Directors Joel Coen and Ethan Coen pose for a photo in Los Angeles, California, November 15, 2013. (Photo: Reuters)
Inside Llewyn Davis, the Coen brothers' tale of a struggling folk singer in early 1960s Greenwich Village, was named the year's best film by the National Society of Film Critics on Saturday, with star Oscar Isaac winning best actor and the filmmaking brothers sharing the award for best director.
The group, made up of 56 prominent movie critics from newspapers, magazines and other media outlets nationwide, chose Cate Blanchett as best actress for Woody Allen's Blue Jasmine, in which she plays the troubled wife of a financial fraudster.
Best supporting actress went to Jennifer Lawrence for the 1970s-set American Hustle, and James Franco won best supporting actor for his portrayal of a gangster drug dealer in the comic drama Spring Breakers.
In choosing Inside Llewyn Davis, the critics broke away from choices by other groups such as the National Board of Review and the New York Film Critics Circle, which respectively chose the quirky Her and American Hustle as best film. Earlier this week, the Producers Guild left the well-reviewed film off its list of nominees for the year's best film.
In the film, which also won the critics' prize for best cinematography and also stars Carey Mulligan, Isaac plays the title character Llewyn Davis, a struggling folk musician on a weeklong odyssey set against a musical score of T-Bone Burnett.
The film was chosen as the year's best by the Boston Society of Film Critics and is nominated for several Golden Globe awards, including best musical or comedy.
The critics awards are among the last in the run-up to the Oscar nominations, to be announced on January 16 in Los Angeles. The Academy Awards ceremony is slated for March 2.
Joel and Ethan Coen are a filmmaking team known for producing, writing and directing movies from their 1984 debut Blood Simple, Fargo and True Grit. to their Oscar winning best picture, No Country For Old Men.
In other awards, the critics chose the lesbian-theme drama Blue Is the Warmest Color as best foreign-language film, and declared a tie in the nonfiction, or documentary category.
The Act of Killing, about septuagenarian Indonesian mass murderer Anwar Congo, in which Indonesian gangsters reenact killings they participated in during the mid-1960s anti-Communist purge, shared the prize with At Berkeley, Frederick Wiseman's look at the northern California university.
Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke shared the best screenplay prize for "Before Midnight," the third film in the romantic series starring Delpy and Hawke.
Leviathan took the experimental film prize. Special film heritage honors went to the Museum of Modern Art, the British Film Institute, the DVD American Treasures from the New Zealand Film Archive, and Too Much Johnson, the surviving reels of Orson Welles' debut film which were discovered by Cinemazero (Pordenone) and Cineteca del Friuli, funded by the National Film Preservation Foundation and restored by the George Eastman House.