In the weeks leading up to the Oscars, everybody’s a critic — but can crix pick pics?
Critics groups have saluted “Sideways” (L.A., Gotham, S.F., Boston, Chi, Toronto and IFP New York); “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” (D.C.), “Finding Neverland” (National Board of Review) and “Million Dollar Baby” (Seattle).
All this is good news for these Oscar hopefuls. But the bad news is: It ain’t over ’til the Gold Man sings.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences voters often have very different ideas from the various critics groups.
The hometown L.A. Film Critics are the closest to Oscar, at least in terms of miles. But aesthetically, they couldn’t be further apart.
The last time the L.A. Crix and the Acad agreed was in 1993, with “Schindler’s List.” And the National Board of Review shared only two pics with Oscar in the last 10 years: “American Beauty” and “Forrest Gump.”
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The New York Film Critics got one out of 10: “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.”
And the award for the most independent group goes to … the National Society of Film Critics, which had zero matchups in the past decade and gave top honors to seven films that failed to score even an Oscar nomination for best pic: “Breaking the Waves,” “Topsy-Turvy”and “Being John Malkovich” (a tie in 1999), “Out of Sight,” “Yi Yi (And a One and a Two …),” “Mulholland Drive” and “American Splendor.”
Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
No group gives out awards because they want to be like Oscar. But by being so different, are they simply marching to the beat of a different drummer, or are they out of touch with popular tastes?
Among critics groups, best bellwether is easily the Broadcast Film Critics. In the last five years, it has matched the Acad exactly (though its record before that is spotty).
This year, if your film failed to get a critics-group imprimatur, take heart. Several best-pic Academy Award winners were virtual no-shows on critics’ lists, including “Titanic,” “Shakespeare in Love,” “Gladiator” and “Chicago.”
But if your film was saluted, don’t worry that critics’ recognition is a curse.
In a year of odds-defying events — the Boston Red Sox win the World Series, ABC becomes a contender with two hit shows and Jesus and a political documentary were big box office draws — anything can happen.