Kirsten Dunst and the apocalyptic drama “Melancholia” won top honors from the National Society of Film Critics, which also named Dunst best actress. Brad Pitt won best actor for “Moneyball” and “The Tree of Life.”

In a year filled with solid contenders, the Lars von Trier film triumphed, but von Trier failed to win for best director. That award went to Terrence Malick for “The Tree of Life,” a mystical period piece with lush cinematography. It also won that award.

The Complete List of Film Critics Winners

Best Picture
1. Melancholia – 29 (Lars von Trier)
2. The Tree of Life – 28 (Terrence Malick)
3. A Separation – 20 (Asghar Farhadi)

Best Director
1. Terrence Malick – 31 (The Tree of Life)
2. Martin Scorsese – 29 (Hugo)
3. Lars von Trier – 23 (Melancholia)

Best Actor
1. Brad Pitt – 35 (Moneyball, The Tree of Life)
2. Gary Oldman – 22 (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy)
3. Jean Dujardin – 19 (The Artist)

Best Actress
1. Kirsten Dunst – 39 (Melancholia)
2. Yun Jung-hee – 25 (Poetry)
3. Meryl Streep – 20 (The Iron Lady)

Best Supporting Actor
1. Albert Brooks – 38 (Drive)
2. Christopher Plummer – 24 (Beginners)
3. Patton Oswalt – 19 (Young Adult)

Best Supporting Actress
1. Jessica Chastain – 30 (The Tree of Life, Take Shelter, The Help)
2. Jeannie Berlin – 19 (Margaret)
3. Shailene Woodley – 17 (The Descendants)

Best Foreign Language Film
1. A Separation – 67 (Asghar Farhadi)
2. Mysteries of Lisbon – 28 (Raoul Ruiz)
3. Le Havre – 22 (Aki Kaurismäki)

Best Nonfiction
1. Cave of Forgotten Dreams – 35 (Werner Herzog)
2. The Interrupters – 26 (Steve James)
3. Into the Abyss – 18 (Werner Herzog)

Best Screenplay
1. A Separation – 39 (Asghar Farhadi)
2. Moneyball – 22 (Steven Zaillian, Aaron Sorkin)
3. Midnight in Paris – 16 (Woody Allen)

Best Cinematography
1. The Tree of Life – 76 (Emanuel Lubezki)
2. Melancholia – 41 (Manuel Alberto Claro)
3. Hugo – 33 (Robert Richardson)

Ken Jacobs, for Seeking the Monkey King

Kirsten Dunst Topless in Melancholia

“Melancholia” also won the top prize at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, but von Trier created an uproar and was booted from the event after he proclaimed his admiration for Adolph Hitler.

With two prestigious wins, “Melancholia,” moved up substantially in the betting pool for Oscar favorites. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will announce nominees this month.

Pitt, who has gone without an Oscar during his career, also saw his chances increase for a statute. In “Moneyball,” he played Oakland A’s manager Billy Beane, who engineered a remarkable turnaround with baseball’s worst franchise. He also won plaudits for his role as a strict father in “The Tree of Life.”

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The film critics group is made up of 58 members from major newspapers in top cities like Los Angeles, Boston, New York and Chicago. Traditional newsweeklies like Time, Newsweek and The New Yorker also hold seats.

Although the publications once represented the epitome of film criticism, their role has been sharply diminished by the rise of Internet web blogs and web magazines.

Albert Brooks, another widley acclaimed actor without an Oscar, won best supporting actor for his role in the movie “Drive.”

Jessica Chastain, who scored a breakout role in the the movie “The Help won best supporting actress. She was also cited for “The Tree of Life,” and “Take Shelter.”

Critically acclaimed films, such as Oscar favorite “The Artist,” George Clooney’s “The Descendants” and Martin Scorsese’s “Hugo” went home empty handed.

The next big awards show will be the Golden Globes on Sunday, Jan. 15.