New York Film Critics Circle Names ‘First Cow’ Best Film Of 2020

Anthony D'Alessandro
·4 min read

At the end of one of the longest voting sessions in recent memory, clocking over 5 1/2 hours, the New York Film Critics Circle on Friday named A24’s First Cow as its Best Picture of 2020.

The Kelly Reichardt-directed drama, executive produced by Scott Rudin, follows a skilled cook who has traveled west and joins a group of fur trappers in Oregon. He finds a true connection with a Chinese immigrant also seeking his fortune. Soon the two collaborate on a successful business.

The Best Picture selection isn’t surprising given the org’s penchant for independent movies (or titles from streamers). Even though Netflix won Best Picture two years in a row in 2019 and 2018 with The Irishman and Roma, respectively, previous indie feature winners over the last decade include Lady Bird from Greta Gerwig (2017), La La Land (2016), Carol (2015), Boyhood (2014) and The Artist (2011). When it comes to a traditional major motion picture studio winning best picture at the NYFCC, it’s been Sony with American Hustle (2013), Zero Dark Thirty (2012) and Social Network (2010).

Out of the gate this morning, Netflix looked to be on a hot streak with Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods coming up with a Best Supporting Actor win for the late Chadwick Boseman and Best Actor win for Delroy Lindo.

Also notable with two wins — for Best Actress Sidney Flanigan and Best Screenplay for Eliza Hittman — was Focus Features’ Sundance feature Never Rarely Sometimes Always, about a pair of rural Pennsylvania teenage girls who travel to New York City to seek out medical help after an unintended pregnancy.

Bulgarian actress Maria Bakalova, who became an overnight Hollywood success in Amazon’s Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, was named Best Supporting Actress.

Best foreign film went to Brazil’s Bacurau; that movie was in contention to be the country’s Oscar submission last year, and was passed over in favor of Karim Ainouz’s The Invisible Life of Euridice Gusmao.

With screening rooms closed due to Covid-19 and awards voters and critics marooned at home, many have been receiving virtual invites and links to screeners. It makes for a very different awards season.

Last year, NYFCC gave Netflix’s The Irishman an extra boost out out the NYC-area awards circuit (that voting session lasted about 3 1/2 hours), creating heat heading into the Golden Globes. Many believed earlier this year that the HFPA prize was Netflix’s to lose. But it was there that the $200 million Martin Scorsese gangster film lost momentum with Universal/Amblin’s 1917 taking best feature drama. But then at the Oscars, it was Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite that surprisingly won Best Picture.

Although the NYFCC’s bellwether rate for determining Oscar’s best picture is reportedly over 40%, the last time both AMPAS and NYFCC matched was in the 2011-12 season, when they both gave the top prize to Michel Hazanavicius’ Hollywood silent film ode The Artist. While it’s common for many NYFCC winners to continue on as potential Oscar nominees, last year the only two categories where AMPAS and NYFCC lined up in regards to winners was Laura Dern for Best Supporting Actress in Marriage Story and Parasite for Best Foreign Film.

Five years ago, the NYFCC predicted a surprise that no one expected at the Oscars: Mark Rylance taking Best Supporting Actor for Steven Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies.

Here’s the list of 2020 winners:

Best Film: First Cow

Best Director: Chloé Zhao for Nomadland

Best First Film: The 40-Year-Old Version

Best Actor: Delroy Lindo – Da 5 Bloods

Best Actress: Sidney Flanigan for Never Rarely Sometimes Always

Best Supporting Actor: Chadwick Boseman for Da 5 Bloods

Best Supporting Actress: Maria Bakalova – Borat Subsequent Moviefilm

Best Screenplay: Eliza Hittman for Never Rarely Sometimes Always

Best Cinematography: Small Axe (all films)

Best Foreign Language Film: Bacurau (Brazil)

Best Non-Fiction Film: Garrett Bradley’s Time

Best Animated Film: Wolfwalkers (Apple)

Special Awards: Kino Lorber, for their creation of Kino Marquee, a virtual cinema distribution service that was designed to help support movie theaters, not destroy them. Spike Lee for inspiring the New York community with his short film “New York New York” and for advocating for a better society through cinema.

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