Denver Film Critics Society Announces 2012 Award Winners

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"The Tree of Life" wins Best Picture from Denver Film Critics Society Awards.
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"The Tree of Life" wins Best Picture from Denver Film Critics Society Awards.

The 2012 Denver Film Critics Society (DFCS) votes are in for the Best Films of 2011, and Terrence Malick's "The Tree of Life" was top dog. "The Tree of Life" has raked in a number of film critics awards, in addition to winning the Palme d'Or at the 64th Cannes Film Festival. The Denver Film Critics Society also had a tied vote for Best Director, going to Malick and director of "The Artist" Michel Hazanavicius.

How does the DFCS fare in predicting Oscar winners? Last year, the DFCS awarded "The Social Network" Best Picture and Best Director, but it was "The King's Speech" that took the Oscar, but Denver critics nailed the Acting categories.

DFCS co-director Christian Toto said, "The 2011 film lineup may have lacked that awards-sweeping entry, but the breadth of films spoke to the vision of the modern filmmaker. Many of the categories were won by a single vote."

While Brad Pitt starred in "The Tree of Life," it was for his role as Billy Beane in "Moneyball" that he was given the DFCS Best Actor award. The Best Actress award was a tough pick, but the votes ended up in Meryl Streep's corner for her role as Margaret Thatcher in "The Iron Lady."

In the Best Foreign-Language Film category the award went to Asghar Farhadi's Iranian film "A Separation." Farhadi was up against foreign heavy hitters "The Skin I Live In" from Spain's Pedro Almodóvar and "The Flowers of War" from China's Zhang Yimou.

Of course, with an award from critics, most voters coming from a newspaper background, it's no surprise that Andrew Rossi's "Page One: Inside the New York Times" got Best Documentary. It's a probing documentary that looks at the dying breed of print journalism.

The award for Best Breakout Star went to wunderkind Jessica Chastain, who's been busy wowing audiences in 2011. There was her role in "The Tree of Life," where a cosmic unraveling churned just below a mother's surface. Chastain also gained acclaim for her powerful performance as the young Israeli spy in "The Debt" and as a mother in "Take Shelter" dealing with a cosmic unraveling of her own, namely her hallucinating husband.

Ludovic Bource's music for "The Artist" took the Best Original Score award, with its homage to classic film scores. It's no surprise really, as the score was so essential to a silent film, and much of the rousing emotions came from Bource's compositional finesse.

It was a big year for ensemble casts, as studios rely more on bankable casts than traditional star-led vehicles. The DFCS award for Best Ensemble Cast went to Alexander Payne's dramatic comedy "The Descendants." Payne was nominated for Best Director, but more so shared the award for Best Screenplay with Nat Faxon and Jim Rash.

20-year-old star Shailene Woodley was awarded Best Supporting Actress for her role in "The Descendants" as well. The well-deserved award for Best Supporting Actor went to Christopher Plummer for his over-hill, out-of-the-closet dad in "Beginners."

Gore Verbinski's "Rango" won Best Animated Film over Spielberg's "The Adventures of Tintin." Perhaps because Spielberg relies on motion capture technology and "Rango's" computer animation is, oddly enough, more traditional. Yet, Verbinski's first animated production is certainly a film-lover's movie, with hilarious references to "A Fistful of Dollars," "Chinatown," and "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas."

Voting members of the Denver Film Critics Society include Keith Breese, Robert Denerstein, Brandon Fibbs, Kirk Montgomery, Elisabeth Rappe, Mark Sells, Dave Taylor, Christian Toto, and Barry Wurst.

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