5 Takeaways from the First Week of Awards

Still Alice Toronto Film Festival

The awards race went into overdrive this week with the first announcements of winners on Dec. 1 and 2. The New York Film Critics Circle saluted “Boyhood” as best picture; “Birdman” won at the Gotham Awards; “A Most Violent Year” got the nod from the National Board of Review. (Each organization also honored their favorite film in other categories as well.)

The results are all over the map, but the prizes so far reveal a few conclusions about the still-young Oscar race.

1) These awards are useful: At this time of year, attention from a voting org is like a neon arrow for Oscar voters saying, “See this film before you cast your ballot.” They’re also helpful to strategists, who get an idea of how people outside the studio are sizing up the various contenders. Aside from the buzzed-about films, the awards boost the profile of some underdogs, such as “A Most Violent Year” (a big surprise with triple NBR wins), “American Sniper,” “Fury,” “The Immigrant,” “Nightcrawler,” “Rosewater,” and “Mr. Turner.”

2) They spread the wealth: The three announcements had little overlap in their honorees. Aside from the titles mentioned above, they covered their bases by citing films frequently mentioned in awards chatter: “Foxcatcher,” “Gone Girl,” “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” “The Imitation Game,” “The Lego Movie,” “Selma,” “Unbroken” and “Whiplash.” Naming such a range confirms what everyone’s been saying: It’s a wide-open year.

3) But there is one front-runner: The closest thing to a consensus this week is Julianne Moore, who was cited by two orgs as best actress for “Still Alice.” She’s got the industry sentiment, and she delivers the goods.

4) Skepticism is a must: For the record, the groups last year voted for “American Hustle” (NYFCC); “Inside Llewyn Davis” (Gothams); and “Her” (NBR). So they’re hardly reliable Oscar predictors, though they HAVE matched the Academy in some years. And with many awards to come, it’s good to remember that “Brokeback Mountain,” “The Social Network” and “Zero Dark Thirty” scored big-time in the early awards, though none ended up with the best-picture Oscar.

5) There’s still time for surprises: Mostly ignored so far are “Interstellar,” “Into the Woods,” “The Theory of Everything,” “Big Eyes,” “Exodus: Gods and Kings” and “Wild.” And some heavy-hitters have received modest attention so far, such as “Unbroken.” But that film is a good reminder of the goofiness of awards buzz. As soon as “Unbroken” was greenlit, its awards potential was mentioned, based on the material and Angelina Jolie as director. It’s been on a roller-coaster ride of expectations and backlash ever since, though only a few have seen it. But the 6,000 voters in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences have their own tastes. They gave best-picture nominations to a lot of films that had been low on the radar of earlier awards, ranging from “The Blind Side” to “True Grit” to “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close.”

Next out of the gate are the L.A. Film Critics unveiling Dec. 7,  the AFI Awards Dec. 8, SAG nominations Dec. 10 and Golden Globes noms Dec. 11. Oscar nominations come out Jan. 15. And THAT is when the season will really start to take shape.

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  1. movieLUVrrrr342 says:

    I am pretty shocked Eddie Redmayne’s transformative performance hasn’t caught anyone’s attention. I’m going to assume Keaton will win the Oscar but Redmayne should at the very least get a nom.

  2. guest says:

    AND WHY does anyone think that just because Jolie directed a movie it will be an oscar winner? Did Jolie become a seasoned prolific celebrated director somewhere between exploiting her children in the tabloids and posing for pictures with refugees? She has directed ONE, ONLY ONE movie and it was a major flop. I don’t get it. I just don’t get it. Tarantino and Robert Altman have never even won an oscar for best director. I guess this means Kim Kardashian is next? Go for it Kim! Go get your oscar too!

    • Another Guest says:

      So, if I understand your reasoning, star actors-turned-directors such as Robert Redford (ORDINARY PEOPLE), Kevin Costner (DANCES WITH WOLVES) and perhaps most impressively Warren Beatty (REDS) – the first 2 w/ zero credits under their belt; Beatty w/ only 1 prior directorial credit – should never have been considered for the Academy Award because of their celebrity status. The film community honoured their own because these films were great, and have gone on to be considered classics. To equate Ms. Jolie w/ a Kardashian is preposterous. And I will wait to see UNBROKEN when it opens, and judge her efforts only then.

  3. Stergios says:

    I’d love to see a Julianne Moore Oscar win at some point, but this Oscar has to go only to Marion Cotillard. Let’s face it, there hasn’t been a better female performance this year than hers in Two Days, One Night. Besides, the second one would be actually hers in The Immigrant. She’s THAT talented and a second Oscar nomination is yet to come. Disheartening.

  4. Lynnacworth says:

    puhleeze tell me how Boyhood differs from Uncle Annoying’s home slides and movie reels of the kids at the beach and opening Christmas packages. Seriously just because Linklater wanted to waste his time doesn’t mean we have to award him for it.

  5. Jim says:

    Surprised not to see Whiplash anywhere.

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