Female Directors Win Big at NYFCC Awards. What Does It Mean for the Oscars?

Could three women land in the Oscars' best director category for the first time?

NYFCC Winners

A24’s “First Cow” was the big winner at the New York Film Critics Circle Awards, taking home best film. In predicting the Academy Awards, the top prize from NYFCC has an astounding correlation to the Oscars. Since 1935, the NYFCC winner for best film has never failed to receive at least one Oscar nomination. More importantly, every film that has won the top prize from NYFCC has been nominated in a major Oscar category including picture, director, acting and screenplay.

A slower burn for the average cinema-goer, “First Cow” has Oscar potential in categories like best adapted screenplay, which director Kelly Reichardt co-wrote with author Jonathan Raymond. Reichardt herself, a runner-up at Boston Film Critics last weekend, could be vying for one of the five spots for best director, which may present an interesting scenario down the line. Could we be in store for a directing lineup where the women outnumber the men? With Emerald Fennell (“Promising Young Woman”), Regina King (“One Night in Miami”) and Chloé Zhao (“Nomadland”), who also won at NYFCC, the “year of the female director” is a growing award season narrative, despite many women-directed films being postponed due to the pandemic. Only five women have been nominated for best director in the 92-year history of AMPAS.

The best director lineup could also have one or two filmmakers of color. Spike Lee’s “Da 5 Bloods” won honors for Delroy Lindo in best actor and the late Chadwick Boseman in supporting actor. Lee was honored with a special award for his short film “New York New York.” “Da 5 Bloods” could be getting a second wind from its June release, resulting in Lee becoming the first Black director to be nominated a second time at the Oscars. To date, only six Black men (and no Black women) have been nominated for best director, none of which have been selected again following their first nod.

Then there’s “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” from Focus Features, which is building momentum for its debut star Sidney Flanigan. Also a winner at Boston, Flanigan could become a critical darling, but the question is, how far does that take her? For two consecutive years, the NYFCC winner for best actress has not received an Oscar nomination (Lupita Nyong’o for “Us” and Regina Hall for “Support the Girls”). With the film also winning screenplay earlier on Friday, this indie drama can only add to the female filmmaker’s narrative.

Maria Bakalova’s win for “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” is just what her awards campaign needed, in a category that has been very friendly to comedic performances (examples: Marisa Tomei in “My Cousin Vinny” and Melissa McCarthy in “Bridesmaids”). The supporting actress is wide open at the moment with no established frontrunner.

In this unconventional awards year, will the group have the same impact? NYFCC along with the National Board of Review and the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, which announces on Sunday, typically have the most influence of the critics’ groups. Normally, Oscar voters would be grabbing DVDs from their screener pile and packing them up for their holiday binge. This year, not as many physical copies have gone out, though many are available on the Academy streaming platform.

Visit THE AWARDS HUB to see the full list of contenders by category.