Oscar Preview: Precursor Winners & Losers, Week 3

The deluge of film critics awards this week has threatened to drown me several times. There isn’t much movement towards one candidate over another, but some of the nomination races seem to be shaping up nicely.

But, before we get into this week’s winners and losers, let’s take a look at what’s coming up this week (Monday through Monday inclusive):

Week 4

Dec. 19 – Chicago Critics
Dec. 19 – Florida Critics
Dec. 19 – Southeastern Critics
Dec. 19 – St. Louis Critics
Dec. 26 – Online Film Critics Society Nominations

Big Winners

Michelle Williams has been picking up prize after prize for her performance in My Week with Marilyn positioning herself as the most likely victor on Oscar night. She’s playing an iconic figure, it’s a young and talented Hollywood staple and has the added bonus of a push from Harvey Weinstein.
Drive, the film the Academy is least likely to embrace, has sure been given a lot of opportunities to shine before the Oscar nominations. In the last week, the film has done phenomenally well with critics groups and could be poised to make a number of surprise inclusions at this year’s Oscars.
The Artist Saying the film is a big winner is a bit of an understatement. Even when not picking up Best Picture prizes, it continues to pick up various other awards making it seem like not only a surefire Best Picture nominee, but also a heavy contender to win it.
Tilda Swinton won a handful of prizes in the last week, but it’s the fact that she’s been on such prominent display in a film that wouldn’t have otherwise been a blip on Oscar voter radars that draws your attention. Can she parlay that into an Oscar nomination. At this point, I wouldn’t be at all surprised. Once you have an Oscar, voters tend to remember you when they fill out their ballots.

Big Losers

Meryl Streep had a wonderful start to awards season, but has since been overshadowed by her younger peers. The one actress whose vocal champions have been insisting she’ll win her third Oscar for this, that or some other performance, may once again be disappointed as The Iron Lady lands yet another bridesmaid prize.
Gary Oldman and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy should have done better with critics. Its careful plotting, compelling characters and lack of conventional storytelling techniques make it a prime film for critics to heap praise on. Yet, it’s been almost invisible this awards season making Gary Oldman’s career achievement first Oscar nomination rather doubtful.
Vanessa Redgrave is the only female septuagenarian in the race and her film has been more ignored than Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. In spite of strong notices for her performance, Redgrave may have met her match with this year’s heavy field of contenders and may have to wait another few years for a chance at another Oscar.

Individual Analyses

Indiana Film Critics Awards

One of the smallest and newest film critics group, Indiana doesn’t have a lot of influence or known predictive ability. Other than a Best Actor win for Paul Giamatti and an Original Screenplay victory for Win Win, most of their choices have been cited regularly by prior groups. Of course, Elizabeth Olsen could use more attention for her performance in Martha Marcy May Marlene and Viola Davis’ win in Supporting Actress isn’t the category she’s competing for at the Oscars, you can’t really find anything with this group to get too excited about.

San Diego Critics Nominations

The San Diego critics proved that they love the movies yielding 16 nominations to two films about the joy of filmmaking. The Artist picked up nine nominations while Hugo received seven. The films were no doubt helped by the larger number of creative category awards given out by this group than any other. The nominations for this group showed that critics had seen Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close who recognized the film for its score and supporting performance by Max von Sydow. Brendan Gleeson’s nod for Best Actor for The Guard isn’t something we’ve seen a lot of this season and this is also the first appearance of Brit Marling for Another Earth. Neither have much of a shot with Oscar voters.

Broadcast Critics Nominations

When you look to the Broadcast Film Critics Association who give out their “Critics’ Choice” awards each year, you have to take their choices with a grain of salt. More often Oscar predictions than valued commentary on the year in film, the Broadcast group is interesting to watch to see if there are any early peaking films that made it through even though their Oscar chances have dwindled. There aren’t a lot of such choices this year with nearly all of their nominations being for films or performances that we have been discussing for awhile but who haven’t necessarily risen or falling out of consideration.

Toronto Critics Awards

Toronto is one of the poorest performing prognosticators out there. Even their nominees don’t carry over often to the Oscars. However, this year’s slate of choices seem fairly likely ones to earn Oscar nominations even if not for films specifically mentioned for their wins (I’m looking at you, Jessica Chastain). There’s not a lot to say about these guys as they don’t seem particularly slanted in one way or another, they seemed to have found what they liked and honored it.

Screen Actors Guild Nominations

The major difference between guilds and critics groups and other organizations is that the guilds are often made up of the same people who nominate for the Oscars. Although the nominating process isn’t similar here (with the Screen Actors Guild, they select small panels to review the work and make nominations instead of putting it up to the whole membership), that doesn’t prevent SAG from being one of the best predictors of the Acting races. In Best Actor, Actress and Supporting Actor, all but three of their last 25 nominations didn’t go on to earn an Academy Award nod. In Supporting Actress, that number increases to all but four. Those are pretty good numbers. There is sometimes a correlation between their Best Cast award and the Best Picture award, but their predictive capability is much less. This year, I’d say the most likely failures for this group will be Bridesmaids in Best Picture; Demian Bichir in Best Actor; and Armie Hammer and Jonah Hill in Supporting Actor. All of the rest I can easily imagine picking up Oscar nominations.

