Could The Master win the New York Film Critics Circle Award?

The New York Film Critics Circle awards, revealed Monday, will combine, perhaps exclusively, weight and suspense. Now, I use “weight” relatively, from deep inside a context that considers the Oscars the focal point. The Independent Spirit awards, the Gotham awards are great awards, but typically are on their own track from the Oscars. The New York Film Critics circle on the other hand, is your first indication of the ground game that will determine the likely winner well before February 24. I don’t care what anyone says, I count the winner the immediate front runner, and yes, even if that winner is The Master.

The Master is selected by two out of three of the editors at The Gold Derby:
(http://www.goldderby.com/awardshows/experts/ny-film-critics-2012/best-picture.html)

And, sure perhaps one might be able to make the case that this award won’t mean as much
for Oscar chances if the winner is an obvious outlier like The Master. I believe this underestimates
the way the race has evolved over the past few years, and particularly the way in which the race
looks this year. Four films over a period of weeks have spent some time at the top: Silver Linings Playbook,
Argo, Lincoln, Les Miserables. It could be the kind of year when the winner is simply whoever is leading
when the clock runs out.

Yet, lately, it has not been the late entry buzz movie that took the award or awards season as a whole.
The King’s Speech is definitely the best example and it is what Tom Hooper is trying again on Les
Miserables. Rather, I believe we have an incredibly fluid race and raw data can provide direction.

The Master has the support out there, but it might simply be the kind of movie that needs the perception
of having a chance, not a throwaway vote. For that to happen, the race needs to be fluid enough for
the number of front runners to be so spread out, that getting real awards makes a huge different when
there are so many places to vote.

For the last 3 years, the New York Film Critics Circle did not only pick the Best Picture winner twice:
The Artist and The Hurt Locker, but it also picked the “front runner” 2 years ago: The Social Network.
This means you have to go back 4 years to find a time it didn’t have a major impact on shaping the
race, picking Milk rather than Slumdog Millionaire. This is an outlier, fine, but perhaps the exception
proves the rule. Furthermore, on that year, there were only 5 Best Picture nominations and Milk was
still one of those 5, and if you are top 5 this year, you’re a frontrunner.

2007, No Country for Old Men, Picture and Director way out from the Oscars ceremony. That year,
of course, this was selected instead of There Will Be Blood, so if PT Anderson were to overcome
this obstacle, even better. But that is the front runner of the moment on 4 of the last 5 races.
Once again, Social Network was seriously a contender, at least for Director, right up to the moment
the award was announced.

2006 the winner was United 93. This is so much an outlier as to prompt some thought. The relation to 9/11 on a film that is respectful, well made and the relation for New
York had much to do with that choice. United 93 wasn’t nominated for Best Picture, but it wasn’t really
favored to either. Nonetheless, they also selected Martin Scorsese for Best Director, indicating in
the second slot the ultimate Best Picture winner.

2005, Brokeback Mountain, the obvious front runner at that time, which would remain the front runner
for the remainder of the race, only failing to garner the Screen Actors guild ensemble award and then
losing in a major shock at the Academy Awards.

2004, Sideways. Now, here is a great example of what many will compare 2012 to should The Master
win. Keep in mind, this is 8 YEARS ago. This is also a year when the ultimate winner was not a massive
front runner throughout by any mean, Million Dollar Baby, which did still win the Director award with
New York. It could even be argued that the director award in New York had a major impact on the race,
therefore only making the case greater for the importance of a win.

2003, Return of the King, correctly choosing the final installment as the one to finally take home the
prize eventually. Right on the money. I would make the case that from 2003 on, the New York Film
Critics circle has led the way in a season that was becoming more of a process of building consensus
over time.

2002 and before, 10 YEARS prior to where we are now, the Circle showed greater independence
from the season as a whole, exhibiting simply a different type of season overall.
Far From Heaven, Mulholland Drive, Traffic, Topsy-Turvy. More auteur driven those years seemed to be.
Prior to even that: Saving Private Ryan, L.A. Confidential, great picks at runners up, yet still,
further back one could argue, these simply had less an impact.

Therefore, I believe this award has a great potential to shake things up. Several scenarios:

The Master: Could re-enter the conversation in a big way, or be the final straw, especially
on actor should Day-Lewis take home the award.

Les Miserables: Will solidify the current front runner as the front runner for the forseeable
future and the beginning of the end of the conversation.

Lincoln: Needs the award to turn a spark into the traction it needs to get it over the top.

Silver Linings Playbook: Unfortunately, it would be a bit of an unexpected push that it needs
to add to the Toronto Award. Would keep it alive, but with that combo, it will be back on
top at this point.

Argo: Has not faded amidst the other players from the overall conversation. Would also find
itself vaulted ahead of the pack with this award.

Life of Pi: It would definitely surprise me, with some mixed reactions, especially from A.O. Scott.

Zero Dark Thirty: Some incredibly positive reactions to this amidst the Les Miserables furor. Many
would think this simply solidified a nomination, but a win on Monday would allow it to trump
Les Miserables and the rest of the competition.

Moonrise Kingdom: I will put this in here because it just took the Gotham award. Stranger things
have happened. With that combination, people will find themselves surprisingly re-thinking the
whole race.
R
I don’t see anything else having a shot right now. With a Les Miserables leader that is there with
a fairly recent hype, they may welcome a Master win, seeing it as easier to beat rather than
a win from Argo or Lincoln, but perhaps they shouldn’t lean too heavily on waiting for the guilds
to get where they want to be in the race.

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