One thing that is always funny to me is how people parse the award groups. This one “counts,” this one doesn’t. There are some that really do have an impact on the race and some that don’t but it has nothing to do with what defines the members of any group. For instance, the National Board of Review remains influential, partly because they’ve been around so long, but also because their name alone has cache.
They also announce first and lend credibility to contenders even if there wasn’t any before. You see, one of the mistakes the pundits (like I) make is that we think we’re leading the race. Sure, we have a hand in weeding out and penning in the selections so that voting members of the various groups kind of, sort of have an idea of which direction to head in. By the time the big industry voters get their hands on their ballots they already know what films have been leading via the pundits and the early award groups. But the truth of it is, announcements and award nominations really lead the race. So if a contender appears on the National Board of Review of the New York Film Critics, or the SAG or the Golden Globes the pundits will swiftly shift their predictions, making a judgment call as to whether this will matter or not.
Take American Sniper last year. The pundits were not high on it. They assumed that first AFI screening meant voters didn’t like the movie. They were wrong. Even when the National Board of Review named Clint Eastwood Best Director it was chalked up to “well, they’re WB friendly.” Though Eastwood’s inclusion wasn’t ultimately realized with an Oscar nomination, the NBR did shift, ever so slightly, how people predicted American Sniper.
That said, it isn’t always a slam dunk. These groups do have some pressure to, as Tim Robbins would say in Bull Durham, “announce their presence with authority.” This is especially true of the NBR and the New York Film Critics. They aren’t usually content to go with the flow but like to sort of “announce and pronounce.” That means that when they anointed A Most Violent Year with Picture, Actor, Supporting Actress it was thought that their enthusiasm might push the film into the Oscar race. No deal. It was a non-starter. So, you have to fold in their choices with what you know to be true: a movie like A Most Violent Year was always going to be too esoteric for Academy/industry voters where thousands choose, as opposed to up to 100.
Just getting an NBR nod is still a good boost to any campaign, but it’s harder to predict a winner from their choices. The last match-up was Slumdog Millionaire for the win in 2008, quite some time ago. Here is a stat table from Marshall Flores’ most excellent research:
As far as predicting goes, I would probably take a wild guess that it might go something like this:
Top ten of the year: The Revenant, Spotlight, Brooklyn, Black Mass, Anomalisa, Inside Out, Mad Max: Fury Road, Creed, Steve Jobs, Carol, Room
Hoping against all hope: Beasts of No Nation
Best Picture will be one of those, I figure.
But I’d rather know what YOU think might get in. Predict the National Board of Review