The Artist” got an early award-season boost from the New York Film Critics Circle, which tapped the Weinstein Co.’s silent, black-and-white homage to cinema history for its top feature kudo and Michel Hazanavicius for best helmer. Major thesp awards went to Brad Pitt and Meryl Streep, the latter for her turn as Margaret Thatcher in TWC’s “The Iron Lady.”

The 33-member group had moved up its voting to Tuesday in order to be first in line among critics’ kudos, leapfrogging ahead of the National Board of Review, which hands out awards Thursday. The choices of critics’ groups typically do not win the best picture Oscar, and most major orgs, including New York, lined up with “The Social Network” last year.

Fox Searchlight’s “Tree of Life” was cited for multiple awards, with lead actor Pitt and supporting actress Jessica Chastain both cited for their work in the film. Pitt also got the nod for his role in “Moneyball,” while Chastain received the award for her work not only in “Tree” but in “The Help” and “Take Shelter.” “Tree of Life” also drew the cinematography kudo for Emmanuel Lubezki.

Columbia Pictures’ “Moneyball” also took home the screenplay nod for co-scripters Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin.

J.C. Chandor’s “Margin Call,” released by Lionsgate, nabbed the first-feature kudo.

Albert Brooks won supporting actor for his role in FilmDistrict’s “Drive.”

Nonfiction film went to Sundance Selects’ 3D arthouse success “Cave of Forgotten Dreams,” helmed by Werner Herzog, and the laurel for foreign-language film was taken by Sony Pictures Classics’ Iranian drama “A Separation.”

NYFCC selected the late Raoul Ruiz, the Chilean filmmaker who died in August, to receive its annual special award.

“The Artist”

Michel Hazanavicius – “The Artist”

Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin – “Moneyball”

Brad Pitt – “Moneyball” and “Tree of Life”

Meryl Streep – “The Iron Lady”

Supporting Actor:
Albert Brooks – “Drive”

Supporting Actress:
Jessica Chastain – “Tree of Life,” “The Help” and “Take Shelter”

Foreign Language Film:
“A Separation”

Emmanuel Lubezki – “Tree of Life”

Nonfiction Film:
“Cave of Forgotten Dreams” (dir: Werner Herzog)

First Feature:
“Margin Call”

Special Award to be given to filmmaker Raoul Ruiz