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Oscars: ‘Get Out,’ Gary Oldman, Sally Hawkins Lead Critical Kudos Circuit

According to the regional film critics awards circuit, Jordan Peele’s horror satire “Get Out” is the best film of 2017.

With 33 groups (and climbing) having declared superlatives for the year, Universal’s February release — one of the most popular films of the season — has claimed 10 best-picture honors so far, from groups in Atlanta, Philadelphia, San Diego and Washington D.C., among other cities. A few paces back is Guillermo del Toro’s “The Shape of Water,” with five top-honor laurels.

What’s striking about this year’s race is that 11 different pictures have received best-film recognition so far. When all was said and done last year, only six films had been singled out (with “La La Land” and “Moonlight” neck and neck — all the way to the finish line and beyond, it would turn out). Other movies to be named the year’s best by national and international critics groups include “Call Me by Your Name,” “Dunkirk,” “The Florida Project,” “A Ghost Story,” “Lady Bird,” “Mudbound,” “Phantom Thread,” “The Post” and “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” That spread buttresses the notion that this has been one of the most exciting best-picture Oscar races on record.

In the directing arena, del Toro is outpacing his film, surging to 11 wins including those from the Dallas-Forth Worth, Kansas City, St. Louis and San Francisco collectives. “Dunkirk” helmer Christopher Nolan is a few steps back with eight, while six other directors have been recognized so far.

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Unsurprisingly, Gary Oldman’s fierce portrait of Winston Churchill in “Darkest Hour” has pulled ahead of “Call Me by Your Name” star Timothée Chalamet in a broad polling sample — Oldman leads the newcomer 11 wins to eight. Other Oscar contenders such as Daniel Day-Lewis (“Phantom Thread”), James Franco (“The Disaster Artist”) and Daniel Kaluuya (“Get Out”) have also been awarded, as well as dark horses including James McAvoy (“Split”), Andy Serkis (“War for the Planet of the Apes”) and the late Harry Dean Stanton (“Lucky”).

Oddly, while the lead actress race is one of the most wide-ranging in terms of the number of viable contenders this season, on the critics circuit the category has boiled down to just four names. “The Shape of Water” star Sally Hawkins maintained a tight lead over Frances McDormand in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” 13 wins to 11, at press time. Saoirse Ronan (“Lady Bird”) and Margot Robbie (“I, Tonya”) have also been recognized.

The supporting races are where frontrunners are most emphatically emerging, particularly for supporting actress, where “Lady Bird” star Laurie Metcalf enjoys a 19-to-8 advantage over Allison Janney in “I, Tonya” in the battle of willful moms. In the supporting actor category, Willem Dafoe (“The Florida Project”) still has an edge over Sam Rockwell (“Three Billboards”), 16 to 11, but that gap has been steadily shrinking.

Movies that have come out on top with critics include “Moonlight,” “Spotlight,” “12 Years a Slave” and “Argo” — best picture winners all.

Adapted and original screenplays are often combined by many critics groups, but “Get Out” is far and away the most awarded, with 20 prizes to date for Peele. James Ivory’s “Call Me by Your Name” is a distant second with seven, followed by “Lady Bird” and “Three Billboards” with five apiece and “The Disaster Artist” with four.

“Coco” is completely dominating the animated feature race, with 27 wins. In the foreign film category, Palme d’Or winner “The Square” is strongest among the films still in Academy contention, with five kudos; “BPM (Beats Per Minute),” with eight critics prizes, missed the Oscar shortlist. Finally, Brett Morgen’s Jane Goodall study “Jane” is way out ahead in the documentary feature field, with 14 wins.

Granted, a synthesis of critical kudos is an emotionless reduction of a year in cinematic art. But for the purposes of guessing which way the Academy breezes might blow, it’s always instructive to take a look at how films appeal, or don’t, to such large numbers of cognizanti. Movies that have come out on top in the aggregate of previous critical kudos circuits include “Moonlight,” “Spotlight,” “12 Years a Slave” and “Argo” — best picture winners all.

Later this week the various industry guilds and societies will continue chiming in on the heels of last month’s Screen Actors Guild announcement. Once those start pouring in, we’ll begin to have an even clearer picture of how the Academy might see things.

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