Putting the New York and NBR in Contrast Before Los Angeles Critics Announce

Probably the biggest mistakes I saw being made yesterday, whether on a blog or on Twitter, were observers who read too much into the National Board of Review’s choices and omissions. The National Board of Review are a great group to push through either obscure and/or borderline contenders. Because they’ve been around so long they have an air of importance about them but no one really knows who they are and, since a lot of students vote on the award, it skews younger. This is, perhaps, why they have a pretty good track record pushing through nominees but not so much when it comes to matching the Academy’s tastes.

The New York Film Critics, on the other hand, skew older. To become a critic writing in New York one assumes you have some credentials under your belt. You are ostensibly a published writer and you’ve likely finished college and long since been there, done that. That makes the New York critics’ tastes, to my mind, somewhat more akin to Oscar voters. The Los Angeles critics are a more rowdy, rebellious bunch. To date, they haven’t ever awarded the Coen brothers Best Picture. One of their members, Glenn Whipp, pointed this out to me the other day. It almost invalidates them completely, doesn’t it?

Either which way, with regard to the National Board of Review, it can help but it can’t hurt. The New York Film critics establish a pattern for what will wind up being a general consensus, I gather. It’s rare for a film to win both the NBR and the NYFCC and not win Best Picture but it happens. Let’s save that catastrophe for another conversation and go on to look at the NBR’s winning/nominations record.

Best Picture: Since the year 2000, only 2 of their winners have gone on to win the Oscar. But since 2000, all but one of their winners have at least been nominated.

Best Actor
: Since 2000, four of their winners have gone on to win the Oscar, nearly all have been nominated. This puts Bradley Cooper in a good place to push through and take a spot. Question is, whom does he bump?

Best Actress:
Since 2000, only 3 have gone on to win Best Actress, though most have been nominated, except the last two Tilda Swinton and Lesley Manville. Jessica Chastain stars in what will be a Best Picture nominee, which improves her chance significantly.

Best Supporting Actor:
Since 2000, only 3 have gone on to win, though most have been nominated. The past two winners have gone on to win the Oscar, which puts Leonardo DiCaprio in a great spot to not only be nominated but to win.

Best Supporting Actress:
It is a toss-up whether a nomination here can result in an Oscar nomination. It is probably one of the best things that could happen to Ann Dowd, a character actress who has been kicking around town forever and gives a complex, brilliant performance in Compliance. But last year’s winner wasn’t nominated, and only one since 2000 has gone on to win the Oscar. It can help getting a nomination, however. It certainly can’t hurt.

Best Director: 3
times since 2000 has the director winner matched, and only once did that film also win Best Picture: The Departed. The other times it signaled a split afoot: Soderbergh for Traffic (Gladiator won), Ang Lee for Brokeback Mountain (Crash won). In none of those instances did that director’s film win the NBR for Best Picture.

Screenplay: Once since they started giving out the prize (2003) has the screenplay winner gone on to win the Oscar – Diablo Cody for Juno.

Ensemble: The Help is the only film that won this category and went on to be nominated for Best Picture. In all other instances, the film that won Ensemble at the NBR was either been shut out of the nominations for Best Picture or won Best Picture. In most of the cases except one the film also won another significant prize, like Best Director (The Departed) or Best Picture (No Country for Old Men). The one film that won ensemble at the NBR and nothing else that went on to win Best Picture? Lord of the Rings: Return of the King. Note: most of these awards prior to 2009 went up against the five picture rule at the Academy. Now that they have stretched it to more than five, it’s too early to see a pattern in this category, I’d say.

The New York Film Critics  

Best Picture: Since 2000, only three that won the NYFCC went on to win the Best Picture Oscar. Nine were either nominated or won, only four weren’t. With more than five Best Picture nominees these stats might look different.
Best Actor: Since 2000, four have gone on to win the Oscar for Best Actor and nearly all were nominated.
Best Actress: Three have gone on to win Best Actress since 2000, all but two were nominated. Rachel Weisz has a very good chance to push through to a nomination but she’ll have to bump someone else.
Best Supporting Actor: 3 have won and many have gone on to be nominated but not last year.
Best Supporting Actress: Five have gone to win since 2000, and most were nominated. Sally Field has a nod locked and loaded. The only question is whether she’ll win a rare third Oscar.
Best Director: Since 2000, seven of the NYFCC’s Best Directors have gone on to win the Oscar, and that includes those who won in a split vote scenario: Soderbergh, Lee. That’s a fairly hefty stat. One could do worse than predict Bigelow to win Best Director even if Zero Dark Thirty doesn’t win Best Picture. Tom Hooper for The King’s Speech, Ron Howard with A Beautiful Mind, Chicago and Roman Polanski, Danny Boyle and Slumdog Millionaire are the films and directors that won without winning either at the NYFCC.

