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And with that, the Oscar race is on!

Tuesday (Nov 29) morning was a busy one for the films hoping to vie for Academy Awards in February. The New York Film Critics Circle listed its winners and the Film Independent Spirits announced its nominations simultaneously in a couple hours of dizzying Oscar buzz.

Both awards are usually the earliest indication of which films could lead the pack when it comes time to announce the Academy Award nominees in January. The NYFCC were so early this year, in fact, that they had to delay their awards until after screening David Fincher's "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo," to which they awarded nothing.

Perhaps the biggest story coming out of both announcements was the emergence of Michael Hazanavicius's ode to golden-era silent film, "The Artist," as perhaps an early front-runner for Best Picture. The film had earned raves during the festival circuit a few months ago, but faced minor backlash during it's limited release last week. Now with a Best Picture and Best Director win from the NYFCC, "The Artist" is the film to beat.

A welcome surprise came with Brad Pitt's NYFCC Best Actor win for both "Moneyball" and "Tree of Life." Meryl Streep earned the first of her expected many wins for "The Iron Lady."

While the Spirit Awards focus on smaller films, the nominations cemented "Beginners" status as the indie charmer hit of the year. The movie, which stars Ewan McGregor and Christopher Plummer, surprised the night before when it won Best Ensemble and shared Best Picture with "Tree of Life" at the Gotham Independent Film Awards.

Check out both the winners from the New York Film Critics Circle and Spirit Award nominations below.


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