Austin Film Critics Laud ‘Hugo,’ ‘Drive,’ ‘Attack the Block’ and Jessica Chastain as Best of 2011

Austin Film Critics Association 2011 Awards

Of all the various critics groups around the country, the one you should care most about is the Austin Film Critics Association. Why? Well, there’s two very solid and in no way biased reasons that I have: One is that Austin is the home base of Film School Rejects, the site you’re currently reading. And reason two is that yours truly is a member of said association, as is fellow Reject columnist Brian Salisbury. You may also recognize various friends of the site and past Reject Radio guests on the membership roster, including founder Chase Whale, FearNet’s Scott Weinberg, Ain’t It Cool’s Eric Vespe,’s Peter Hall and more. It’s a pretty impressive group, even if you take my membership into consideration.

The other, perhaps less spoken reason, is that the AFCA is a group that won’t hesitate to buck the trends set by their big brother and sister organizations in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. They were the ones that called The Dark Knight the best of 2008, led the charge on The Hurt Locker as best pic of 2009 and resisted temptation in 2010, calling out Black Swan as the top film instead of going with everyone else who named The Social Network king. It’s a critics group that knows its stuff. And in 2011, they’ve chosen to honor Martin Scorsese’s Hugo as best pic, but awarded a great number of awards to fan favorites like Drive and Attack the Block. See the full press release just after the jump.

The full press release is below:

December 28, 2011 (Austin, TX) — The Austin Film Critics Association today announced its 2011 awards, with Martin Scorsese’s ode to classic cinema, HUGO, winning Best Film. It lead a group of awards that AFCA Founder and President Cole Dabney called “a unique blend highlighting the best of both Hollywood and indie filmmaking.”

The hyper-stylized crime thriller DRIVE took home three awards, including Best Director for Nicolas Winding Refn, Best Adapted Screenplay for writer Hossein Amini, and Best Supporting Actor for Albert Brooks. It was also named the second best film of the year in the AFCA’s overall Top 10 List.

Michael Shannon was named Best Actor, while Jessica Chastain received Best Supporting Actress for their performances in TAKE SHELTER. Austinite Jeff Nichols was also awarded Best Austin Film for his direction and conception of the film, hailed at film festivals this year from Sundance to Cannes to Toronto.

Tilda Swinton was named Best Actress for her portrayal as a mother struggling with her first-born child’s madness and murder in WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN, while Woody Allen was awarded Best Original Screenplay for MIDNIGHT IN PARIS and Emmanuel Lubezki won his 2nd AFCA Award for Best Cinematography, this time for the Austin-made THE TREE OF LIFE.

The British film ATTACK THE BLOCK, which premiered at Austin’s own South by Southwest Film Festival, was awarded two prizes. Joe Cornish, who wrote and directed the alien invasion sci-fi/comedy, won Best First Film while composer Steven Price received Best Original Score.

Jee-woon Kim’s South Korean revenge thriller I SAW THE DEVIL (Akmareul boatda) won Best Foreign Language Film, while the Formula One Racing biography SENNA took home Best Documentary. RANGO, which features the voice-work of Johnny Depp and was directed by Gore Verbinski in his non-live action debut, was named Best Animated Film.

For her incredibly diverse and complex work in 2011, the AFCA also awarded Jessica Chastain its Robert R. “Bobby” McCurdy Memorial Breakthrough Artist Award. Ms. Chastain appeared in six films in 2011, including TAKE SHELTER, THE TREE OF LIFE, THE HELP, THE DEBT, CORIOLANUS and TEXAS KILLING FIELDS. The award is now named after Bobby McCurdy, a much-loved member of the AFCA who co-founded the organization with Dabney. He passed away suddenly during last year’s voting process; McCurdy’s enthusiasm for film made the Breakthrough Artist Award his favorite award to discuss and forecast as part of the AFCA voting process.

All details can be found at the AFCA website; the AFCA is a group dedicated to supporting the best in film, whether at the international, national, or local level, whose members contribute to publications and outlets as diverse as Ain’t It Cool News, the Austin American-Statesman, the Austin Chronicle, CNN, Fandango,, Film School Rejects, Fox News,, INsite Magazine, MSN Movies,, Slackerwood, and Twitch, among others.

Best Film:

Best Director:
Nicolas Winding Refn, Drive

Best Actor:
Michael Shannon, Take Shelter

Best Actress:
Tilda Swinton, We Need to Talk About Kevin

Best Supporting Actor:
Albert Brooks, Drive

Best Supporting Actress:
Jessica Chastain, Take Shelter

Best Original Screenplay:
Midnight in Paris, Woody Allen

Best Adapted Screenplay:
Drive, Hossein Amini

Best Cinematography:
The Tree of Life, Emmanuel Lubezki

Best Original Score:
Attack the Block, Steven Price

Best Foreign Language Film:
I Saw the Devil, South Korea [dir: Jee-woon Kim]

Best Documentary:
Senna [dir: Asif Kapadia]

Best Animated Feature:
Rango [dir: Gore Verbinski]

Robert R. “Bobby” McCurdy Memorial Breakthrough Artist Award:
Jessica Chastain, Take Shelter/The Tree of Life/The Help/The Debt/Coriolanus/Texas Killing Fields

Best First Film:
Attack the Block [dir: Joe Cornish]

Austin Film Award:
Take Shelter [dir: Jeff Nichols]

Top 10 Films:
1. Hugo
2. Drive
3. Take Shelter
4. Midnight in Paris
5. Attack the Block
6. The Artist
7. Martha Marcy May Marlene
8. I Saw the Devil
9. 13 Assassins
10. Melancholia

Neil Miller is the Founder and Publisher of Film School Rejects. For almost a decade, he has been talking movies on television, the radio, and the Internet. As of yet, no one has stopped him.

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