San Diego Critics Awards

Shortly after selecting nominees, San Diego announced its winners. What’s most surprising is that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 was the only film to pick up more than one award, both in below-the-line categories. The Artist picked up another Best Picture prize, but didn’t seem to be loved in other categories. Michael Shannon’s win has to boost his visibility as a potential Oscar nominee as do wins by Nick Nolte and Shailene Woodley. Brit Marling is the only winner on this list who has zero chance of earning an Oscar nomination.

Las Vegas Critics Awards

More prizes for The Artist. This time, the Las Vegas critics had no problem conferring on the film several other awards including Best Actor, Best Score and Best Art Direction. Nicolas Winding Refn, who I wouldn’t have thought could be an Oscar nominee two months ago is slowly picking up a handful of precursor prizes suggesting his film is much better liked than previously expected. Melissa McCarthy makes a surprise appearance with a win for Best Supporting Actress giving her candidacy some legitimacy.

Golden Globes Nominations

What one hand giveth, the other taketh away. McCarthy should have been a shoo-in for a Supporting Actress nomination from Golden Globe voters, but she was completely absent. That shouldn’t be at all surprising considering the quality of work on display in that category. Voters probably had a hard time narrowing the list down. Normally, we find some aspect of the Golden Globe nominations to poke fun at, such as it’s a boatload of nominations for movie duds like The Tourist. This year, however, it’s hard to pick at any of this year’s nominees. At least in the top tier categories. Giving Original Score and Original Song nominations to Madonna for a film much derided by critics, suggests the old star loving tendencies of Globe voters. Maybe they are reaching for respectability? Or maybe their comedy options just happened to be stronger this year than they have been in the past.

Houston Critics Awards

The field diversity began to further shift as the week went on as a number of the early frontrunners began to find themselves short on prizes. Houston, with the exception of selecting Albert Brooks for Supporting Actor and The Tree of Life for Cinematography seemed to pick winners that hadn’t gotten much attention from previous groups. The group is relatively new, though no less predictive than a lot of other critics groups out there.

Chicago Critics Nominations

Three films managed to top frequent awards recipient The Artist in the nomination tallies with the Chicago critics. The Tree of Life, The Descendants and Drive, all more critic-friendly films, earned more nods. The rolls, however, seemed to be made up of frequently mentioned titles and performances, making them mostly a simulacrum of other groups for the most part. Though, it was nice to see Gary Oldman and Patton Oswalt pop in.

Dallas-Fort Worth Critics Awards

One of the more eclectic groups, at least in terms of creating their awards list, the Dallas-Fort Worth critics rank most categories with at least 5 candidates, the top one on the list being declared the winner. No other group does that to this extent (the National Board of Review creates top lists for different types of films but even they stopped ranking them years ago). The winners weren’t spectacular led by a hefty five prizes to The Descendants. Christopher Plummer and Michelle Williams picked up more support as well.

Detroit Critics Awards

The Detroit critics went almost entirely to frontrunners at this point with Carey Mulligan and Michael Fassbender the only ones really not having gotten much attention this season. There really isn’t much more that can be said about this list.

Satellite Awards

Although The Descendants took the Best Picture prize, it was Nicolas Winding Refn’s film Drive that won the lion’s share of awards including another trophy for Director, a first prize for Ryan Gosling as lead actor and an award for Sound Mixing and Editing. Viola Davis picked up the prize for Actress, Soul Surfer won for score and The Guard won for editing. the rest of the honorees were somewhat predictable.

St. Louis Critics Nominations

The only interesting thing the St. Louis critics had to say was that, in their eyes, The Artist and Drive were equals, both earning 9 nominations each. Two other films that haven’t gotten a lot of play from critics so far The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Hanna also received a handful of nominations. Two inclusions that were a bit surprising to me were Cate Blanchett earning a Supporting Actress nomination for Hanna, a performance that was frequently maligned, and Alan Rickman getting a Supporting Actor nomination for the final Harry Potter film. Of all the nominations I expected for the franchise’s final outing, this was not it. Overall, while there were plenty of expected nominations, this is probably the most interesting and diverse offerings so far presented.

Chicago Critics Awards

Announcing earlier than expected, the Chicago critics gave their top prize this year to The Tree of Life along with three other awards. There really wasn’t a lot of originality in these picks as most of them have been mentioned before. Whether this is a good thing or it creates further worry of the homogeneity of critics awards is up to the individual reader. This being one of the oldest awards giving critics groups adds a little weight to their choices, but not necessarily any predictive quality.

St. Louis Critics Awards

For a group that went out of its way to include some interesting selections, these winners are wholly unimaginative. The most unique choice is that of Rooney Mara who wasn’t exactly seen as a strong contender for the Oscars this year, but might end up so with a few more prizes under her belt. Unfortunately for her, there aren’t many critics groups left this year.

Florida Critics Awards

The Florida critics are among the best Oscar precursors out there, though their choice of The Descendants for Best Picture doesn’t give one hope of their continued prominence. Matter of fact, few of their choices seemed destined for Oscar glory, but I could easily be surprised by any of them.

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