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The Maze Runner

What’s intriguing about “The Maze Runner”–for a long time, at least–is the way it tells us a story we think we’ve heard countless times before…

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20,000 Days on Earth

In his music, he routinely celebrates/deconstructs his public persona: brutalizer, coward, agnostic, and wannabe deity. "20,000 Days on Earth" is accordingly not a biography, but…

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Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

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Monsieur Hire

Patrice Leconte's "Monsieur Hire" is a tragedy about loneliness and erotomania, told about two solitary people who have nothing else in common. It involves a…

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National Society of Film Critics falls for "Amour"

Michael Haneke's "Amour," which won the Palme d'Or last May at Cannes, was voted Saturday the best film of 2012 by the prestigious National Society of Film Critics. The award, coming on the eve of voting for the 2013 Academy Awards, confirms "Amour" as a Best Foreign Film frontrunner. Other NSFC winners will also draw welcome attention.

Daniel Day-Lewis was voted the year's best actor for his work in the title role of "Lincoln." The veteran French actress Emmanuelle Riva, 85, won for Best Actress for "Amour," in which she-costarred with another legend, Jean-LouisTrintignant, 82, in Haneke's story of a long-married and happy couple whose life is interrupted by illness.

Amy Adams and Matthew McConaughey were semi-unexpected but deserving winners in the supporting categories. McConaughey played the enterprising star of his own male stripper revue in Tampa in "Magic Mike." Adams was the wife of a cult leader said to be inspired by the Scientologist L. Ron Hubbard in "The Master."

Runners-up in the best actress category were Jennifer Lawrence for "Silver Linings Playbook" and Jessica Chastain for "Zero Dark Thirty." In the supporting actor category, second- and third-place finishers were Tommy Lee Jones for "Lincoln" and Philip Seymour Hoffman for "The Master."

Unlike the Oscars, the NSFC reveals its actual vote totals. The top three films were "Amour" with 28, "The Master" with 25, and "Zero Dark Thirty" with 18. The diectors of those three, shuffled slightly, finished this way: Haneke with 27, and Kathryn Bigelow and Paul Thomas Anderson, both with 24.

The year's best documentary film was "The Gatekeepers," focusing on the surviving chiefs of Shin Bet, the Israeli security agency. Runners-Up: "This Is Not a Film," by Iranian filmmake Jafar Panahi, who was banned from working and "made" a film directed by others about how he wasn't making one. "Searching for Sugar Man," the incredible story of a 1970s rock star named Rodriguez who was forgotten in this country but became a superstar in far-away South Africa. "This is Not a Film" was also named Best Experimental Film.

Tony Kushner's sript for "Lincoln" won in Best Screenplay category, followed by P. T. Anderson's for "The Master" and David O. Russell's for "Silver Linnings Playbook."

Honored for their cinematography: Mihai Malaimare, Jr. for "The Master," Roger Deakins for the James Bond adventure "Skyfall," and Greig Fraser for "Zero Dark Thirty."

On a sentimental note, this year's awards were dedicated to one of the Society's founders, the great Andrew Sarris, who died June 20, 2012. Originally formed as an alternative to the New York Film Critics' Circle, which was deemed too mainstream, the Society is considered more highbrow and exclusive than many other awards groups.

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