All right, so we’re just a few days away from the New York Film Critics, the National Board of Review and the first ever early-announcing Critics Choice nominations. Members of the Broadcast Film Critics are filling out their ballots as we speak. In all likelihood their choices will reflect the race as it stands right now and not the race as it might look once a few other award nominations shift it in a different direction. First, what major announcements will happen before Oscar ballots go out?
Gotham Awards (November 28)
National Board of Review (November 29)
Critics Choice nominations (December 1)
New York Film Critics nominations (December 1)
Los Angeles Film Critics (December 4)
AFI Top Ten (Dec 8)
Critics Choice Awards (Dec 11)
Golden Globe nominations (Dec 12)
SAG Award nominations (Dec 14)
WGA nominations (Jan 4)
After the ballots go out, the following:
Golden Globe Awards (Jan 8)
BAFTA Nominations (Jan 10)
PGA nominations (Jan 10)
DGA nominations (Jan 12)
Oscar ballots are turned in January 13. David Carr — the late, great David Carr — used to like my fertility cycle metaphor about the Oscar race. The lead up to it is all foreplay. The seduction/mating dance. All systems go and by January 8 that’s when ovulation begins. Since Oscar ballots are outstanding for such a short time, the target is in a certain range for the sperm to be launched to fertilize the egg. Timing is everything and it is all about the right now. So you know that the nominations announced by the Critics Choice awards are not going to match the Oscar noms as well as they have in the past. What they’re likely going for, however, is to earn higher ratings for their show and attempt to be more influential. If they get higher ratings they make more money, like the Hollywood Foreign Press, like the Oscars. If award fatigue has already set in, it’s harder to generate excitement — but they’ve been holding their awards ceremony all the way back in December. So the thinking is it will be more widely watched and thus, more influential, more profitable. Maybe?
We can’t really look at the Critics Choice as a reliable indicator since they’re really going to be flying blind with their predictions this year. We can’t look at their history, because they are cutting themselves loose from their own historical pattern.
But we can look at the NYFCC’s history. Let’s start there. Since the Academy expanded its Best Picture slate from five to ten, the New York Film Critics have given their Best Picture and Best Director to the same movie seven times in the past eight years, as we can see:
2009 – the Hurt Locker/Bigelow
2010 – The Social Network/Fincher
2011 – The Artist/Hazanavicius
2012 – Zero Dark Thirty/Bigelow
2013 – American Hustle/McQueen
2014 – Boyhood/Linklater
2015 – Carol/Haynes
Okay so how weird is it that Carol was not chosen as a Best Picture nominee given THAT history? All of these films were nominated. Two of them won Best Picture. Before 2009, it was more likely that the New York critic’s picture and director did not match. No Country for Old Men was one example. Brokeback Mountain was another example. Far From Heaven. But it was more likely that director would go one way, picture another. Now, it’s exactly the opposite. Maybe they’ll match this year, maybe they won’t. The trend is that they will.
I see it like this: they’re either going to go full Oscar or they’re going to back way off of Oscar and name something that they know has zero shot of getting in.
My instinct is that they will split picture and director this year and that the way it will split is with Moonlight and Manchester by the Sea. Let’s say Moonlight gets Best Picture and Manchester gets Director and Screenplay. Keep in mind they will have seen SILENCE by the time they vote. So if Silence is THAT GOOD, the NYFCC might do what they did in 2012 and in 2013 and pick a film not many people have yet seen as their winner. If they do that, it will have to be Silence.
I’ll go with:
Director: Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester
Actor: could be something random like Viggo Mortensen but probably Casey Affleck, Manchester
Actress: Just going to take a wild guess and say it will be Isabelle Huppert, who will win many critics awards. If not her, maybe Emma Stone, Natalie Portman or Annette Bening
Not ruling out a Silence/Martin Scorsese shock and awe win though. That would definitely launch the film into contention but it still wouldn’t be a done deal for a win.
Now we’ll move on to the National Board of Review. Last year, the National Board of Review proved that a few categories were written in ink and some were written in pencil. Although they put much of their might into The Martian, naming Ridley, Matt Damon, Picture and Screenplay, they also laid out what would become frontrunners and winners in other categories, like Brie Larson for Best Actress, Amy for Documentary, Son of Saul for Foreign Language. Those winners never budged. But overall, their top ten only named 4 out of the eventual 8, five if you count The Martian. The same thing happened the year before, when they named A Most Violent Year Best Picture. It became one of the rare choices that did not go on to get a Best Picture nomination, and only 4 out of the eventual 8 were named on their best films list.
And again, 4 out of 8 the previous year to that, except with Her as their Best Picture winner which did go on to earn a Best Picture nomination.
In 2012, they had 6 out of the eventual 9, and 7 if you count their winner, Zero Dark Thirty. In 2011, there were 4 or 5 if you count their winner, Hugo. 6 or 7 that matched in 2010, and 4 or 5 in 2009.
Putting it all together, it means that it’s very likely their Best picture winner will be nominated for Best Picture. It’s less likely that it will win Best Picture. It’s more likely that they will name four films that will go on to be nominated in addition to their winner. So let’s say the average is 5. So you’re going for roughly 5 out 8 or 9 with your predictions.
It’s still hard to predict what they will do, especially if you’re trying to second guess which films they’ll pick that won’t be ultimately chosen. I guess the best thing you can say about them is that they tend to reflect the heat being generated in the earlier part of the race.
I’m just going to take a wild guess as to how it might go with the following predictions.
Best Film: Live by Night, Best Director: Ben Affleck, Live by Night
OR Best Film: Silence, Best Director: Martin Scorsese
OR Best Film: Hacksaw Ridge, Best Director: Mel Gibson
For their top ten films I’ll go with: Manchester by the Sea, La La Land, Sully, Moonlight, Jackie, Loving, Arrival, Hacksaw Ridge, 20th Century Women, Hell or High Water
Best Actor: Denzel Washington, Fences OR Andrew Garfield Hacksaw Ridge
Best Actress: Emma Stone, La La Land
And now on to the Critics Choice – I’ll just go ahead and predict how they might go in the major categories. They will not have seen Silence in time.
La La Land
Manchester by the Sea
Hell or High Water
Other possibilities: Hacksaw Ridge, Hidden Figures
Emma Stone, La La Land
Natalie Portman, Jackie
Annette Bening, 20th Century Women
Amy Adams, Arrival
Ruth Negga, Loving
Isabelle Huppert, Elle or Jessica Chastain, Miss Sloane
Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea
Denzel Washington, Fences
Tom Hanks, Sully
Joel Edgerton, Loving
Warren Beatty in Rules Don’t Apply
Chris Pine, Hell or High Water or Andrew Garfield, Hacksaw Ridge
Damien Chazelle, La La Land
Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester by the Sea
Barry Jenkins, Moonlight
David Mackenzie, Hell or High Water
Pablo Larrain, Jackie or Denis Villeneuve, Arrival
Mel Gibson, Hacksaw Ridge or Denzel Washington, Fences
I think the big broad themes coming out of the Critics Choice will be a very strong showing for Hell or High Water, perhaps Hacksaw Ridge and maybe Patriots Day. There might be more surprises to come. Who knows.
And that, my friends, is that.