The National Society of Film Critics, the last critics group to name its top awards of the year, surprised the film community by naming MELANCHOLIA, Danish director Lars von Trier’s meditation on the end of the world, as the Best Film Of The Year. The equally meditative Cannes Palme d’Or winner THE TREE OF LIFE and the Berlin Film Festival Golden Bear winner A SEPARATION were runners-up. The critics group also singled out actress Kirsten Dunst of MELANCHOLIA as Best Actress (repeating her win at this year’s Cannes Film Festival) as well as Brad Pitt as Best Actor for his work in both the sports drama MONEYBALL and the existential mood piece THE TREE OF LIFE. The busy Jessica Chastain was named Best Supporting Actress for her roles in THE TREE OF LIFE, TAKE SHELTER and THE HELP. In a trend that may play out Oscar night, veteran funnyman Albert Brooks was named Best Supporting Actor for his unexpectedly brutal portrayal of a deranged gangster kingpin in DRIVE.
THE TREE OF LIFE also scored Best Director honors for Terrence Malick and a Best Cinematography award for Emmanuel Lubeski. A SEPARATION, the Iranian human drama, scored twice with awards for Best Screenplay and Best Foreign Language Film. German director Werner Herzog, who has shifted between drama and documentary during his amazing four decade career, won the Best Documentary trophy for his gorgeous 3D film CAVE OF FORGOTTEN DREAMS. The critics organization also singled out SEEKING THE MONKEY KING by veteran avant-gardist Ken Jacobs as Best Experimental Film. The National Society, which is chaired by David Sterritt of the Christian Science Monitor, consists of 58 critics from around the country.