The conclusion: It is easy to see how much more influential the New York Film critics are, particularly since Oscar moved back its voting by a month.  After that, along with the explosion of critics awards, critics and bloggers, things have changed. One has to assume that Kathryn Bigelow and Zero Dark Thirty has the best chance to win simply based on the New York Film Critics. Any other option will likely be either a weepy/feelgood or else something too big to ignore.  That takes us back still to our top films:  Zero Dark Thirty, Lincoln, Les Miserables, Silver Linings Playbook, Life of Pi.

Zero Dark Thirty tops the National Board of Review Awards

Next Story »

New York Film Critics to Vote December 3

51 Comments

  1. AS
    December 6, 2012

    Matthew McConaughey did not win the NBR supporting actor, Leonardo DiCaprio did.

  2. zig
    December 6, 2012

    A Coen-less roster invalidates them? Not really (especially since “Secrets & Lies” in 96 and “There Will Be Blood” in 06 are pretty good alternatives). I like the LA critics for viewing their prize as something of merit, not as an indicator of potential Academy success. It’s especially notable in their Best Actress choices. I look forward to their selections more than I do the NYFCC. It used to be the reverse!

  3. Jeremy
    December 6, 2012

    Going by these FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION ads on the sidebars here, it seems you’ve made your choice for favorite film of the year, after it’s won a couple critic awards. Let’s hope that doesn’t blow up in your face like 2010, huh?

  4. TB
    December 6, 2012

    The truth is, as much as you or other people, like or respect critics choices, they don’t really matter that much when it comes to oscar. Plain and simple. We like to follow them because we love film and the Oscar race but that’s it. I’ve le arnés the past ten years from following the race that if their is a change in the race it comes from the guilds, not the critics.

    And when someone talks about statistics of when did this or that critics group match with Oscar (I know it’s fun) it doesn’t mean anything. Probability laws says that they will match sooner or later. I mean they are choosing from a few group of the best films of the year. Of course they will match some of the times.

    Guilds are way more important because a lot of them vote for the Oscars and or are friends with people that vote for the oscars. I don’t mind 0D30 winning (I prefer Lincoln) I just don’t see 0D30 winning BP. Bigelow maybe.

  5. December 6, 2012

    Going by these FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION ads on the sidebars here, it seems you’ve made your choice for favorite film of the year

    Jeremy, you have no clue how advertising works. Do you think the NFL’s favorite beer is Bud Lite?

  6. December 6, 2012

    Thanks, A S. Fixed.

  7. Joey
    December 6, 2012

    Zing! Let’s keep the cattiness down people. Sheesh.

  8. Joey
    December 6, 2012

    That zing was for Ryan! Very good point, Mr. Adams, very good.

  9. bill
    December 6, 2012

    When do the LA FILM CRITICS announce?

  10. Dean
    December 6, 2012

    “That takes us back still to our top films…Life of Pi”

    I’m thinking not really. It’s been ignored by NBR, NYFCC, and had milder reviews than the other contenders.

  11. Sasha Stone
    December 6, 2012

    We have Les Miz and Lincoln ads coming too asswipe.

  12. Sasha Stone
    December 6, 2012

    Let’s hope that doesn’t blow up in your face like 2010, huh?

    Oh you mean Lincoln not win Best Picture? Nothing blew up in my face that year. It was a disgusting display of mediocrity trumping genius. It wasn’t the first time it will happen at the Oscars and it won’t be the last. Get your priorities straight. Just because something wins Best Picture doesn’t make it “best.” It’s usually: most vanilla. So give me a break and stop pretending you care about art.

