Spoiler alert: This is not how the Academy Awards will look. The National Society of Film Critics (NSFC) voted Saturday at the Film Society of Lincoln Center in Manhattan and impressively threw its support behind "Amour," Austrian director Michael Haneke, and star Emmanuelle Riva for best picture, director, and actress. Never going to happen at the Oscars, but expect "Amour" to snatch the best foreign-language Oscar from the more cuddly "The Intouchables."
The choices by the NSFC are really not all that radical, remaining within the circle of critical top 10 lists, even if the emphasis is vaguely daring. A foreign film! Oh, my! Two NSFC awards that you can mark on your Oscar ballots relate to "Lincoln": Best actor Daniel Day-Lewis and best screenplay written by Tony Kushner are Oscar-bound sure things.
Riva's win for "Amour" goes with the package, and deservedly so. The octogenarian draws on every bit of acting craft she's accumulated on top of the talent she began with in the 1950s. She may rise to the top five Oscar nominees, but her position is not yet ironclad in a competitive field. On the other hand, Amy Adams got the critical notice for her steely wife in "The Master," a deserved recognition that will land her in the five best supporting actress nominees but will not find her unseating favorite Anne Hathaway for "Les Misérables." Another nod to the "The Master": best cinematography for Mihai Malaimare Jr.
[Related: Indie Roundup: ‘Amour’]
On a lighter note, the NSFC recognized Matthew McConaughey for "Magic Mike" in the best supporting actor category, possibly foretelling an Oscar nomination. At the very least, it gives a boost to an actor who showed so much comeback strength this year, buoyed by the ability to laugh at himself first.
Ultimately, the choices of the NSFC are nowhere near as bold as they could have been given the group's motto: "The Truth, Once Every 12 Months." Although I consider Leos Carax's "Holy Motors" overrated, it seemed like a natural place for star Denis Lavant to be recognized for his work over obvious contender Daniel Day-Lewis, who hardly needs another award.
Founded in 1966, the NSFC has 61 members from across the country, including the New Yorker, the Boston Phoenix, and Salon.com. There will be no awards ceremony.
See the trailer for 'Amour':