "Lincoln" Cinematography: Greig Fraser, "Zero Dark Thirty" Foreign Language Film: "Amour" Animated Film: "Frankenweenie" Nonfiction Film: "The Central Park Five" First Feature: "How to Survive a Plague"