by Jim Ridley
The Southeastern Film Critics' Association has named Argo the best movie of 2012 and awarded its director Ben Affleck top honors as well, according to a press release just issued by the critics' group. The fact-based seriocomic thriller about an improbable rescue mission during the 1980 Iran hostage crisis topped a list of 10 films that range from year-end contenders such as Les Miserables, Lincoln and Zero Dark Thirty to the summer platform successes Moonrise Kingdom and Beasts of the Southern Wild.
In its 21st year, SEFCA, which represents 48 members (including myself and Scene contributor Jason Shawhan) at electronic and print media outlets in nine Southern states, also voted Jennifer Lawrence in Silver Linings Playbook its Best Actress award, while Best Actor went to Daniel Day-Lewis for Lincoln. Supporting actor and actress honors went respectively to Philip Seymour Hoffman for the L. Ron Hubbard-esque enigma at the center of Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master and Anne Hathaway for her show-stopping pivotal role in Les Miserables. That film opens in Nashville Christmas Day, while The Belcourt has scheduled The Master for a second run Dec. 28.
Perhaps the most surprising shut-out was Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained, the writer-director's spaghetti-Western homage set in the slavery-era South. Many members may not have had a chance to see it, though, as it doesn't open until Dec. 25 and screeners weren't provided. Missing too was Terence Davies' The Deep Blue Sea, whose lead Rachel Weisz has been mentioned as a possible Best Actress Oscar contender. Also notable by their absence were a number of foreign films and documentaries that have been honored elsewhere, including Holy Motors and Rust and Bone in the former category and How to Survive a Plague in the latter. SEFCA gave the foreign-film prize to NaFF favorite The Intouchables, while the documentary award went to The Queen of Versailles, with Bully as runner-up.
The group's Gene Wyatt Award for the film that "best evokes the spirit of the South," given in honor of the late Tennessean film critic, went to Benh Zeitlin's Beasts of the Southern Wild. In his press release, however, SEFCA president Philip Martin said the field for this award was the most competitive it had ever been, including votes for actor Matthew McConaughey for his roles in four entirely different films set in the South: Killer Joe, The Paperboy, Bernie, and Magic Mike.
Below, the release and entire list of awards and films, with runners-up.
The Southeastern Film Critics’ Association has voted Ben Affleck’s period thriller Argo the best motion picture of 2012. The organization, whose 47 members represent electronic and print media outlets in nine Southern states, also named Affleck best director in its annual poll.
“Argo was far and a way the most-mentioned film on our critics’ ballots,” SEFCA president Philip Martin said. “While there were other films that had more first place votes, Argo was consistently well-regarded by our membership and it ended up winning the poll by a comfortable margin.”
In a much closer race, actor-director Affleck was named “Best Director” over Kathryn Bigelow, whose Zero Dark Thirty edged out Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln for the second spot in the critics' poll.
“It’s interesting that the top three films are all dramas based on historical events,” Martin said. Argo is a dramatization of the joint CIA-Canadian covert operation that extracted six fugitive American diplomatic personnel out of revolutionary Iran in 1980; Zero Dark Thirty is about the decade-long hunt for Osama bin Laden after the September 2001 terrorist attacks and Lincoln is about the 16th president's efforts to pass theThirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution that would formally abolish slavery in the country.
Daniel Day-Lewis became the first three-time winner of the group’s “Best Actor” award for his performance as the title character in Lincoln (Day-Lewis previously won the award for his work in There Will Be Blood in 2007 and in Gangs of New York in 2002) while Jennifer Lawrence was named “Best Actress” for her turn in the dark comedy Silver Linings Playbook.
Ben Zeitlin’s Bests of the Southern Wild was the overwhelming choice for the group’s Gene Wyatt award, given for the film that “best evokes the spirit of the South,” with Richard Linklater’s Bernie — yet another dramatization of a true story — finishing second.
“Overall it was an amazing year for Southern film,” Martin said. “I can’t remember a year when we had so many excellent candidates for the Wyatt Award. Our members nominated 13 different movies for the award — and one actor: Matt McConaughey, for appearing in the Southern-set films Killer Joe, The Paperboy, Bernie and Magic Mike in 2012.”
2012 SEFCA AWARD RESULTS
2. Zero Dark Thirty
4. Moonrise Kingdom
5. Silver Linings Playbook
6. Beasts of the Southern Wild
7. The Master
8. Les Misérables
9. Life of Pi
10. The Dark Knight Rises
Winner: Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln
Runner-up: Joaquin Phoenix, The Master
Winner: Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook
Runner-up: Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Winner: Philip Seymour Hoffman, The Master
Runner-up: Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Winner: Anne Hathaway, Les Misérables
Runner-up: Sally Field, Lincoln
Runner-up: Moonrise Kingdom
Winner: Ben Affleck, Argo
Runner-up: Kathryn Bigelow, Zero Dark Thirty
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Winner: Moonrise Kingdom: Wes Anderson & Roman Coppola
Runner-up: Zero Dark Thirty, Mark Boal
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Winner: Argo: Chris Terrio
Runner-up: Lincoln: Tony Kushner
Winner: The Queen of Versailles
BEST FOREIGN-LANGUAGE FILM
Winner: The Intouchables (50)
Runner-up: Amour (32)
BEST ANIMATED FILM
Winner: Life of Pi: Claudio Miranda
Runner-up: Skyfall: Roger Deakins
GENE WYATT AWARD for FILM THAT BEST EVOKES THE SPIRIT OF THE SOUTH
Winner: Beasts of the Southern Wild