“If Beale Street Could Talk,” an alternately soaring and searing James Baldwin adaptation about a young black couple in early ’70s Manhattan, was named the best movie of 2018 by the Boston Society of Film Critics on Sunday.
The film is the latest release from director Barry Jenkins, whose 2016 “Moonlight” won the Oscar for best picture. “If Beale Street Could Talk,” which will be released here on Christmas Day, also won awards for best supporting actress Regina King, as the heroine’s pillar-of-strength mother, and for Nicholas Britell’s sweeping musical score.
The society, a group of 21 movie reviewers working in the New England area, was founded in 1981. Sunday’s meeting marked the organization’s 38th annual awards vote. Reflecting a year of strong contenders on the blockbuster front, in American independent film, and from other countries, the BSFCs awards were spread widely around.
One other movie, the fact-based comedy drama “Can You Ever Forgive Me?,” won three awards. Best actress went to Melissa McCarthy for her portrayal of a literary forger, and Richard E. Grant won best supporting actor as her barroom-hustler accomplice. The script, by Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty, won best screenplay.
In a surprise win, John C. Reilly took the best actor prize for his playing of classic comedian Oliver Hardy in the upcoming “Stan and Ollie,” which will be released in New York and Los Angeles before the end of the year and come to Boston in January. Reilly’s win came over Ethan Hawke as the pastor undergoing a crisis of faith in Paul Schrader’s “First Reformed.”
The foreign-language category, awarded in memory of longtime Boston Globe film critic Jay Carr, was won by “Shoplifters,” Hirokazu Kore-eda’s critically acclaimed drama about a makeshift family living on the fringes of society. That film came close to beating “If Beale Street Could Talk” for best picture, and Sakura Ando almost squeaked past McCarthy to win best actress. “Shoplifters” also won for best ensemble cast.
It was a very strong year for women filmmakers, with notable contributions from Marielle Heller (“Can You Ever Forgive Me?”), Deborah Granik (“Leave No Trace”), Chloe Zhao (“The Rider”), Tamara Jenkins (“Private Life”), and others. The Boston critics awarded best director to Scotland’s Lynne Ramsay for “You Were Never Really Here,” her fearsome psychodrama about a tormented hitman (Joaquin Phoenix).
Hamilton native Bo Burnham was named best new filmmaker for his debut, “Eighth Grade,” a much-loved drama about a fraught middle-schooler played by Elsie Fisher. The award is given annually in memory of the critic and Boston media personality David Brudnoy. The editing award, given in the name of film cutter Karen Schmeer, went to Tom Cross for his work on Damian Chazelle’s moon-walk drama “First Man.”
A more recently created award, Retrospective of the Year, is awarded in memory of David Pendleton, the Harvard Film Archive film programmer, who died in 2017. The award went to the comprehensive Ingmar Bergman retrospective jointly mounted by the HFA, the Brattle Theatre, and the Coolidge Corner Theatre. Special commendations were awarded by the society to unique Boston film institutions the Roxbury International Film Festival, The Boston Underground Film Festival — both celebrating 20-year anniversaries — and ethnographic film distributor Documentary Educational Resources.
The full list of winners can be found at www.bostonfilmcritics.org. This year’s awards were given in memory of Stephen Brophy, a film professor, Bay Windows movie critic, and BSFC member who died this year.