Oscar 2011: New York Film Critics Awards

“The Artist” got an early award-season boost from the New York Film Critics Circle, the first group to vote this year, which singled out the upcoming Weinstein Company release for its top feature kudo, Best Picture, and gave its helming laurel to French director Michel Hazanavicius.

Major acting awards, Best Actor and Best Actress, were handed to Brad Pitt and Meryl Streep, respectively.

Nonfiction film went to Sundance Selects’ 3D arthouse success “Cave of Forgotten Dreams,” helmed by Werner Herzog, and the laurel for foreign language film was taken by Sony Pictures Classics’ Iranian drama “A Separation.”

Fox Searchlight’s “Tree of Life” was cited for multiple awards, with lead actor winner Pitt and supporting actress champ Jessica Chastain both cited for their work in the film. Pitt also got the nod for his role in “Moneyball,” while Chastain received the award for her work not only in “Tree” but in “The Help” and “Take Shelter.” “Tree of Life” also took the cinematography award for Emmanuel Lubezki.

Columbia Pictures’ “Moneyball” also won the Best Screenplay award for co-scripters Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin.

Meryl Streep scored lead actress for her turn as Margaret Thatcher in TWC’s “The Iron Lady,” while Albert Brooks’ turn in FilmDistrict’s “Drive” took the award for supporting actor.

J.C. Chandor’s “Margin Call,” released by Lionsgate, nabbed the award for Best First Feature.

NYFCC selected the late Raoul Ruiz, the Chilean filmmaker who died in August, to receive its annual special award.

With the 2011 awards season suddenly kicked into overdrive, the NYFCC winners list comes hot on the heels of the Gotham Independent Film Awards, handed out Monday night, and the nominations announcement for the Spirit Awards, announced Tuesday morning. National Board of Review will weigh in with its own awards Thursday.