  13. Sasha Stone
    December 6, 2012

    It doesn’t matter if it was ignored by NBR. As I said, it can help but it can’t hurt. Not an NYFCC type of film.

  14. jjeggles
    December 6, 2012

    Just gotta say—I love it when Ryan and Sasha do a double slap-down in consecutive posts. Rock on, gal and guy :)

  15. phantom
    December 6, 2012

    “This puts Bradley Cooper in a good place to push through and take a spot. Question is, whom does he bump?”

    Sasha, I think DDL is the only lock, who do you think will get the boot from the Jackman-Cooper-Hawkes-Phoenix-Washington quintet, also in your opinion, is it down to these 6, or is there someone else still hanging in there ? Hopkins, Gere, Murray, Black ? I think Jackman and Cooper will be safe IF their films indeed become top5 players, but that still leaves at least 3 for 2 slots. Thoughts ?

  16. December 6, 2012

    Just looking more and more like a BP/BD split this year. Whether it’s going to be Les Miz, 0D30 or Lincoln, I’m not sure.

    Oh and I really don’t think Field will win her third. Not with Hathaway there.

    All this love for 0D30 is solidifying Chastain’s chances more than the films, from how I see it anyways. So happy she’s gonna give Lawrence a good fight.

  17. phantom
    December 6, 2012

    OT : Apparently the embargo of ‘Les Miserables’ ended, more reviews to come in the next few hours, I think :

    http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/movie/les-miserables/review/398662
    http://www.variety.com/review/VE1117948874/

  18. Bryce Forestieri
    December 6, 2012

    I’m just starting to think ARGO, LINCOLN, ZERO DARK THIRTY all 3 fall under the loose definition of “American smart[ish] historical fact-based movie” (just made the up, but you feel me?) They will likely split the vote of members who tend to go for that kind of movie. Only thing the prevents this from happening is one of them becomes the clear “unifying frontrunner/guild juggernaut”, but so far I don’t see any of these 3 emerging as the one to beat, maybe LINCOLN? I have no idea. In any case that 3-way vote split leads me to believe that LE MIZ will take Best Pic, and most likely Best Director since some pundits are saying it’s the film industry types (guilds/academy) are digging. I might change my mind later tho…LAFCA for LINCOLN? Sheeeeeet!

  19. phantom
    December 6, 2012

    also

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/film/filmreviews/9727469/Les-Miserables-review.html
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2012/dec/06/les-miserables-review-first -look
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/reviews/article-2244064/Les-Miser ables-review-Hugh-Jackman-gives-screen-performance-career.html#ixzz2EI 8LBUha
    http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/films/reviews/first-ni ght-review-les-miserables-directed-by-tom-hooper-and-starring-anne-hat haway-8390395.html

    Sasha was right, it DOES divide critics, some love it, though. At first glance no flat-out ‘hate’ review, even Todd McCarthy whose seems the most negative, praises the performances. Based on these, I don’t see 80s MC, maybe 70s, I could be wrong, it’s still early. For what it’s worth, if it gets a considerably weaker (75- MC) critical consensus than Lincoln, I don’t think it will have much to do with the Lincoln/ZD30 battle, even if it makes a lot of money.

    As I said earlier, since Lincoln already has the reviews (86 MC), Box Office (150M+ US), three acting locks including the lead (which should count a lot, winning over the dominant Actors Branch is always crucial), Les Miserables will need to deliver at least similar results to emerge as a viable threat. At the moment it is definitely struggling with the critics.

  20. December 6, 2012

    ARGO, LINCOLN, ZERO DARK THIRTY — “American smart[ish] historical fact-based movie”

    …versus Les Misérables — Americanized smart[ish] historical fact-based movie

    If only Mark Boal had written a catchy ballad about Bin Laden.

  21. December 6, 2012

    thanks, phantom

    [Note about links. Whenever the spam filter sees a comment with more than one hyperlink it gets suspicious that someone might be trying to sell us ersatz Louis Vuitton, generic OxyContin or expose us to Russian upskirt galleries. If your comment gets held pending approval, don't worry, we'll release it as soon as we notice.]

