The New York Film Critics Circle points to Zero Dark Thirty rally

What do the New York Film Critics Circle Awards tell us? I’d say a lot.

I hand it to Awards Daily’s Sasha Stone and Hollywood Elsewhere’s Jeffrey Wells, among surely many others, for correctly predicting that Zero Dark Thirty would win the New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Picture (As long as that name is, you could say it several hundred times in the amount of time it took for the Circle to announce their awards, over a period of about 4 hours online.) After several months of quick frontrunners, Silver Linings Playbook, Argo, Lincoln, Les Miserables, I think Zero Dark Thirty won simply on the strength of its excellence, providing a different kind of front runner, the kind that sticks.

I went with The Master mostly with a sliver of hope, wanting it to stay in the race. Yet now Phoenix is a long shot for winning actor, Amy Adams has at least 2 actresses with more momentum (Field and Hathaway), and Hoffman is probably the final real horse in this race for The Master with Jones not picking up the award today. I also count PT Anderson out of the director’s five (now its Bigelow, Spielberg, Hooper, Afleck, Russell). Screenplays will most likely go Lincoln/Zero Dark Thirty, the former taking home the prize today. I would say even a Picture nomination is in real peril now, although you could compare The Master to Tree of Life (last year’s Sight and Sound winner as well) and find it sliding in with a nomination. It’s in danger, but I still say it at least gets nominated.

Now, although the films aren’t similar, I see Zero Dark Thirty being The Artist and Lincoln being Hugo. Zero Dark Thirty will probably continue to sweep, Lincoln will provide the closest competition. The main headwind Zero Dark Thirty faces is in the Screen Actors Guild nomination. It doesn’t really need to win, but there are so many good casts out there that it would face. Les Mis, Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook, Argo are locks, and basically Zero Dark Thirty faces a fight for #5 there, with The Master having a lot to offer with acting, but The Master could continue to not receive support. Yet, you could see either Flight or Django Unchained push out both as well.

But, on another note, perhaps even Zero Dark Thirty is just another slightly skewed winner. Perhaps it’s just a critically acclaimed movie and not necessarily going to translate to guild support. Furthermore, one of the NYFCC’s most notorious outliers was United 93, a movie about 9/11. At the same time, I just still think what we’re seeing here is the start of an ultimate momentum builder towards Best Picture. Zero Dark Thirty is a long, serious, meticulous drama that takes a good hard look at a tough issue. I don’t see that being a real problem though. Serious, meticulous movies can win, such as No Country for Old Men. It’s the more ambiguous, difficult to interpret ones that are a bit harder to sell, like PT Anderson’s recent offerings.

Also, we have a pretty serious overall gathering of contenders. Once again, Silver Linings Playbook is basically your foil, your alternative toned movie, potentially gaining from a vote split amongst the serious dramas. I just don’t think that logic usually works itself out. What usually works, in terms of predictions, is momentum. Sure, Zero Dark Thirty is serious, heady stuff, but I don’t think the Academy will be rushing to prove themselves unable to take a smart, heady movie seriously.

The NYFCC, as is typical, decided to award, on the other hand, half conventional and half unconventional acting roles. You had Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln with Day-Lewis and Sally Field, not that much of a surprise. On the other hand, Best Actress went to Rachel Weisz for Deep Blue Sea and Matthew McConaughey for Bernie and Magic Mike. These were both certainly in the conversation from early on, but fly in the face of the typical wisdom right now. But, that is usually the case on these early awards shows. The NYFCC also typically are hit or miss on predicting the ones they give out to more conventional candidates, it helps I think and puts Sally Field as a strong contender. Day-Lewis is simply destined to break that Lead Actor threepeat record.

So, as expected, I believe the New York Film Critics Circle Awards have brought the clarity that they were meant to bring. The National Board of Review is good at handing out awards to future runner ups, so it potentially won’t pick Zero Dark Thirty as well. I do believe, on the other hand, that the LA Film Critics will certainly repeat though.

But an update on a few categories:

In order of likelihood,

Zero Dark Thirty
Les Miserables
Silver Linings Playbook
Life of Pi
The Master
Beasts of the Southern Wild

Kathryn Bigelow
Steven Spielberg
Ben Afleck
Tom Hooper
David O Russell

Actress: Jennifer Lawrence (still)
Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis (without rival)
SActress: Anne Hathaway (still)
SActor: Philip Seymour Hoffman (back on top)
AScreenplay: Lincoln
OScreenplay: Zero Dark Thirty

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