The New York Film Critics Circle Awards’ Oscar impact

Critic awards are one of the biggest swing factors in the Oscar race. They can revive a forgotten movie from way back in January with their Top 10 lists or send another packing by dropping it from the conversation altogether. It’s good to know movie critics still have some clout today.

The first of the bunch is the New York Film Critics Circle, and on Monday they awarded Zero Dark Thirty the prize of Best Picture. Clearly this movie screened for critics just in time to be fresh in their minds, as the movie also picked up the Best Director award for Kathryn Bigelow, which she won in 2009 for The Hurt Locker as well. Below is the full list of winners, via nyfcc.com:

Best Picture: Zero Dark Thirty

Best Director: Kathryn Bigelow – Zero Dark Thirty

Best Screenplay: Tony Kushner – Lincoln

Best Actress: Rachel Weisz – The Deep Blue Sea

Best Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis – Lincoln

Best Supporting Actress: Sally Field – Lincoln

Best Supporting Actor: Matthew McConaughey – Bernie, Magic Mike

Best Cinematographer: Greig Fraser – Zero Dark Thirty

Best Animated Film: Frankenweenie

Best Non-Fiction Film: The Central Park Five

Best Foreign Film: Amour

Best First Film: David France – How to Survive a Plague

Also doing well is Lincoln, which won Best Screenplay for Tony Kushner, Best Actor Daniel-Day Lewis and Best Supporting Actress Sally Field. The surprises were Rachel Weisz and Matthew McConaughey, who doubled up for Bernie and Magic Mike. Both Weisz and McConaughey were on the bubble for Oscar nods, so this is good news for them.

What’s out? The Master, which critics are still supposed to bring back if that movie has a Best Picture chance, and Beasts of the Southern Wild, which could’ve won Best First Film but instead went to the documentary How to Survive a Plague.

But rather, it’s now a question of just how big Zero Dark Thirty will be. This movie was clouded in mystery for so long, and to now surprise everyone as a post 9/11 masterpiece with an unapologetic female lead and a dense, procedural script by Mark Boal that smacks of just good journalism, it seems to be an unquestionable contender for the Best Picture Oscar. And since the movie has been moved back to early January for a wide-release, this could be the movie that is freshest in the voters’ and public’s mind prior to the Oscar ceremony, meaning this movie doesn’t just have the clout to get nominated but the potential legs to win.

It even won Best Cinematography, arguably beating out equally impressive work on Life of Pi, The Master, Lincoln and critic favorite Roger Deakins for his digital work on Skyfall. Greig Fraser would be a first time nominee for an Oscar, even though this year alone he also worked on Killing Them Softly and Snow White and the Huntsman.

And how about Lincoln? With Day-Lewis winning, it seems to signal to everyone that he is as good as Abe Lincoln as originally imagined. As for Sally Field, she’s just moved to the front of a slim race for Supporting Actress, with only serious competition from Anne Hathaway in Les Miserables as Amy Adams (The Master) and Helen Hunt (The Sessions) have their movies already fading from the conversation. Ironically, this would be the third Oscar win for both Day-Lewis and Field.

The Central Park Five‘s win here could not help it with an Oscar nomination, as the same day the Academy announced their short list of documentaries and left this one out. They did however include How to Survive a Plague.

Amour was almost bound to win as Best Foreign film, and Frankenweenie was another likely winner in a thin year for animated films. All of these films have now been solidified as contenders, but none of them truly shake up the race. The only question that remains is whether Amour can sneak into one of the 10 Best Picture slots.

The next set of critic awards will take place this coming Sunday, December 9 with the Los Angeles Film Critics, and the next day the American Film Institute will announce their Top 10 films of the year.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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5 Comments

  1. Good cover. One movie that has been on my radar is Amour. I watched The White Ribbon just the other day and I’m falling in love with Haneke’s work.

  2. David Tatlow

    Good piece. I am looking forward to Zero Dark Thirty, but I hope it doesn’t get the over-hype that the Hurt Locker did, unless it deserves it. This year has seen some quality pictures emerge, and I’d hate to see a film sweep when so many deserve at least some recognition.

  3. Mike G

    Haneke has been putting out fantastic films for so long. The man needs to be nominated for best director at some point right?

    • David Tatlow

      Haneke is a special talent, but he really does not sit well with Oscar voters. It started with his debut The Seventh Continent, which is such a heavy criticism of capitalism…people had horrible reactions to the film in some parts.

  4. Kevin Licht

    It’ll be interesting to see how the inevitable backlash towards the subject matter will affect Zero Dark Thirty as far as Oscar Contention goes. The Hurt Locker may still be a little too fresh in the minds of Oscar voters to give a repeat to Bigelow as well. What is it, 4 years after Hurt Locker now?

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