  22. phantom
    December 6, 2012

    Thanks for the heads-up, I’ll hide the links in the future. I know it’s VERY early, but I don’t think Les Miserables will be a serious player in the end, not unless its critical consensus improves A LOT. Sure, it will get the bp nod, maybe even bd etc., but I don’t see it winning against unanimously praised smash hit Lincoln and (so far) unanimously praised (potential BO hit) Zero Dark Thirty.

  23. December 6, 2012

    If anyone ever posts a comment that fails to show up on site, drop me a line by email and I’ll see if it got falsely tagged as spam.

  24. Ricky
    December 6, 2012

    Having finally seen Zero Dark Thirty helped to pull the race into focus for me. As a huge fan of Les Mis, but having not seen the film yet, I couldn’t exactly see the forest for the trees with this one. Now that I have, I have absolutely no problem imagining that a voting body who have already awarded The Hurt Locker will also award Zero Dark Thirty, a film which, in many respects, is more traditionally up their alley. I disagree with Sasha’s assumption that it is down to Zero Dark Thirty, Les Mis, Lincoln, Life of Pi, and SLP, (I’d replace Life of Pi with Argo and don’t think SLP has any shot to win anymore), but I think that she is right when she taks about how little it all matters. It is certainly down to perception and while Argo had that “zeitgeistyness” going for it, it will easily be replaced by the better film, Zero Dark Thirty. Unless Les Mis becomes universally beloved by the guilds, something which I’m beginning to doubt more and more with these reviews, I really think the race is down to Lincoln vs. Zero Dark. We could and have done worse than having two exceptional films be our frontrunners. If it were up to me, I would clearly choose Zero Dark, but interestingly enough, I’m not sure how much I love Chastain for the win. Between her and Lawrence, sure, but overall? Not so sure.

    As for who the NBR actually helped, you didn’t mention Looper, which might now deservedly sneak into the Original Screenplay race. We’ll see.

  25. Jeremy
    December 6, 2012

    “So give me a break and stop pretending you care about art.”

    RAWR! Feisty today, huh? Really weird assumptions on your part too, like thinking I believe Best Picture really means the best movie of the year(it isn’t), or that the King’s Speech was better than The Social Network(it wasn’t). I guess we’ll both learning things about each other, huh?

    Looking forward to those other ads!

  26. superkk
    December 6, 2012

    im not quite sure i really understand the basis of this article written. “NBR can help but it cant hurt.” isnt that with any precursor. i dont see how winning any precursor award can hurt you lol. every little bit helps…

  27. December 6, 2012

    I guess so many people slag the NBR that their reputation is somewhat tarnished. Nobody wants to align their tastes with those of the unpopular crowd. In truth, the Academy doesn’t seem to have a problem with NBR.

    I’m still just shocked. Zero Dark Thirty is so not their kind of film.

  28. The Bilingual Japanese Viewer
    December 6, 2012

    (Sasha says,) “We have Les Miz and Lincoln ads coming too asswipe.”

    I’ve been on and off a reader here so I am not sure what’s been going on between you and that username. (Though I guess he’s been that way, that is, being sarcastic or somewhat negative throughout.) But in my opinion name calling especially made by the pro blogger, editor or site owner is nonprofessional conduct especially when obviously he seems only to have been basically sarcastic. (Well, unless you two know each other. . . .) Just saying.

    Anyway, I usually enjoy your blogging. I myself am especially looking forward to Argo and (Speilberg’s) Lincoln, to name only two, to come my way.

  29. bob w
    December 6, 2012

    I just ran a little more complex stats, the only safe thing to say is that Zero Dark 30 will DEFINITELY be nominated– 10 of the last 12 years, the NYFCA winner either won or was on the top ten at the NBR, and 100% of those times that NYFCA winner was at least nominated for an Oscar.

    Ironically, it is actually MORE likely for the NYFCA winner to predict the Oscar winner when that film was not even on the the NBR’s radar (4 out of 12 versus 3 out of 10)… but that’s just looking at the last 12 years, and could be blamed on the fact that NBR never gave any love to the Lord of the Rings trilogy, not even Return of the King.

    It’s silly to say that it’s unusual to win NYFCA and NBR and not the Oscar– only twice in the last 12 years have NYFCA and NBR matched, for the Social Network and No Country for Old Men, and of course only one of those 2 won the Oscar.

