The Houston Film Critics Society's Best (and Worst) of 2011

Drive, a multi-category HFCS nominee.
Drive, a multi-category HFCS nominee.

One can only imagine the spectacle of an Academy Awards segment devoted to the most shoddy, amateurish and lousy cinematic attempts of the year, preferably hosted by Ricky Gervais. That's one of the reasons we love the Houston Film Critics Society, a local nonprofit comprised of more than two dozen local print, broadcast and Internet film critics, whose annual compilation of cinematic achievement (announced late last night) also includes a category for "Worst Film of the Year."

Art Attack presents the complete list of nominations and winners below, as well as an interview with HFCS president Nick Nicholson, offering his takes on the results, the year in movies and the organization's goals to make the Bayou City a more prominent market for film.

Art Attack: Is there anything about the past year in film that stands out to you as significant? Nick Nicholson: I think there are themes in 2011 that we haven't seen in a while if ever. We saw a role reversal with big name male actors playing very emotional roles (i.e., George Clooney, Leonardo DiCaprio, Michael Shannon) and then on the flip side we saw women take very commanding, somewhat masculine roles (Meryl Streep, Glenn Close, Vanessa Redgrave). We also saw a surge of family-oriented films unlike we have seen in the past. Renowned directors like Cameron Crowe, Stephan Daldry and Martin Scorsese known for their edgy work turning to a family climate. Love was also presented in unique ways this year in J. Edgar, My Week with Marilyn and A Dangerous Method.

AA: How does the HFCS decide on nominees?  NN: Each of the 25 members gets to list the films or performances they feel are the best in all of our categories by ranking them, 1 (low) to 5 (high) (or 10 in best picture), those are simply all added up and the selections with the most points are nominated.

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AA: Are there any films, good or bad, you would have liked to see on this list that aren't? NN: Every year, and especially this year, there are a few films that didn't make it, for different reasons. Warrior didn't make our list and that filmed suffered from poor marketing and a lack of interest from the misguided trailer. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy fell into a similar category.  Personally, this year has been one of the better years for strong emotional performances, so actors like Leonardo DiCaprio in J. Edgar and Gary Oldman (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) just missed the cut. 

AA: If I remember correctly, one of the goals of the HFCS is to increase Houston's exposure as an important market for film and bring more limited-release openings and art house films to the area -- any successes or setbacks on this front in 2011? NN: When the Angelika Theater closed, that was a blow to the city as it provided more art films per month than the small River Oaks theater could; now, with Sundance Cinema open and running, we hope to have Houston permanently added to the "LA/NY" limited-release date slogan. We are growing as a society and therefore reaching farther and with a louder voice. I think we are having success because of the many irons we have in the fire.

AA: Do you have any specific goals you are working toward in 2012? NN: We are planning more public events to bring the public closer to our critics with fundraisers for our nonprofit society. We hope to increase circulation of the HFCS newsletter and already have promising new candidates who are applying for membership. The HFCS will also be taking a more active role in state film festivals; we are already in talks to have a panel at the 2013 SXSW Film Festival in Austin, which will bring more exposure to the group. 

AA: Will the HFCS hold an awards ceremony again this year? NN: Yes, we have moved our ceremony after the holidays this year and it will take place January 7 at 4 p.m. in its usual location at The Houston Museum of Fine Arts. Attendance is free.

The Houston Film Critics Society's nominations listed below. Winners in each category are denoted in bold.

The Descendants, a big winner with HFCS in 2011.
The Descendants, a big winner with HFCS in 2011.

BEST PICTURE Drive, Film District Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, Warner Bros. Midnight in Paris, Sony Pictures Classics Take Shelter, Sony Pictures Classics The Artist, The Weinstein Company The Descendants, Fox Searchlight The Help, Dreamworks & Touchstone The Tree of Life, Fox Searchlight War Horse, Dreamworks & Disney Win Win, Fox Searchlight

BEST DIRECTION OF A MOTION PICTURE Alexander Payne, The Descendants Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist Nicholas Winding Refn, Drive Terrence Malick, The Tree of Life Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE Brad Pitt, Moneyball George Clooney, The Descendants Jean Dujardin, The Artist Michael Fassbender, Shame Michael Shannon, Take Shelter

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE Elizabeth Olsen, Martha Marcy May Marlene Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady Michelle Williams, My Week with Marilyn Tilda Swinton, We Need to Talk About Kevin Viola Davis, The Help

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE Albert Brooks, Drive Alex Shaffer, Win Win Andy Serkis, Rise of the Planet of the Apes Armie Hammer, J. Edgar Christopher Plummer, Beginners

Melissa McCarthy in Bridesmaids.
Melissa McCarthy in Bridesmaids.

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE Janet McTeer, Albert Nobbs Jessica Chastain, The Help Melissa McCarthy, Bridesmaids Octavia Spencer, The Help Shilene Woodley, The Descendants

BEST SCREENPLAY Alexander Payne, Nat Foxon & Jim Rash, The Descendants Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist Tom McCarthy, Win Win Will Reiser, 50/50 Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris

BEST ANIMATED FILM Adventures of Tin-Tin, Dreamworks Happy Feet Two, Warner Bros. Kung Fu Panda 2, Dreamworks Puss in Boots, Dreamworks Rango, Paramount Winnie the Pooh, Disney

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY Emmanuel Lubezki, The Tree of Life Guillaume Schiffman, The Artist Janusz Kaminski, War Horse Robert Richardson, Hugo Thomas Newton Segel, Drive

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE Buck, Sundance Selects Cave of Forgotten Dreams, IFC Films Project Nim, Lionsgate The Elephant in the Living Room, NightFly Entertainment Undefeated, The Weinstein Company

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM 13 Assassins, Magnet Releasing Elite Squad: The Enemy Within, New Video I Saw the Devil, Magnet Releasing The Artist, The Weinstein Company The Skin I Live In, Sony Pictures Classics

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE Alexandre Desplat, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 Harry Escott, Shame John Williams, The Adventures of Tin-Tin John Williams, War Horse Ludovic Bource, The Artist

The National.
The National.

BEST ORIGINAL SONG "Lay Your Head Down," from Albert Nobbs, music & lyrics by B. Bryne & G. Close "Life's a Happy Song," from The Muppets, music & lyrics by Bret McKenzie "Star-Spangled Man," from Captain America, music & lyrics by Alan Menken "The Living Proof," from The Help, music & lyrics by Mary J. Blige "Think You Can Wait," from Win Win, music & lyrics by The National

WORST FILM OF THE YEAR Jack and Jill, Columbia Red Riding Hood, Warner Bros. The Sitter, 20th Century Fox The Smurfs, Columbia The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 1, Summit Entertainment Your Highness, Universal

2011 Humanitarian of the Year Award - Joanne King Herring 2011 Lifetime Achievement Award - Jeff Bridges 2011 Outstanding Achievement - Hunter Todd 2011 Outstanding Achievement - Mary Lampe


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