On a busy Sunday for critics groups, a number of journalists from around the country voted their picks for the best films and performances of the year. Most anticipated by those who follow such balloting was yesterday’s gathering of a group of Southern California writers. The Los Angeles Film Critics Association named Alexander Payne’s The Descendants the best movie of the year. Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life was the runner-up but the Texas director was named best director by the group. See the full list of Los Angeles critics picks.

Malick’s latest was also the top pick up the coast in the Bay Area where The Tree of Life was named best picture and Malick was voted best director by the San Francisco Film Critics Circle. Emmanuel Lubezki was named best cinematographer for the movie. See the full list of San Francisco critics picks.

Mirroring the recent best picture selection by the New Film Critics Circle, the New York Film Critics Online picked Michel Hazanavicius’s The Artist as the best movie of 2011. Hazanavicius was also voted best director. See the full list of New York online critics' picks.

Meanwhile up in New England, the Boston Society of Film Critics also named Michel Hazanavicius’s The Artist, but gave their best director prize to Martin Scorsese for Hugo. See the full list of Boston critics picks.

Werner Herzog’s Cave of Forgotten Dreams was on a few lists yesterday. It won best documentary notices from the Los Angeles critics, as well as New York’s online critics. James Marsh’s Project Nim was named best doc in Boston.

A few foreign films are resonating with film critics, Asghar Farhadi’s A Separation won the best screenplay award from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association and was named best foreign film by New York’s online critics. In Los Angeles, the best foreign language film was Chuan Lu’s City of Life and Death, while in Boston the critics honored Denis Villeneuve's Incendies and in San Francisco the group named Abbas Kiarostami’s Certified Copy.

Meanwhile, Sean Durkin’s Martha Marcy May Marlene and J.C. Chandor’s Margin Call continue to generate attention for their first time filmmakers. In Los Angeles, the film critics announced a New Generation award for the Borderline Films team (Antonio Campos, Durkin and Josh Mond), as well as lead actress Elizabeth Olsen. In Boston, the critics announced Durkin as the winner of their Best New Filmmaker award. In San Francisco, Margin Call won the award for best original screenplay.

Later this week, Film Comment will announce the results of its annual survey of film critics. Stay tuned to FilmLinc.com for the results.

Pictured above an image from Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life.