    Looking ahead to LAFCA, only once in the past 12 years has their winner also won the Oscar (Hurt Locker); so it’s actually better not to win LAFCA, also ironically. Their winners are typically nominated though, 9 out of the last 12 years. So we can except the LAFCA winner to predict an eventual loser…

    so what if it IS Zero Dark 30? we could be looking at a Social Network scenario again. if you just had to go off of stats from this point, ZD30 winning LAFCA strongly suggests it will NOT win the Oscar.

  30. Scott (the other one)
    December 6, 2012

    I don’t think any rational person thinks that the NYFC, LAFC, NBR or National Society of film Critics awards consciously influence any Oscar voter. I don’t think there is a person in Hollywood who, casting his or her Oscar ballots, thinks about those any individual critics awards.

    However, I think that the critics awards can be of interest to Oscar prognosticators like us in two ways:

    First, each of the critics awards reflects the voting and possible consensus of a group of people who are mired in the world of movies. Although they each have their own perspective, and the profile of the voters in the critics award is different from the profile of Oscar voters, it is not uninteresting to see that a group selected one picture or performance for an award. It becomes a vaguely useful indication of how another group, Oscar voters, might see things.

    Second, while the critics awards individually have somewhat minor significance, they can have some cumulative impact. If one film or performance dominates them, that seeps into the collective consciousness of Oscar voters and tells them “this is a good movie” or “this is a good performance”. This is what seemed to happen when The Hurt Locker when the Oscar. But of course it is not a definitive thing — it didn’t happen that way when The Social Network lost.

    So when 0D30 wins the NYFC awards, I tend to think, so what?. But now that it has won the NBR award, and if it wins others as well, it starts to create a trend that tells us how people see that movie, and it creates a wider critical opinion that affects at least some Oscar voters.

  31. December 6, 2012

    superkk, I think the point was that NOT winning the NBR can’t hurt, but winning can help.

  32. Jerry Grant
    December 6, 2012

    Having now officially seen the (admittedly, only) nine reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, I feel I can say with some confidence that “Les Miz” will not be the one to beat out the “ZDT”-”Lincoln” match-up.

    It’s not that the reviews are bad, but I really think the movie would have had to be a huge powerhouse to compete with the seriously high quality of Bigelow’s and Spielberg’s achievements.

    This will be ZDT vs. Lincoln to the end, with ZDT currently holding the edge.

  33. Jerry Grant
    December 6, 2012

    Some will say, mediocre movies have won Best Picture before, and that therefore “Les Miz” isn’t out of it. (And it’s not like nine reviews confirm it’s mediocre.) BUT a movie like “A Beautiful Mind” (mediocre, vanilla in my book) was going against two awesome but still strange and unusual competitors: “Fellowship of the Ring” and “Moulin Rouge”, movies it was hard to see win the big prize. Sasha maintains with a fiery conviction that “King’s Speech” was mediocre, even though many people disagree with her. I don’t think it was mediocre or vanilla at all, and I don’t think I’m a person who “doesn’t appreciate art.” I liked it more than “Social Network,” and so did many other smart people. The most baffling example in the last decade is of course “Crash” beating “Brokeback,” but maybe we can point to sociological reasons for that.

    If “Les Miz” is not a huge critical-popular success, then it will not win Best Picture against “ZDT” and “Lincoln.” Remember how clear it was that “Avatar” was going to be a huge huge event, even with critics? I remember early reviews of “Avatar” (“this is one of the biggest movie events of our lifetime, not since “Star Wars” has there been an achievement in cinema quite like this”). It does not look at this point like “Les Miz” is reaching that level; it will not be the competitor to two very clear and deserving frontrunners: ZDT and Lincoln.

    (Just a prediction, not a proof. Viewpoint, not fact.)

  34. Cyrus
    December 6, 2012

    My favorite review thus far for Les Miserables on RottenTomatoes:

    “By the end, you feel like a piñata on the dancefloor: empty, in bits, the victim of prolonged assault by killer pipes.”

    Sasha, I forget, have you seen Les Mis yet? What did you think of it?

  35. December 6, 2012

    STUDENTS vote in the NBR?!?!?!?!?!? How the fuck does that happen?

