'Tree of Life' leads Chicago film critics nods

Posted by · 8:56 am · December 16th, 2011

Another day, another list of film critics groups dishing out their year-end kudos. This will continue on for a few weeks, but the Chicago Film Critics Association announced its nominees today, and something in the mix got me thinking: Where’s the love for Hunter McCracken this season?

The young star of “The Tree of Life” picked up a notice from the Chicago crowd for Most Promising Performer, and if you can believe it, it’s only the first time he’s been mentioned in an awards capacity this season. The first time! Though please correct me if I’m wrong.

This is stunning to me. I think the kid is good enough to warrant Best Actor attention, as you know, but he hasn’t even shown up in the various youth performance categories. I was most disheartened to see that he didn’t even land in the BFCA’s Best Young Actor/Actress category. He deserved to be in over every other nominee in that field, but at LEAST he should have been in over Asa Butterfield, who is kind of all over the place in “Hugo.”

In “The Tree of Life,” McCracken is a revelation of subtle, authentic gestures. Maybe his work isn’t considered mannered enough for some people to go there. Maybe he gets points deducted for being a non-actor cast to “act” realistically, which was obviously a goal for Malick in choosing him. But he’s so much more than that in the movie. I’ve never seen the loss of innocence so profoundly conveyed in the physicality of a child performance, the eyes revealing everything, the eggshell-walking demeanor of a son held in check by an authoritative father. It’s the best performance of the film, hands down.

Fox Searchlight placed the actor in the lead actor field, which I was pleased to see. Not that it matters, of course. McCracken is in school and isn’t able to come out here and do the whole dog and pony show, so these other actors zip on by him. And an Oscar nomination was never going to be in the cards, given the massive blind spot to this kind of thing. But the circuit is for finding areas to aware this kind of talent, and it has failed McCracken so far.

So I’m happy the Chicago crowd was able to cut through all that and offer up what should really be a no-brainer, recognition for an exciting debut performance (one that, along with Elizabeth Olsen’s work in “Martha Marcy May Marlene,” sparked an idea for charting the 10 best debut performances of all time some weeks back).

Anyway, check out the full list of Chicago nominees below. McCracken’s film led the way with seven nominations.

Best Picture
“The Artist”
“The Descendants”
“The Tree of Life”

Best Director
Michel Hazanavicius, “The Artist”
Terrence Malick, “The Tree of Life”
Alexander Payne, “The Descendants”
Nicolas Wainding Refn, “Drive”
Martin Scorsese, “Hugo”

Best Actor
George Clooney, “The Descendants”
Jean Dujardin, “The Artist”
Michael Fassbender, “Shame”
Gary Oldman, “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy”
Michael Shannon, “Take Shelter”

Best Actress
Kirsten Dunst, “Melancholia”
Elizabeth Olsen, “Martha Marcy May Marlene”
Anna Paquin, “Margaret”
Meryl Streep, “The Iron Lady”
Michelle Williams, “My Week with Marilyn”

Best Supporting Actor
Albert Brooks, “Drive”
Nick Nolte, “Warrior”
Patton Oswalt, “Young Adult”
Brad Pitt, “The Tree of Life”
Christopher Plummer, “Beginners”

Best Supporting Actress
Jessica Chastain, “The Tree of Life”
Melissa McCarthy, “Bridesmaids”
Carey Mulligan, “Shame”
Octavia Spencer, “The Help”
Shailene Woodley, “The Descendants”

Best Adapted Screenplay
“The Descendants”
“Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy”

Best Original Screenplay
“The Artist”
“Martha Marcy May Marlene”
“Midnight in Paris”
“A Separation”
“The Tree of Life”

Best Cinematography
“The Tree of Life”
“War Horse”

Best Original Score
“The Artist”
“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”

Best Animated Feature
“The Adventures of Tintin”
“Arthur Christmas”
“Puss in Boots”
“Winnie the Pooh”

Best Documentary
“Cave of Forgotten Dreams”
“The Interrupters”
“Into the Abyss: A Tale of Death, a Tale of Life”
“Project Nim”

Best Foreign Film
“In a Better World”
“A Separation”
“The Skin I Live In”
“Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives”

Most Promising Performer
Liana Liberato, “Trust”
Brit Marling, “Another Earth”
Hunter McCracken, “The Tree of Life”
Elizabeth Olsen, “Martha Marcy May Marlene”
Shailene Woodley, “The Descendants”

Most Promising Filmmaker
J.C. Chandor, “Margin Call”
Simon Curtis, “My Week with Marilyn”
Drake Doremus, “Like Crazy”
Sean Durkin, “Martha Marcy May Marlene”
Tate Taylor, “The Help”

For year-round entertainment news and awards season commentary follow @kristapley on Twitter.

Sign up for Instant Alerts from In Contention!

Comments Off on 'Tree of Life' leads Chicago film critics nods Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Filed in: HitFix · In Contention