THE SUSPENSE MOUNTS: Critics start sounding in on Awards 2009

The second installment of the movie awards season begins with a bunch of critic’s awards. The least important, at least in regards to which films in the U.S. will receive awards, not in overall significance, are the European Film Awards. The main names to take note of here is Haneke’s The White Ribbon which won three awards and Jacques Audiard’s The Prophet which won two. The White Ribbon is Germany’s entry in the foreign film category and The Prophet is France’s. However, the vagaries of the foreign film selection at the Oscars is so much it’s own thing that this may not mean anything except to give these films some extra buzz and give people a reason to complain about the foreign film voting system if neither one is nominated.

Next is the AFI selection of the top ten best films of the year. These are “Coraline,” “The Hangover,” “The Hurt Locker,” “The Messenger,” “Precious,” “A Serious Man,” “A Single Man,” “Sugar,” “Up” and “Up in the Air.” This is a more egalitarian list that one will probably see come Oscar nominations. It is doubtful that Caroline, The Hangover or Sugar will make the Oscar cut (Caroline will only be nominated in animation; The Hangover too lowbrow, Sugar too indie–i.e., most Oscar voters probably haven’t heard of it, much less seen it). This does give energy to nominations for The Hurt Locker, Up in the Air, Precious and Up. The others are possibilities, but still not a lot of buzz. The main movie missing here is Inglorious Basterds, a real surprise.

Then there are the Broadcast Film Critics Award nominations that came out. They have more nominations in each category than the Oscars. My overall analysis is that this helps continue the buzz with Inglorious Basterds and Up in the Air and now also gives buzz for Avatar and Nine, both of which did very well in the various categories. However, I wouldn’t doubt that the BFCA best picture nominations will be close to the Oscars, with the exception of District 9 which didn’t make the Critics Circle, but still has a strong chance. It also has a listing of actors that may also be close to the Oscars (though the Critics here nominated six per category and the Academy only has five). And I still think Julie & Julia will get in.

This leaves what may be the most significant indicator of what is going to be nominated and what isn’t, the LA. Film Critics. Though they are critics and not voters and voters have a habit of not listening that closely to the critics, these ones live in L.A. and probably help with the buzz on certain films. The L.A. Film Critics gave a leg up to The Hurt Locker, awarding it picture and director. The Hurt Locker is probably going to be nominated at the Oscars for those categories, but I still suspect Up in the Air is going to win (and here came in second).

But the Critics really gave a leg up to Jeff Bridges for best actor for Crazy Heart. Colin Firth, who was the favorite to win the Oscar (and who came in runner up here), may now lose out to Bridges in a combination performance of his career combined with a career type award, more often given to male actors than female actors (the only thing that might have helped more is if Bridges had gotten an honorary Oscar the year before). This really is too bad for Firth, a fine actor who doesn’t make many films that get Oscar buzz and this may be his only chance. But Bridges has been nominated four times with no wins.

Best actress went to the more than deserving Yolande Moreau (who may get my award for best actress) for Seraphine. This probably won’t translate into Oscar buzz since like Sugar, this is a film that most voters probably haven’t even heard of. Carey Mulligan came in second, which helps her with a nomination (after the National Board of Review Award), but I’m gong out on a limb right now and agree with Jerry, my best friend in Chicago, who thinks that the Academy will decide it’s been long enough since Meryl Streep’s last win and give her her third Oscar for Julie & Julia.

Supporting awards when to Christoph Waltz and Mo’Nique, both of whom right now are expected to win the Oscars. Runners up went to Anna Kendricks, and I’m now convinced she is a strong contender for an Oscar Nomination for Up in the Air, and Peter Capaldi for In the Loop, though like other deserving artists, was in a movie most of the voters probably haven’t even heard of, so there goes his chances.

Also note that Fantastic Mr. Fox beat out Up for animation, though I still have a feeling that the Princess and the Frog is going to take home the Oscar. Just a feeling.

Also noteworthy is that The White Ribbon’s name showed up for the LA Film Critics. This probably doesn’t mean anything. Jerry said that The White Ribbon won’t open in L.A until December 30th, less than a week before the end of the year. I don’t know what this means when it comes to qualifying for Oscars since movies are suppose to play a week in LA or New York (though not necessarily for a nom in foreign language category).

Another note: I read in the LA Times that people who vote for best picture nominations often don’t put down a full list of names (this year, ten), but often only put down one or two, which can skew the nominations. I would think this would skew the noms toward more tent pole, studio films since those are the ones more people see, but that’s not the way it works it seems.

Next to come, New York Film Critics and The Golden Globes.


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