The National Society of Film Critics, which is made up of 58 the country's major film critics, rarely agrees with the choices of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for the Oscars. And the group probably stayed true to form with its picks for its 46th annual awards, naming Lars Von Trier's end-of-the-world drama "Melancholia" best picture Saturday.
Terrence's Malick's "The Tree of Life" came in second and the lauded Iranian drama "A Separation" placed third. "Separation" also won best foreign-language film and best screenplay for Asghar Farhadi.
Malick took best director honors with Martin Scorsese for "Hugo" coming in second and Von Trier placing third.
The annual voting, using a weighted ballot system, is held at Sardi's Restaurant in New York City; this year 48 of the 58 members participated.
Best actor went to Brad Pitt for both "Moneyball" and "The Tree of Life." Pitt also won best actor from the New York Film Critics' Circle and is nominated for a Golden Globe, a SAG award and a Critics Choice award. Runner-up was Gary Oldman for "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy," and Jean Dujardin placed third for "The Artist."
Notably missing from the list was Michael Fassbender for "Shame" and George Clooney for "The Descendants."
Best actress honors went to Kirsten Dunst for "Melancholia," with Yun Jung-hee for the Korean film "Poetry" coming in second. Meryl Streep's turn in "The Iron Lady" placed third.
Best supporting actor went to Albert Brooks for a his dramatic turn in "Drive." Christopher Plummer placed second for "Beginners," followed by Patton Oswalt for "Young Adult."
Best supporting actress was given to Jessica Chastain for her roles in three films: "The Tree of Life," "Take Shelter" and "The Help." Jeannie Berlin came in second for "Margaret" and Shailene Woodley placed third for "The Descandants."
"Tree of Life" also took home best cinematography for Emanual Lubezki with Manual Alberto Claro placing second for "Melancholia" and Robert Richardson taking third for "Hugo."
Werner Herzog's "Cave of Forgotten Dreams" was best nonfiction film. He also came in third place in the category for "Into the Abyss." Steve James' "The Interrupters" placed second.
In best screenplay category, Steve Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin's script for "Moneyball" was second behind "A Separation" and Woody Allen's "Midnight in Paris" took third.
The Experimental Award went to Ken Jacobs for "Seeking the Monkey King."
There were also several Film Heritage honors given out:
-- BAM Cinematek for its complete Vincente Minnelli retrospective, with all titles shown in 16mm or 35mm.
-- Lobster Films, Groupama Gan Foundation for Cinema and the Technicolor Foundation for Cinema for the restoration of the color version of Georges Melies' "A Trip to the Moon."
-- New York's Museum of Modern Art for its extensive retrospective of Weimar Cinema.
-- Flicker Alley for its box set "Landmarks of Early Soviet Film."
-- Criterion Collection for its two-disc DVD package, "The Complete Jean Vigo."
'Melancholia' -- Kirsten Dunst ponders the end of the world [video]
Veteran Koreanactress Yun Jung-hee comes out of retirement for 'Poetry'
Jessica Chastain heading to Broadway in 'The Heiress'
-- Susan King
Photo: Kirsten Dunst, from left, Alexander Skarsgaard, Kiefer Sutherland and Charlotte Gainsbourg star in "Melancholia." Credit: Christian Geisnaes/Magnolia Pictures.