Question: What do Tilda Swinton, Michael Fassbender, Jeff Bridges and Houston philanthropist Joanne King Herring have in common? Answer: Each of these luminaries was commended Tuesday evening as members of the Houston Film Critics Society announced winners of their 2011 awards for outstanding achievement.
Swinton claimed the Best Actress prize for her harrowing performance as an anxious mother who suspects the very worst of her son in We Need to Talk About Kevin, while Fassbender took the Best Actor award for his fearless full-frontal portrayal of a sex addict in Shame. Bridges was voted a special Lifetime Achievement honor for a wide range of cinematic achievements stretching from The Last Picture Show (1971) to last year’s True Grit.
And Joanne King Herring? Well, after her humanitarian efforts in Afghanistan were documented in Charlie Wilson’s War, it seemed altogether fitting to HFCS members that she should be honored as Humanitarian of the Year.
The Descendants, Alexander Payne’s acclaimed and deeply affecting dramedy about a man struggling to reconnect with his daughters as their comatose mother nears death, claimed the lion’s share of 2011 HFCS Awards: Best Picture, Best Screenplay (co-written by director Payne, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash) and Best Supporting Actress (Shailene Woodley). But the sleek and sexy thriller Drive managed to double-dip with two other prizes: Best Director (Nicholas Winding Refn) and Supporting Actor (Albert Brooks).
Other HFCS awards include:
ANIMATED FILM: Gore Verbinski’s Rango
DOCUMENTARY: James Marsh’s Project Nim
FOREIGN FILM: Jee-Woon Kim’s I Saw the Devil
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Emmanuel Lubezki for The Tree of Life
MUSICAL SCORE: Ludovic Bource for The Artist
SONG: Composer-lyricist Bret McKenzie for "Life's a Happy Song" from The Muppets
TECHNICAL ACHIEVEMENT: Andy Serkis for "evocative motion capture performance" for Rise of the Planet of the Apes
WORST FILM OF 2011: David Gordon Green's Your Highness
HFCS also issued Special Achievement in Cinema awards to J. Hunter Todd, founder and president of WorldFest/Houston International Film Festival and Mary Lampe, founder and director of the Southwest Alternate Media Project (aka SWAMP).
The fifth annual Houston Film Critics Society Awards will be presented in a Jan. 7 ceremony at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. At that event, HFCS members will announce the winner of the organization's inaugural Best Texas Independent Film award, given to a film primarily financed and filmed in Texas. Finalists in the category include DeadbeatTV Vol.2 (Invisible Studios), The Great American Moon Rock Caper (Flock of Film Productions), Jacob (Odyssee Pictures) Puncture (Millennium Entertainment) and Stick 'Em Up (Shoot Edit Sleep).
But wait, there's more: According to HFCS members, the Top Ten Films of 2011, in descending order are The Descendants, The Artist, Drive, Midnight in Paris, The Tree of Life, Win Win, Take Shelter, The Help, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close and War Horse.