I don’t know exactly how it happened, but the Best Actress chances of Annette Bening were restored and then some by the New York Film Critics Circle today. She was named Best Actress by that venerated org, and is now no longer seen as being on the ropes…saved! The Kids Are All Right also scored surprisingly with a Best Screenplay award for Lisa Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg, and — here’s a real shocker — Kids costar Mark Ruffalo, whom no one believed had any kind of shot at all, won Best Supporting Actor.

I haven’t done the reporting (I just came out of an interview with Sofia Coppola at the Standard) but I’m guessing that the reason Bening won for Best Actress is the same reason that Black Swan‘s Natalie Portman lost. Older women (including older female critics, a few of whom belong to the NYFCC) aren’t that big on Black Swan because it’s chock full of female nightmares that give them the willies. They just don’t like watching a film about a female character crippled by anxieties and insecurities, and who feels threatened by a female competitor, and who is goaded and manipulated by a controlling stage mom as well as a powerful alpha male at her workplace.

The Kids Are All Right is a female-directed drama about flawed women, yes, but the main characters, played by Bening and Julianne Moore, are feisty and willful, uncertain at times but far from weak, and the principal male figure in the film (i.e., Ruffalo) is basically passive and kid-like, and is ultimately defeated and shunted aside at the end. So Kids was, from a female perspective, a much more positive-minded, constructive-image thing to celebrate than Portman and/or Swan. Others in the NYFCC obviously joined the older-female contingent to make a majority (i.e., older mainstream-taste guys), but the NYFCC Kids win, I suspect, happened as much for political reasons (i.e., symbolic female self-image issues) as artistic ones.

The Social Network was named Best Picture, and David Fincher was named Best Director. The King’s Speech star Colin Firth won for Best Actor, and The Fighter‘s Melissa Leo won for Best Supporting Actress. Matthew Libatique‘s cinematography for Black Swan was honored, and The Illusionist beat Toy Story 3 for Best Animated Film. Inside Job won for Best Non-Fiction Film (i.e, Best Doc). OIivier Assayas‘s Carlos won for Best Foreign Language Film, and Animal Kingdom was named Best First Feature.