I do so enjoy this time of year – it is AWARDS SEASON!!!

NY Film Critics Choose ‘The Artist,’ Its Director and Brad & Meryl

The New York Film Critics Circle, which moved its awards announcement from mid-December to late November in a transparent attempt to have more clout in the awards conversation, has thrown that clout behind “The Artist,” choosing Michel Hazanavicius’s black-and-white silent movie as the best film of 2011.

The French director was also named Best Director, completing what had been a very good morning for the Weinstein Company film. Less than two hours before the NYFCC announcement, “The Artist” tied “Take Shelter” as the most-nominated film at the Film Independent Spirit Awards.

Other winners include two mainstream choices in the lead actor and actress categories. Brad Pitt was named Best Actor for his roles in both “Moneyball” and “The Tree of Life,” while Meryl Streep was named Best Actress for her portrayal of Margaret Thatcher in “The Iron Lady.”

Supporting honors went to Albert Brooks as the villain in “Drive,” and Jessica Chastain for three of her many films in 2011: “The Tree of Life,” “Take Shelter” and “The Help.”

The Iranian film “A Separation” was named Best Foreign Language Film, while Werner Herzog’s 3D documentary “Cave of Forgotten Dreams” was honored as Best Nonfiction Film.

Aaron Sorkin shared the Best Screenplay award with Steven Zaillian for “Moneyball” a year after surprisingly not winning it for “The Social Network,” while Emmanuel Lubezki was given the prize for Best Cinematography for “The Tree of Life” in what was apparently a very fast vote. The NYFCC tweeted the results as they happened, and Lubezki’s honor was announced on Twitter only three minutes after the previous award.

The NYFCC made its choices without having seen Stephen Daldry’s “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close,” which was not ready to screen for the group before it voted. Its members saw David Fincher’s “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” on Monday, one day prior to voting.

If the group was trying to send a message to the Academy with its timing and its selections, the principal beneficiaries were probably Albert Brooks and Brad Pitt, both of whose films were released earlier in the year. The Academy certainly does not need nudging to pay attention to, say, “The Artist” or Meryl Streep.

The results could be seen as something of a blow to “The Descendants” and “The Tree of Life,” which were considered favorites to win the top NYFCC award — though in a year unlikely to show much critical unanimity, the Oscar influence of any particular critics’ group is limited.

Last year, three of the NYFCC’s 12 selections went on to win Academy Awards: actor Colin Firth (“The King’s Speech”), supporting actress Melissa Leo (“The Fighter”) and documentary “Inside Job.”