  36. ZD30
    December 6, 2012

    I am thinking there will be lots of love from the Los Angeles Film Critics for “Lincoln”. I could be wrong. As far as Academy is concerned I mean they just announced they are playing this film in the SENATE chamber for the Senators to screen and I mean that has never being done before. Prestige. Maybe. Huh. As for “Les Miserables” at one time it was projected to do some 18m opening weekend. Just so so. Then after the positive buzz from those coming out of the screenings that projection went up to 24m for opening weekend. I wonder if the film not winning major critic group endorsement as best picture will deplete some of its once thought box office muscle and thus its chances at the big prize. Will be interesting to see.

  37. Yvette
    December 6, 2012

    Zach,
    Kind of puts things in perspective doesn’t it?

    I can go for a ZD30/Lincoln showdown, and have them split: Lincoln – BP; KB-Best Director, Best Actress, Producer; Lincoln – Best Actor/Supporting Actress (who the hell cares if they already have two a-piece?), Screenplay. The rest of the awards and be divvied up between the rest of the bunch.
    I know that’s unrealistic, but that’s my dream scenario.
    I usually root for the smallish, underdog film for Oscar – any other year I’d be cheering on ZD30 to smash the Big Guy. The gutsy, fearless movie with a purpose. But Lincoln meant so much to me that I’m rooting for what could be percieved as the Establishment Film, the historical drama with a purpose ala Ghandi, King’s Speech etc….
    But Lincoln was special. And if ZD30 continues to be a kind of critics’ darling, The Big Guy just might end up being the underdog this time.
    Either way, its ZD30/Lincoln all the way for me.

  38. ZD30
    December 6, 2012

    ZACK. Go to wikipedia and look up NBR and it will tell you who the 110 members are and where they come from. Film educators, historians, students, professors. etc.

  39. Jerry
    December 6, 2012

    Before the NYFCC and NBR, I was sure there would be a BP and BD split. Afterwards the only thing I’m sure of is that ZD30 and Bigelow are going to win this. I Just don’t see anyother film that can beat this monster. It’s about the killing of Osama Bin Laden and apparently very well made, what red-blooded American Liberal or Conservative is NOT going to vote for it? Chastain on the other hand I think is shaky, people aren’t passionate enough about her performance. Riva or Lawrence Could take the prize. Remember Jeremy Renner didn’t win BA even when Hurt Locker and Bigelow won. I think most other categories will have the other films winning (Lincoln, Les Miz, Pi, SLP, Armour), in a spread the wealth fashion.

  40. danemychal
    December 6, 2012

    Zach, some of the most knowledgeable people on the planet are students. Welcome to reality.

  41. Yvette
    December 6, 2012

    Students can also be pretentious and hipsterish and go for Bradley Cooper just because everyone else is expecting the guy who already has two Oscars.
    Kids.

  42. Yvette
    December 6, 2012

    ‘It’s about the killing of Osama Bin Laden and apparently very well made, what red-blooded American Liberal or Conservative is NOT going to vote for it?’
    That’s my argument for Lincoln.

  43. Jerry
    December 6, 2012

    @Yvette: in 2012 terrorism is a deeper American concern than past slavery. That’s why ZD30 will ultimately defect Lincoln. Obviously not without a fight but I can see everyone uniting under ZD30 as a closure for 9/11. You can’t beat that.

  44. rufussondheim
    December 6, 2012

    Even though some of the reviews are tepid for Les Miz, I’m still not that worried about my predictions for it. It helps that ZD30 and Lincoln are both cerebral and will not appeal to the type of person who will likely find Les Miz to be the best picture of the year.

    And that brings us to an interesting question. Which faction of the Academy is bigger? The cerebral faction? or the less-critical faction? Looking at the winners over the last dozen or so years, I don’t think anyone can claim to know the answer to this question (although I’m far more inclined to bet on the less-critical faction.) And that’s why I wouldn’t count out Les Miz just yet.

