Washington Area Film Critics Association Spreads the Wealth

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film.artist.storyPhoto: The Weinstein Company
Jean Dujardin as silent film star George Valentin, left, and Bérénice Bejo as Peppy Miller star in "The Artist."

The Washington DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA), heading into its 10th year, recently declared its film picks for 2011 — and silence won the day.

Of particular interest to fans of international cinema, French writer-director Michel Hazanavicius's "The Artist" won Best Film, the first time ever that WAFCA's top prize was claimed by a silent picture, an exceedingly rare production in modern times. The film, set in 1920s Hollywood, follows silent movie actor George Valentin, who meets a young dancer set for a big break while wondering if the arrival of talking pictures will cause his own star to fade into oblivion. The film's French composer, Ludovic Bource, won Best Score, a particularly notable achievement since the original music completely dominates the audience's ears in the absence of the audible speech and sound mix heard on a typical talkie's soundtrack.

The Best Film winner usually claims Best Director, more often than not, but WAFCA split its top awards in 2011. Famous Italian-American Martin Scorsese was named Best Director for "Hugo," itself a talkie ode to silent cinema. The film's gorgeous look was also honored with Best Art Direction, awarded to the legendary Italian production designer Dante Ferretti and Italian set decorator Francesca Lo Schiavo.

"We in D.C. know what it's like to live and work in a city dominated by a single industry. In honoring both 'The Artist' and 'Hugo,' WAFCA is spotlighting two films that are love letters to the film industry that we all love so well," quipped WAFCA President Tim Gordon.

He added: "This is WAFCA's 10th anniversary, and as an organization we are very proud of the choices that our membership made throughout this process. There were no sweeps this year. No ties. Just a surprisingly diverse spread of awards that highlights both the exceptional films nominated and the distinct makeup of our great organization."

WAFCA's membership includes 43 film critics from D.C., Maryland and Virginia working in print, online, television and radio — including yours truly. Unlike previous years in which a few films — or even just one — dominated the WAFCA awards, most 2011 winning films took home only one prize, except for three films that won two awards.

Best Foreign Language Film went to Spanish auteur Pedro Almodóvar's "The Skin I Live In," reuniting the maverick with Spanish heartthrob Antonio Banderas after the latter's self-imposed exile in Hollywood. German iconoclast filmmaker Werner Herzog's mesmerizing 3D images in "Cave of Forgotten Dreams" nabbed him the Best Documentary nod. And Mexican director of photography Emmanuel Lubezki earned Best Cinematography shooting Terrence Malick's philosophical "The Tree of Life."

2011 WAFCA Award Winners:

Best Film: "The Artist"

Best Director: Martin Scorsese ("Hugo")

Best Actor: George Clooney ("The Descendants")

Best Actress: Michelle Williams ("My Week with Marilyn")

Best Supporting Actor: Albert Brooks ("Drive")

Best Supporting Actress: Octavia Spencer ("The Help")

Best Acting Ensemble: "Bridesmaids"

Best Adapted Screenplay: Alexander Payne and Nate Faxon and Jim Rash ("The Descendants")

Best Original Screenplay: Will Reiser ("50/50")

Best Animated Feature: "Rango"

Best Documentary: "Cave of Forgotten Dreams"

Best Foreign Language Film: "The Skin I Live In"

Best Art Direction: Dante Ferretti, Production Designer, and Francesca Lo Schiavo, Set Decorator ("Hugo")

Best Cinematography: Emmanuel Lubezki ("The Tree of Life")

Best Score: Ludovic Bource ("The Artist")

2011 WAFCA Award Nominees:


Best Film:

"The Artist" [winner]

"The Descendants"

"Drive"

"Hugo"

"Win Win"

Best Director:

Woody Allen ("Midnight in Paris")

Michel Hazanavicius ("The Artist")

Alexander Payne ("The Descendants")

Nicolas Winding Refn ("Drive")

Martin Scorsese ("Hugo") [winner]

Best Actor:

George Clooney ("The Descendants") [winner]

Jean Dujardin ("The Artist")

Michael Fassbender ("Shame")

Brad Pitt ("Moneyball")

Michael Shannon ("Take Shelter")

Best Actress:

Viola Davis ("The Help")

Elizabeth Olsen ("Martha Marcy May Marlene")

Meryl Streep ("The Iron Lady")

Tilda Swinton ("We Need to Talk About Kevin")

Michelle Williams ("My Week with Marilyn") [winner]

Best Supporting Actor:

Kenneth Branagh ("My Week with Marilyn")

Albert Brooks ("Drive") [winner]

John Hawkes ("Martha Marcy May Marlene")

Christopher Plummer ("Beginners")

Andy Serkis ("Rise of the Planet of the Apes")

Best Supporting Actress:

Bérénice Bejo ("The Artist")

Melissa McCarthy ("Bridesmaids")

Carey Mulligan ("Shame")

Octavia Spencer ("The Help") [winner]

Shailene Woodley ("The Descendants")

Best Acting Ensemble:

"Bridesmaids" [winner]

"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2"

"The Help"

"Hugo"

"Margin Call"

Best Adapted Screenplay:

Alexander Payne and Nat Faxon and Jim Rash ("The Descendants") [winner]

Tate Taylor ("The Help")

John Logan ("Hugo")

Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin ("Moneyball")

Bridget O'Connor & Peter Straughan ("Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy")

Best Original Screenplay:

Woody Allen ("Midnight in Paris")

Michel Hazanavicius ("The Artist")

Tom McCarthy ("Win Win")

Annie Mumolo & Kristen Wiig ("Bridesmaids")

Will Reiser ("50/50") [winner]

Best Animated Feature:

"The Adventures of Tintin"

"Arthur Christmas"

"Puss in Boots"

"Rango" [winner]

"Winnie the Pooh"

Best Documentary:

"Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey"

"Buck"

"Cave of Forgotten Dreams" [winner]

"Into the Abyss: A Tale of Death, A Tale of Life"

"Project Nim"

Best Foreign Language Film:

"13 Assassins"

"Certified Copy"

"I Saw the Devil"

"Pina"

"The Skin I Live In" [winner]

Best Art Direction:

Lawrence Bennett and Gregory S. Hooper ("The Artist")

Stuart Craig and Stephenie McMillan ("Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2")

Dante Ferretti and Francesca Lo Schiavo ("Hugo") [winner]

Jack Fisk and Jeanette Scott ("The Tree of Life")

Rick Carter and Lee Sandales ("War Horse")

Best Cinematography:

Guillaume Schiffman ("The Artist")

Robert Richardson ("Hugo")

Manuel Alberto Claro ("Melancholia")

Emmanuel Lubezki ("The Tree of Life") [winner]

Janusz Kaminski ("War Horse")

Best Score:

Ludovic Bource ("The Artist") [winner]

Cliff Martinez ("Drive")

Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross ("The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo")

Howard Shore ("Hugo")

John Williams ("War Horse")


About the Author

Ky N. Nguyen is the film reviewer for The Washington Diplomat.

Last Edited on June 12, 2014