During awards season you can't expect every awards ceremony to be as lavish as The Oscars or as fun-loving as The Golden Globes; sometimes they can just consist of 58 people sitting around in a restaurant yakking on about films they quite liked.
That's exactly what the National Society of Film Critics went and did – instead of hiring out a big hall and a fancy presenter and inviting all kinds of famous folk to carp on about how wonderful they think they are, the National Society Of Film Critics just got together at Sardi's restaurant in New York and decided that the best film of last year was Pan's Labyrinth, a Spanish fairytale that everyone likes the look of but has never seen, and that Helen Mirren was the best actress for dressing up like an old lady and never smiling in The Queen.
With Oscar night a month and a bit away, speculation is frantic as to which actors and films will win academy awards, probably just so that people can shrug, mumble "yeah, I thought so" and then laugh at whatever ridiculous clothes Jennifer Aniston decided to wear for about a week. And because of this furious speculation, even the smallest little awards ceremony gets taken notice of. That can be a group of dusty old historians and students like the Clint Eastwood loving National Board Of Review or a few thousand people who get paid to memorise three or four words at a time like the Babel loving Screen Actors Guild or what basically amounts to Jack Nicholson and his friends like the similarly Babel-loving Golden Globes.
But what about the film critics? The brave men and women who have to sit through endless rubbish films and then explain just why they were so rubbish to a loyal leadership. Many members of the National Society Of Film Critics had to watch Failure To Launch and The Break Up within months of each other, and if that doesn't count as paying their dues to humanity there's something deeply wrong with society. Handily though, the National Society Of Film Critics do get a shot at helping to build Oscar buzz with their National Society Of Film Critics Awards, where 50 or so film critics meet up in a New York restaurant and babble and vote and generally try to out-obscure each other until they've decided what films they all liked the most.
And this year the film the National Society Of Film Critics like Guillermo del Toro's spooky fantasy Pan's Labyrinth more than any other, just edging out the even more obscure The Death of Mr. Lazurescu and the Clint Eastwood film about all the Japanese soldiers getting blown up. Other National Society Of Film Critics awards went to Paul Greengrass, who got Best Director for United 93; Forest Whitaker, who got Best Actor for The Last King Of Scotland; Mark Wahlberg, who got Best Supporting Actor for The Departed and Helen Mirren, who added to her tally of awards for her role in The Queen, which also won Best Screenplay.
The National Society Of Film Critics also gave out some other awards, but we won't go into those. Ben Affleck didn't win anything, and that's the most important thing.