2. Critics Choice (December 1 noms, December 11 ceremony): The Broadcast Film Critics Association’s (BFCA) awards are a mix of the prestigious and commercial. On the one hand, the group of roughly 200-300 members hands out its top prizes to typical awards contenders: In last night’s ceremony, Best Picture went to La La Land, La La Land’s Damien Chazelle was named Best Director and Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea), Natalie Portman (Jackie), Mahershala Ali (Moonlight) and Viola Davis (Fences) all won acting awards. (Note that Silence was not screened in time for awards consideration.) On the other hand, there seems to be an almost infinite number of categories in which to nominate someone: Gal Gadot got a nomination for Best Actress in an Action Movie for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Scott Feinberg argues that we should take them seriously at least a bit, especially given that over the past 16 years, the BFCA and the Academy picked the same best picture on 12 occasions: “The Critics’ Choice noms are as likely to impress Oscar voters as any set of noms that precede their own — deservedly or not, they confer a sense of importance and prestige upon a film, albeit slightly less so when there are, say, seven nominees for best director, as there are this year — and therefore could jump-start or stunt a contender’s momentum.”
3. New York Film Critics (December 1): Founded in 1935, the New York Film Critics Circle has been giving away awards for a long time. With this reputation, they are often more willing to go with artsy choices that others may not replicate. Last year, they gave their Best Picture and Best Director awards to Carol, and they gave Kristen Stewart the award for Best Supporting Actress. This year, La La Land won Best Picture, Best Director went to Barry Jenkins (Moonlight) and the acting prizes were given to Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea), Isabelle Huppert (Elle), Mahershala Ali (Moonlight) and Michelle Williams (Manchester by the Sea).
- Moonlight and Manchester by the Sea: The two films joined “hottie-driven musical” La La Land as winners for Best Picture and/or Best Director. These three seem to be the strongest films of the year, at least when it comes to critical support.
- Casey Affleck: Affleck scored wins at the NBR, NYFCC and Critics Choice as well as second-place at LAFC. He was already a strong contender for Best Actor, but the fact that Denzel Washington (Fences) is nowhere in sight has to make him feel pretty happy right now.
- Isabelle Huppert: Everyone was pretty locked on the Best Actress contenders (Emma and Natalie and Annette), and few were mentioning French legend Isabelle Huppert. Then she won both the NYFCC and LAFC and scored a Critics Choice nomination. Take her seriously. (See “Isabelle Huppert Is Already Having a Great Fall.”)
- Mahershala Ali: The supporting actor may be Moonlight’s best chance at a win come Oscar night. Mahershala Ali pulled an Isabelle Huppert with a back-to-back win at the NYFCC and LAFC and added on a Critics Choice win as well.
- Supporting actresses not named Viola Davis: She’s considered by many to be the frontrunner for Best Supporting Actress, but she only scored a nomination at the Critics Choice awards (which she then, to be fair, ended up winning). Maybe it’s slightly less lock-y of a lock, which would be good news for Naomie Harris and Michelle Williams.
The HFPA is composed of around 90 members who need to meet three major membership requirements: They need to work for a foreign publication but be based in Southern California, they need to publish at least four articles per year and they have to pay $500 as an initiation fee. While some are legitimate journalists, many are not. In 2015, Vulture published a list of every known member of the HFPA and a short resume, but what’s probably more fun is the article “Meet The Total Randos Who Decide The Golden Globes.” Highlights include:
- Alexander Nevsky (Russia): “The renowned bodybuilder, born Sasha Kuritsyn, was crowned Mr. Universe in 2012. As an actor, he’s best known for appearing in the action films Treasure Raiders and Moscow Heat.”
- Gilda Baum-Lappe (Mexico): “Baum-Lappe regularly tweets about films she’s watched and celebrity news, but over the course of the last year, she’s made no reference to any work of her own. As far as HFPA members go, she is not the exception. She is the rule.”
- Noël de Souza (India): “De Souza played Mahatma Gandhi on an episode of Star Trek: Voyager. You might also recognize him as “Old Indian Man” from Wedding Crashers.”