  45. Yvette
    December 6, 2012

    @Jerry,
    ‘Obviously not without a fight but I can see everyone uniting under ZD30 as a closure for 9/11. You can’t beat that…’
    So its a poltically-charged vote then? That’s my sense of the love for ZD30 – not so much out of passion, but of statement.
    I loved ZD30 and that’s why I love that these two films seem to be the frontrunners.
    As for terrorism being a deeper American concern than past slavery –
    Yes, terrorism affects the world, and that may give ZD30 an international support system come Oscar voting time.
    ‘Past slavery’ is a deeply ingrained American stain, pain and struggle – one that still resonates today.
    ZD30 may have captured the current zeigist, sense of urgency, but Lincoln – the man, icon and all that that encompasses – touches something profound in Americans.
    I’d be happy for both to triumph over ‘film adaption of beloved musical’, ‘political caper’, ‘quirky romantic comedy’ etc….
    Both ZD30 and Lincoln have a gravitas that is not manufactured, but ingrained in its subject matter – and carried out by great artists on film.
    I loved both.

  46. steve50
    December 6, 2012

    I’m inclined to agree, Rufus. “Cerebral” winners in the past were usually a fluke (when there was nothing that grabbed them emotionally) or had strong emotional elements in the narrative. Les Miz is not out yet.

  47. rufussondheim
    December 6, 2012

    Yvette, something you said intrigues me and it didn’t occur to me before now. I wonder if it’s possible that in some who love Lincoln could the reason they love it be because of liberal guilt?

    Now when I watched Lincoln, the “gravitas” of the film never occurred to me. Maybe because of my relationship to Spielberg which has been extremely rocky for 13 years. I don’t know. For all I cared, the movie could have been a fight over naming a post office. The fact that it was about slavery didn’t make a difference to me. To me, this was all about process.

    I’m in the middle of Christopher Hayes’s Twilight of the Elites: America After Meritocracy and the chapter I completed today was about how the political elite (and other elites) in this country are very far removed from the people they govern. There is no emotional connection between the people who make the decisions and the people affected by those decisions.

    And this is how I thought about Lincoln, and maybe the reason I wasn’t totally engrossed by it. These politicians were arguing more about an idea than anything concrete. None of the people voting on the Amendment was fighting to free someone they knew (sure some knew black people, but they were not slaves.) There didn’t seem to be anything personal for any of them, and therefore their struggle didn’t really affect how I viewed them and I had little to no emotional investment in the outcome (in other words, if the Amendment had failed, I would have found the film to be equally satisfying.)

    But I was watching Good Morning America when they broke into their coverage to show the burning tower. And I was watching when the second plane hit the other tower. Now I don’t know anyone who died that day, nor am I close to anyone who died that day. But I saw it. And I was there when we stupidly invaded Iraq. And I was there when Obama got elected. And I was there when it was announced he died. That’s more of a connection than I have with slavery.

    I don’t know. I guess it all depends on our perspective. But I can’t imagine Lincoln being more of an emotional pull to the majority of Academy voters than ZD30.

  48. Yvette
    December 6, 2012

    Rufus,
    Liberal guilt?
    No.
    I see what you’re saying, but IMO, you’re intellectualizing what the 13th Amendment was, or represents in the history to his country. It’s not an abstract in its moral meaning. The founding fathers institutionalized slavery, and it remains America’s greatest moral failing. The fight of one president who had the balls to right that wrong, to f**ck around with the constitution in order to make things right…..
    if that doesn’t resonate with you as an American, no movie will change that.
    Yes, I get it – ZD30 is about something that happened in our recent lifetimes. We saw it, felt it……
    but don’t underestimate the hold that Lincoln has on our collective consciousness…at least those of us who love history. Lincoln, in so many ways, embodies what Americans idealize in themselves as a country: the poor boy who grew up with no formal school, but rose to the top; the president that carried us through the bloodiest war in our history (at home)….
    Lincoln, in all his complexities and ambiguities, means many things to many people.
    Why do you think the public has embraced this film like it has?
    And to say that ‘past slavery’ doesn’t resonate now – the 60s are not that far behind us, Medgar Evers, Jasper, Texas (1994: black man dragged by truck to his death by white supremacists)…..
    Not sure where you live, but that shit is still real.
    ZD30, it has the edge of RIGHT NOW…but Lincoln has the emotional draw of America in all its failings and successes – what we stand for and mean in a greater sense.
    That’s why I think ZD30, as much as I loved it, will be a political vote as much as it will be a merit vote. Lincoln, I think, will resonate more with a wider range of people, including Oscar voters.
    Remember, critics don’t vote for Oscars.

