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The New York Film Critics Circle spent the better part of Tuesday slooooowly getting around to presenting award season’s first critical laurels, ultimately awarding David O. Russell’s latest with the Best Film citation.

Best Film: American Hustle. This qualifies as a legitimate surprise, even after a Best Screenplay win. David O. Russell’s film stayed out of sight for so long that critical reaction was almost impossible to measure. It sure looks now like it won over the East Coast elite. Suddenly, for the first time since the film festivals of the early fall, this season doesn’t seem as guaranteed to be a victory-march for 12 Years a Slave that many have expected. This is still, one should remember, the first award of the season, and hardly a guarantee to match Oscar’s Best Picture. (Zero Dark Thirty reigned supreme at NYFCC last year.) But the American Hustle narrative that we all knew was lurking – it’s David O. Russell’s time to shine – is very much back in play.

Best Actor: Robert Redford, All Is Lost. This is a big one. The Best Actor race has been lingering with about six or seven major contenders since early fall, just waiting for a front-runner to emerge. For the moment, Redford is that front-runner, particularly since he was expected to contend merely on sentiment and not, necessarily, on wings of critical adulation.

Best Actress: Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine. It’s happening, everybody. Just lie still. Let the steamroller glide over you like the morning tide.

Best Supporting Actress: Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle. Here, more than likely, begins the Jennifer Lawrence backlash, in earnest.

Best Director: Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave. The day’s first prize for the supposed Oscar frontrunner calmed some hysterics who were already Chicken Little-ing that the film was going to experience an awards-season shutout. Those fears came back with a vengeance once it lost Best Film, however.

Best Supporting Actor: Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club. Something of an expected citation, and one which probably (for now, subject to change, all appropriate caveats) puts Leto at the front of the line for the Supporting Actor Oscar. He’s come a long way since Jordan Catalano couldn’t read.

Best Foreign Language Film: Blue Is the Warmest Color. Again, get ready for a lot of this.

Best Screenplay: American Hustle. Which means that film may have more going for it than just hair and costumes. This was the first "controversial" award of the day, at least by the standard of veteran Oscar bloggers:


Best Animated Film: The Wind Rises. The supposed "final" film from Hiyao Miyazaki should be a critical favorite all awards season, though Disney's Frozen looms as an Oscar contender.

Best Documentary: Stories We Tell. Sarah Polley's unexpectedly twisty family tale could use this kind of a boost in an awards season that could end up quickly narrowing down to mega-crowd-pleaser 20 Feet from Stardom and activist Sea World takedown Blackfish.

Best First Film: Fruitvale Station. Expect this to take a lot of the First Film awards as the critics have their say. Interestingly, Fruitvale is a movie that often shows the first-film nature of director Ryan Coogler, and not always to the film's benefit, but it did show some solid promise for his career ahead.

Best Cinematography: Bruno Delbonnel, Inside Llewyn Davis. Maybe this is the year Emmanuel Lubezki wins none of the critics awards and then does win the Oscar (for Gravity).

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