Weinstein Co.’s Carol came up as the big winner at the New York Film Critics Circle Awards this morning earning best film, best director carol 14for Todd Haynes, best screenplay for Phyllis Nagy’s adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s novel and best cinematography for Edward Lachman’s visuals. The groundswell comes on the heels of Carol earning six Film Independent Spirit noms last week, three Gotham noms and a best actress win for Rooney Mara at the Cannes Film Festival.

spotlight 2Outside of Carol, and a singled out best actor win for Michael Keaton in Open Road’s Spotlight — both titles which have dominated the early awards season buzz– the NYFCC results today provided kudo publicists plenty of hope that their hard work is actually paying off as a number of contenders entered the conversation for the first time.

Clouds Of Sils MariaAmong those breaking through this morning: Kristen Stewart, who was named best supporting actress for her turn in Olivier Assayas’ Clouds of Sils Mariaa role which also won her a Cesar, France’s Oscar equivalent. In addition, Mark Rylance, popped into the awards chatter for his turn as Cold War Soviet spy Rudolf Abel in DreamWorks’ Bridge of Spies. Then there was Saoirse Ronan who won best actress for her portrayal of a young Irish immigrant woman in Fox Searchlight’s Brooklyn. To date, Ronan counts a British Independent Film nomination for her performance in the John Crowley-directed movie.

Keaton’s win is an anamoly for the Spotlight cast which has largely been recognized for its ensemble work by the Gotham Independent and Film Independent Spirit awards. In the movie, Keaton plays Boston Globe reporter/editor Walter Robinson, who led the paper’s Pulitzer Prize-winning exposé of the Boston Archdiocese’s complicity in covering up widespread sexual abuse  of children by priests.

Son of SaulThe first winner announced this morning was the Auschwitz drama Son of Saul, named best first film. Set in 1944, the harrowing film follows a concentration camp victim torn between participating in a camp uprising or somehow providing a proper Jewish burial for a Nazi victim who may have been his son. Hungary’s official nominee for the Best Foreign Film Oscar, Son of Saul also has been nominated in the best international film category at the Spirit Awards and won four prizes at last May’s Cannes Film Festival, including the FIPRESCI prize. Instead of naming Son of Saul best foreign film, NYFCC awarded it to a foreign film Oscar nominee from last season, Mauritania’s Timbuktu

Another NYFCC winner we won’t see in the Oscar mix this year: documentary In Jackson Heights, which didn’t make the Academy’s feature doc shortlist yesterday. 

BrooklynUnlike the National Board of Review which is prone to favoring titles that don’t exactly match up with those in the awards zeitgeist,  NYFCC boasts a 43% bellwether rate when determining Oscar’s best picture. Last year, the organization named IFC’s Boyhood best picture, a title that remained in the conversation until Oscars were handed out. Back in February, many believed that if Birdman didn’t take best picture, then Boyhood wouldWhile many were blindsided by Marion Cotillard’s best actress Oscar nomination last year for Two Days, One Night, the NYFCC already had some foresight and recognized her as their best actress for the film, along with her work in The Immigrant.

Last year NYFCC synced with the Oscars on the following winners: J.K. Simmons as best supporting actor for Whiplash, Patricia Arquette for her supporting role in Boyhood, Ida for best foreign film and CitizenFour for best feature documentary. Of those NYFCC choices for top film that went on to win best picture at the Oscars during the aughts: 2011’s The Artist, 2009’s The Hurt Locker, 2008’s No Country For Old Men and 2003’s The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King. Prior to that, NYFCC  and Oscars didn’t see eye to eye on best picture until 1993’s Schindler’s List. 

Here is the full list of NYFCC winners announced this morning. The awards will be handed out at the NYFCC ceremony on January 4 at Tao Downtown.

Best film: Carol

Best director: Todd Haynes, Carol

Best actor: Michael KeatonSpotlight

Best actress: Saoirse RonanBrooklyn

Bridge Of SpiesBest supporting actor: Mark RylanceBridge of Spies

Best supporting actress: Kristen StewartClouds of Sils Maria

Best screenplay: CarolPhyllis Nagy

Best animated film: Inside Out

Best cinematography: CarolEdward Lachman

Best first film: Son of Saul

Best foreign film: Timbuktu (Mauritania)

Best non-fiction film (documentary): In Jackson Heights directed by Frederick Wiseman.

Special Award: Posthumous award honoring the legacy of William Becker and Janus Films

Special Award # 2: composer Ennio MorriconeThe Hateful Eight