  49. rufussondheim
    December 6, 2012

    I’m not granting that the public loves Lincoln as much as one might be led to believe. People I talk to find it kind of ho-hum to good. In my circle, I think I’ve been more enthusiastic than most. I think it’s a film people respect more than love. Now that doesn’t mean that a significant number of people don’t love it, but I think to the average person it’s not as special as many believe. I think a lot of people who do love history sought it out at first, but, well, now that they’ve seen it, not sure how much of an impact it’s going to have outside of that circle.

    And I certainly don’t know how widespread the love of history is within the Academy. But I’d be willing to bet it’s not as widespread as people are wanting to believe. I don’t think the average person “feels” slavery like you and others do.

    Now what I’m saying might come off as controversial or racist or cold-hearted, but I’m not willing to stipulate that slavery was our greatest moral failing. It’s merely the most publicized. Don’t get me wrong, it’s definitely a moral failing, but there are others that are arguably at that same level. One that I would argue is worse is the systematic extermination of the Native American People. This country has so many moral failings, it’s hard to pick which one is the worst.

    I think when one looks back at American History, all I see are moral failings. Every step of the way, powerless people have been subjugated so the elite can prosper and thrive. It’s the American Way. So while the abolition of slavery is definitely a triumph in the correction of a moral failing, I don’t see it as particularly singular. There are many triumphs, we have righted many wrongs along the way.

    And many of them have been cinematically portrayed. And so I ask, how good is the film at portraying the events compared to other films that have similar themes. I’d argue that Lincoln is not particularly memorable compared to some other films.

    One film that resonates with me deeply is The Laramie Project. Now I grant you that the events in this film are not as historically significant as in Lincoln, but I think it’s more effective at portraying the events, the passion and the courage of the people involved. And in that way it’s more inspiring than Lincoln.

    Now let’s look at another recent movie about overcoming injustice. I hate to bring it up again, but it’s so good it’s hard not to, but let’s mention Steve McQueen’s Hunger which details the struggle of Bobby Sands and his fellow prisoners to be treated as political prisoners rather than criminals. Again, granted, it’s not as weighty as slavery. But intellectually and viscerally this film is far more effective than anything in Lincoln. And it’s far more ballsy too.

    My point is that Lincoln shouldn’t be judged by its subject material, but by how well it handles the subject material. How well does the movie achieve it’s goals? Don’t get me wrong, it does for the most part, but it doesn’t do it in a way that’s as emotionally impactful, or even that intellectually stimulating compared to other better executed films that cover the same broad themes.

    I think the best comparison for Lincoln in film history is Judgment at Nuremberg and when time passes they will be viewed in the same way, with respect but not reverence. I would prefer my Best Oscar winners to be revered.

  50. phantom
    December 6, 2012

    Rufus, Les Miserables has 59 on Metacritic based on only 6 reviews and 69 on Rottentomatoes based on only 16. At this moment, it could still go either way. We should wait for 30-40 MC reviews and at least 100 RT, I think it will finish with 70ish MC and an 80ish RT which – WITH strong Box Office and guild nominations – could be enough for the nominations (picture, director, acting etc.), but probably won’t stand a chance of winning, not when its main competition is an unanimously praised smash AND an unanimously praised potential hit. But it will be definitely interesting to see how the critics’ scores go, at this moment it could end in 50s and 80s, too, on Metacritic. For the record, I think it needs at least high 70s, low 80s to become a real threat for the Lincoln/ZD30 duo.

  51. TOM
    December 7, 2012

    I appreciate that they salute performances from across the year. Hopefully, with some recoginition, Ann Dowd might make it into BSActress category. At least it would give people a chance to view Compliance. Films like that, which I want to see, sometimes pop up in winter months. Nobody wants to trudge through the snow & sleet to hunt movies down. By resurfacing earlier movies, it makes the Academy Awards less of a ‘Best Picture/Actor/Actress/BSActor/Actress/Director…released in the month of December is…’ type of honor (which it really seems to have become.)

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