A Carol cabal almost totally dominated the New York Film Critics Circle today, resulting in wins for Best Picture, Best Director (Todd Haynes), Best Screenplay (Phyllis Nagy) and Best Cinematography (Ed Lachman). We all love Carol & sincere congratultations to these four, but boy, that Carol cabal!…they really strong-armed this normally eclectic, spread-the-wealth-around group into submission. I was expecting a Spotlight win but whatever. Obviously this ups Carol‘s stock among the Academy and guild members — a very welcome gift for the Weinstein Co.

Spotlight‘s Michael Keaton won for Best Actor — a welcome but somewhat confusing surprise given that Spotlight is totally an ensemble piece — there are no leads in that film & the NYFCC definitely knows that. Brooklyn‘s Saoirse Ronan won for Best Actress (brilliant, agreed). Kristen Stewart (Clouds of Sils Maria) won for Best Supporting Actress — a rich performance but the film (which doesn’t work at all) belongs to 2014 — I’m telling you straight out that the NYFCC is wrong to regard Stewart’s performance as better than Jane Fonda‘s in Youth or Elizabeth Banks‘ in Love & Mercy. Bridge of SpiesMark Rylance won for Best Supporting Actor — fine.

Inside Out won for Best Animated Film (the NYFCC should have gone against the grain and given it to Anomalisa). Frederic Wiseman‘s In Jackson Heights won for Best Non-Fiction Film (really?). Timbuktu won for Best Foreign Film (a bit of a head-scratcher but fine). Laszlo NemesSon of Saul won for Best First Film.

With the exceptions of the Keaton, Rylance and Wiseman awards the NYFCC rule seems to have been that if a film/performance was seen or released after 9.1.15, it didn’t qualify. Carol was Cannes (May 2015), Brooklyn was last January (Sundance 2015), Clouds of Sils Maria was May 2014 (Cannes), Inside Out was last May (Cannes), Timbuktu was May 2014 (Cannes), Son of Saul was last May (Cannes).

Keaton is superb in Spotlight and all power to him and the proud and gifted Spotlight team (HE worships this film body and soul), but giving him a Best Actor trophy is category fraud, plain and simple. And that’s not a slam against Keaton at all. He simply doesn’t give a “lead” performance by any standard or criteria I’m familiar with.