When you have a small group of self-important nobodies decide on awards, you get criticism if your choices are a bit odd. And they often are. The critically panned movie Burlesque (36% on Rotten Tomatoes) was nominated for Best Picture in 2010, which doesn’t make sense unless you hear that Sony, the studio behind the movie, “flew Golden Globes judges to Las Vegas for an all-expenses-paid trip which included luxury hotel accommodation, free meals and a private concert performed by the film’s star, Cher.” The Tourist (20% on Rotten Tomatoes) was nominated for Best Picture the same year, which doesn’t make sense unless you realize that the group wanted the stars of the movie, Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp, to come to their party.It’s true that they’ve been improving. Fewer ridiculous movies are making the cut, and many people congratulated the Golden Globes last year on their wholly unremarkable choices. But when you have such a preposterous organization in charge of one of the best-regarded awards season events, everything should be taken with a large helping of salt.
- “If you’ve ever wonder what Jake Gyllenhaal looks like after he’s been crying, then Nocturnal Animals is the movie for you.” (From Vulture’s “This Is the Season of Sad Men at the Movies.”)
- “Focus Features sent a Thanksgiving care package from Loving, the Virginia-set interracial marriage film, that included bottles of Sweet Pickled Virginia Gourmet Watermelon Rind, Mrs. Bryant’s Blueberry Apple Sauce, as well as her Moroccan Black Bean Soup Mix, plus a giant Snicker Doodle Cookie … Universal sent a stuffed bear with microphone from Sing. In an apparent effort to bring back vinyl, Fox sent a 45 RPM record of Pharrell Williams songs from the early 60’s period-set Hidden Figures and an LP album from Trolls. Lionsgate also went the vinyl route for a couple of La La Land songs. For A24’s 20th Century Women, set in 1979, we got a 2017 Calendar highlighting significant events in ’79. Captain Fantastic sent a bandanna with the phrases “Power To The People” and “Stick It To The Man” emblazoned on it. Of course, stodgy Academy rules forbid these types of things to be sent to Oscar voters who might be unduly influenced by swag, so studios send the swag to others [in the NBR and NYFCC] in hopes that it will encourage them to vote for their film and thus possibly influence Academy votes down the line.” (From Deadline’s “Pete Hammond’s Notes On The Season.”)
- Why Moonlight matters: Here is a really interesting piece in The Hollywood Reporter about Moonlight. It ends with the following message: “Moonlight doesn’t preach the sort of anti-racist message that made In the Heat of the Night more palatable to Academy members; nor does it offer the kind of kumbaya sentiment of Driving Miss Daisy or The Color Purple. Instead, like all great art, it challenges our notions of good and bad, of black and white, of the places we’d rather avoid and the people we’d rather not meet. Its story may be sprinkled with drug dealers and addicts. But its message is clear: The world is richer and deeper and more complex than we ever imagined, and even its most troubled characters — just like us — are looking for love.”
- Eligible for male and female categories: For the first time, the Academy has allowed voters to nominate someone (in this case Kelly Mantle, a former contestant on ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race,’ who starred in this year’s Confessions of a Womanizer) for either Best Supporting Actor or Best Supporting Actress.
- Everyone thinks the Best Original song performances are awkward: “Amy Adams and Taraji P. Henson Remember Their Extremely Awkward Best Original Song Oscars Performances,” by Jackson McHenry.
- Will La La Land win everything: AwardsDaily examines the maximum number of awards the musical is likely to nab.
- The biopic you never knew you needed: Adam McKay, known in intellectual circles as the director of The Big Short and in less intellectual circles as the director of basically every Will Ferrell movie, is reportedly planning a drama about Dick Cheney. Unfortunately, the actor who played Mr. Potter in It’s a Wonderful Life is no longer living, so there’s some perfect casting gone by the wayside.
- The Oscar matrix you did not need: The Hollywood Reporter ranks this year’s contenders by how rich people are in them and when the movie is set.
- Isla Fisher: Apparently, Isla Fisher once used a picture of Amy Adams in her family Christmas card. Interestingly, Amy Adams and Isla Fisher have a combined five Oscar nominations.
- Lily Tomlin: Tomlin will receive a lifetime achievement honor at the SAG Awards on Jan. 29. The Hollywood Reporter looks into why she is so outstanding.
- Moana box office: According to Vulture, Moana made $81 million over Thanksgiving weekend, the second-biggest Thanksgiving opening ever, behind Frozen’s $94 million back in 2013. Disney actually holds nine of the top-ten best Thanksgiving openings ever.
- But what about Donald Trump: Two articles discuss impacts of the election onto the Oscar race. The New York Times also mentions that “a big question burbling around the awards world is whether academy voters will, in the wake of the election, go for lighter, escapist fare, or a meatier film with a message, especially considering last year’s eruption when all of the Oscar acting nominees were white.” Expect Donald Trump to invade your Oscar news too.