The New York Film Critics Circle named black and white film The Artist as best film of the year.

The group, comprising film reviewers from New York-based publications, released its choices on Twitter on Tuesday, as film awards season began.

French director Michel Hazanavicius' black-and-white silent film follows George Valentin (Jean Dujardin), a silent-era film star struggling to make it in the talkies. The love letter to 1920s Hollywood has been a favourite on the film circuit, and is being closely watched in the Oscar race.

The New York critics also liked Brad Pitt, awarding him best actor for his performances in Moneyball and The Tree of Life and Meryl Streep, named best actress for her portrayal of Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady.

Jessica Chastain, who appears to be this year’s it girl with multiple film roles, received the best supporting actress title for her work in Tree of Life, The Help and Take Shelter.

Gotham awards pick Tree of Life, Beginners

beginners-plummer

Christopher Plummer, left, and Ewan McGregor in a scene from Beginners, which is getting awards recognition. (Focus Features/Associated Press )

On Monday evening, the Gotham Independent Film Awards in New York declared a tie for best film, between Terrence Malick's imaginative The Tree of Life and another father-son drama Mike Mills' Beginners.

The Tree of Life, starring Pitt and Sean Penn, won the Palm d'Or at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival.

This year's Gotham gala included a tribute to Canadian director David Cronenberg, whose A Dangerous Method will soon have its commercial release.

There was also Gotham recognition for the ensemble cast of Beginners, including Canadian actor Christopher Plummer playing the father who comes out of the closet to his astonished son.

Beginners is also nominated for a best feature prize at the Independent Spirit Awards, U.S. awards for American-made features produced for $20 million or less.  

Drive gets Indie Spirit nominations

Take Shelter and The Artist  lead the Indie Spirit nominations, announced Tuesday, with five each, including best picture

Patrick deWitt's great year

Patrick deWitt's novel The Sisters Brothers earned the Governor General’s Literary Award and the Writers Trust Prize, as well as a nomination for the Man Booker Prize earlier this fall.

Now the Vancouver Island-born, Portland, Ore-based writer has been nominated for an Independent Spirit Award. He is recognized for best first screenplay for his film, Terri.

The other best picture contenders are The Descendants, cancer comedy 50/50 and action film Drive.  

Canadian actor Ryan Gosling earned a best actor nod for his role in Drive. The Descendants star George Clooney was overlooked in the acting category in favour of A Better Life's Demian Bichir, The Artist's Jean Dujardin, Rampart's Woody Harrelson and Take Shelter's Michael Shannon.  

The best actress nominees include Michelle Williams, playing Marilyn Monroe in My Week with Marilyn and Elizabeth Olsen, playing the victim of a cult in Martha Marcy May Marlene. Think of Me's Lauren Ambrose, Natural Selection's Rachael Harris and Pariah's Adepero Oduye also are in contention.

The Indie Spirit Awards are traditionally given on a beach in Santa Monica, Calif., the night before the Oscar gala