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22nd Annual Chicago Film Critics Association Awards - My Final Votes

The Social Network continues its pre-award season domination, adding Chicago as one of many cities that have given the film Best Picture. Agreeing with Jeff Bayer's philosophy that critics should be openly sharing what they think is best, especially with awards voting involved, below I am posting some of my own picks for my first time voting as a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association. I am honored to have this voice, and am very open to sharing my own voting strategies with those who care to hear it. My comments concerning certain categories are below.

Nominees for the 22nd annual Chicago Film Critics Awards: (My picks are in italics, the winners are in bold)

PICTURE: “Black Swan,” “Inception,” “The King’s Speech,” "The Social Network," “Winter’s Bone.”

DIRECTOR: Darren Aronofsky for “Black Swan,” David Fincher for “The Social Network,” Debra Granik “Winter’s Bone,” Tom Hooper for “The King’s Speech,” Christopher Nolan for “Inception.”

ACTOR: Jeff Bridges in “True Grit,” Jesse Eisenberg in “The Social Network,” Colin Firth in “The King’s Speech,” James Franco in “127 Hours,” Ryan Gosling in “Blue Valentine.”

ACTRESS: Annette Bening in “The Kids Are All Right,” Jennifer Lawrence in “Winter’s Bone,” Lesley Manville in “Another Year,” Natalie Portman in “Black Swan,” Michelle Williams in “Blue Valentine.”

SUPPORTING ACTOR: Christian Bale in “The Fighter,” Andrew Garfield in “The Social Network,” John Hawkes in “Winter’s Bone,” Mark Ruffalo in “The Kids Are All Right,” Geoffrey Rush in “The King’s Speech.”

SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Amy Adams in “The Fighter,” Helena Bonham Carter in “The King’s Speech,” Melissa Leo in “The Fighter,” Hailee Steinfeld in “True Grit,” Jacki Weaver in “Animal Kingdom.”

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: “Black Swan” (Mark Heyman, Andres Heinz & John McLaughlin), “Four Lions” (Jesse Armstrong, Sam Bain & Chris Morris), “Inception” (Christopher Nolan), “The Kids Are All Right” (Lisa Cholodenko & Stuart Blumberg), “The King’s Speech” (David Seidler).

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: “Rabbit Hole” (David Lindsay Abaire), “The Social Network” (Aaron Sorkin), “Toy Story 3” (Michael Arndt), “True Grit” (Joel & Ethan Coen), “Winter’s Bone” (Debra Granik & Anne Rosellini)

CINEMATOGRAPHY: “Black Swan” (Matthew Libatique), “Inception” (Wally Pfister), “Shutter Island” (Robert Richardson) “The Social Network” (Jeff Cronenweth), “True Grit” (Roger Deakins).

ORIGINAL SCORE: “Black Swan” (Clint Mansell), “I Am Love” (John Adams), “Inception” (Hans Zimmer), “The Social Network” (Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross) “True Grit” (Carter Burwell).

ANIMATED FEATURE: “Despicable Me,” “How to Train Your Dragon,” “The Illusionist,” “Tangled,” “Toy Story 3.”

PROMISING PERFORMER: Armie Hammer in “The Social Network,” Katie Jarvis in “Fish Tank,” Jennifer Lawrence in “Winter’s Bone,” Tahar Rahim in “A Prophet,” Hailee Steinfeld in “True Grit.”

PROMISING FILMMAKER: Bansky for “Exit Through the Gift Shop,” Derek Cianfrance for “Blue Valentine,” David Michod for “Animal Kingdom,” Aaron Schneider for “Get Low,” John Wells for “The Company Men.”

In a different year, The Social Network would have been my top pick for "Best Picture." However, this is the year of Inception, whether other people seem to acknowledge that or not. Though Christopher Nolan's movie came out in July, and just hit DVD, the movie is still in my head. It also has not been topped in terms of being a completely brilliant movie. David Fincher's movie about Mark Zuckerberg comes close, (like a 9.1 if you want to get more exact), but Inception is 9.3 or a 9.4. Simply put, it's the movie closest to perfection out of all the nominees.  If any movie had blown me away as much as Inception I'd be holding it with the same highest regard. Perhaps Nolan's movie is doomed simply because it is an action flick in simple terms, but I don't care for award season regularities, or avoiding taboos. The best cinematic experience this year is Inception. I didn't feel too dirty at all voting for it over The Social Network.

As for "Best Actor," there was no doubt for me. Not only was I a large fan of Jesse Eisenberg's transcendent performance as Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network, but there was no other performance that stayed with me as long. Eisenberg's acting in that movie is truly remarkable. Colin Firth's work in The King's Speech is also praise-worthy, but not to the same extent. I am still not sure why Jeff Bridges is nominated in the category. Didn't he exhaust praise for these types of performances with Crazy Heart?

Natalie Portman and Christian Bale were obvious picks for "Best Actress" and "Best Supporting Actor," respectively. The real sticky category was "Best Supporting Actress." For me, it was Melissa Leo in The Fighter vs. Jacki Weaver in Animal Kingdom. It was never Hailee Steinfeld, who provides an admirable first performance, but nothing better than Leo or Weaver. Eventually I chose Weaver, as her evil matriarch character had the most everlasting power of the five nominees. But with Steinfeld picked, I'm a bit surprised.

The general consensus agreed with me on a few other categories that I thought were near no-brainers. At the very least, Inception deserves top praise for it's brainy script, and The Social Network deserves top "Adapted Screenplay" honors because Sorkin's dialogue fits so damn well with a story that could have easily lost its energy in geek speak or lawyer drama. There was no better looking movie than Inception this year, though there were plenty of gorgeous films to choose from. While I liked Trent Reznor's score for The Social Network, Clint Mansell provided something extremely special to movies with his Black Swan score, one that wonderfully blends original material with music from "Swan Lake." Eventually, Mansell's score is so beautiful that it's hard to separate the two.

Winter's Bone did not knock me over as it seems to have done for others, but I can still appreciate Jennifer Lawrence's performance. If she weren't going up against Natalie Portman this year, I would have definitely considered a possible "Best Actress." But as for "Promising Performer," it seems like Armie Hammer is going to be the one who will be sticking around long after The Social Network's mojo has passed on.

My last attempt at getting Animal Kingdom some sort of overdue recognition failed with my voting of David Michod, writer/director of the film. I can see Derek Cianfrance making some good movies in the future, but I am not sure if he'll be able to reach the same success Blue Valentine is bound to receive without repeating bits of himself, or relying on performances to be as good as Gosling and Williams in that particular film. Blue Valentine is a movie that controls emotions, but David Michod's Animal Kingdom does that and more.  Michod's script has a fresh energy, and his presentation of it is beautiful. As I still think from after seeing that film for the first time, I can't wait to see what he has for us next. I'm sure I'll be voting for him again soon enough.

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