The New York Film Critics' Circle has announced its picks for the year in film, with many smaller films getting kudos, but studio epic Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King was called best picture. Lost in Translation was recognized with Sofia Coppola as best director and Billy Murray as best actor (from indie major Focus Features), and indie Secret Lives of Dentists emerging with best actress Hope Davis (earning the award for both her work in SLoD and American Splendor) and best screenplay. Soon to be released The House of Sand of Fog's Shohreh Aghdashloo won for best supporting actress, and Eugene Levy was called best supporting actor for A Might Wind.

Many wonder what is the use of following these critics' awards, since they are only directionally useful in wondering who will win the Oscars, an imperfect process also. Gothamist ventures to say that when things move us, we want to talk about it, think about it, tell others about it. Movies are a reflection of who we are and become calling cards of ideas and dreams to other places, whether it's to a rural farm town in Nebraska or an emerging metropolis like Shanghai. Sure, there's an amount of unspeakable crap, but it's also nice to see that some exceptional work is being recognized.

Best Picture: Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (In his review today, the Times' Elvis Mitchell calls it a "meticulous and prodigious vision, the product of impressive craft and energy.")
Best Director: Sofia Coppola, Lost in Translation
Best Actor: Bill Murray, Lost in Translation
Best Actress: Hope Davis, American Splendor & The Secret Lives of Dentists
Best Supporting Actor: Eugene Levy, A Mighty Wind
Best Supporting Actress: Shohreh Aghdashloo, House of Sand and Fog

Best Screenplay: Craig Lucas, The Secret Lives of Dentists
Best Cinematographer: Harris Savides, Elephant &amp Gerry
Best Foreign Film: City of God
Best Non-Fiction Film : Capturing the Friedmans
Best Animated Film: Les Triplettes de Belleville
Best First Film: American Splendor