Today’s New York Film Critics Circle prizes are a big boost to Fox Searchlight’s “12 Years a Slave” and Warner Bros.’ “Gravity.” Not because they won big — “12 Years” won director for Steve McQueen, while there were none for “Gravity” — but because the critics prizes take the pressure off each of the films as the One To Beat.
The studios have done a great job of keeping heat on those films since early September, which is not an easy thing to do; so with another three months to go, it’s an advantage to be just one of many frontrunners.
Critics awards are notoriously unreliable as Oscar bellwethers. But by voting both screenplay and best film awards for Sony’s “American Hustle,” the N.Y. group brought David O. Russell’s pic to the front of the conversation.
The list of potential victors includes CBS Films’ Coen brothers movie “Inside Llewyn Davis” which won the critics’ cinematography honors after taking the top prize at Monday’s Gotham Awards.
Every year, the 6,000 Academy voters are faced with a stack of 60 screeners, and they have to make choices. Every film that I’ve mentioned was already on the voters’ must-see list, which is also true of Focus’ “Dallas Buyers Club” (which won for Jared Leto), Lionsgate’s “All Is Lost” (Robert Redford) and Sony Classics “Blue Jasmine” (Cate Blanchett).
So in that sense, the biggest boost comes to Weinstein Co.’s “Fruitvale Station,” which is now added to the required-viewing list. The crix saluted it as best first film, following its double victory (breakthrough actor and director) at Monday’s Gotham Awards. After winning the dual audience/jury grand prizes at Sundance in January, it had been overshadowed in awards buzz for newer films. So today’s prizes, almost a year after Sundance, give it a shot of adrenaline.
Last year, the New York critics tapped “Zero Dark Thirty” for film; “Lincoln” for actor (Daniel Day-Lewis), screenplay (Tony Kushner) and supporting actress (Sally Field). All earned Oscar noms, but only Day-Lewis won. Three key N.Y. winners did not even get an Oscar nom: Director Kathryn Bigelow (“Zero”), actress Rachel Weisz (“Deep Blue Sea”) and supporting actor Matthew McConaughey (“Magic Mike” and “Bernie”).
Two years ago, the crix were more in sync with Oscars, since winners included “The Artist,” director Michel Hazanavicius and Meryl Streep for “Iron Lady.”
On Wednesday, the National Board of Review will name its honorees. For reference: Its 2012 winners were “Zero,” Bigelow, Bradley Cooper (“Silver Linings Playbook”) and Jessica Chastain (“Zero”). Those two thesps earned Oscar noms, but neither of NBR’s supporting winners did: Leonardo DiCaprio (“Django Unchained”) and Ann Dowd (“Compliance”).
So congrats to “American Hustle” and all of today’s other winners. I hope you enjoy the wins. But stock up on the echinacea and protein bars, because there are still three months to go.