Over the weekend, no less than a half-dozen regional critic groups announced their winners and/or nominees for the best of the year. As the embargo is still in full effect for The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, does that also preclude them from voting for it? The David Fincher adaptation/remake failed to receive a single mention from any of them, though producer Scott Rudin's other films did manage to peek their heads out. The season's potential late bloomer, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, received a Best Picture nomination in Houston - but nothing else from them or anyone else to date. The suddenly revitalized Kenneth Lonergan film, Margaret, which has sat on the shelf since 2005, finished runner-up in several categories over in Boston, who did reward Moneyball with Best Actor and Screenplay, helping to cement the film as a favorite for nominations come the big day. So here we are in the second week of Phase Two of awards season, but are we any closer to locking anything in?
Unlike in New York, critics in Los Angeles stuck to their annual announcement schedule. Their overall record on matching Oscar nominees and victors is very close to their East Coast counterparts ... although maybe they should start seeing their numbers penalized for indecisiveness. In a move frustrating to anyone who considers each performance an individual accomplishment, Los Angeles awarded Michael Fassbender and Jessica Chastain their awards for Best Actor and Supporting Actress, citing a total of TEN films between them. Those who had money on Texas Killing Fields being shut out of award season must now pay up. Gives some of us hope that some critic's group will award Ken Jeong Best Supporting Actor for The Hangover Part II, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Zookeeper, The Muppets and Big Mommas: Like Father Like Son.
Taking into account the actors themselves and not the films in which they appear, both Fassbender and Chastain join some pretty solid statistics in Los Angeles. Eight of their last ten choices for Supporting Actress (including the last four) have gone on to nominations. Fassbender could make it 11-for-13 since 2001, which included ties in 2002 & 2006. Only Liam Neeson (Kinsey
) and Sacha Baron Cohen (Borat
) have failed to be nominated in that time. Chastain is also the only L.A. choice to match up with N.Y. and when they have matched their ladies in the supporting realm, they are a perfect 12-0.
Christopher Plummer (Beginners
) is already riding a perfect 11-for-11 record with the National Board of Review's choices for Supporting Actor going back to 2000; much better than L.A.'s 50/50 record since 2001. They also did themselves no favors with the math geeks if they believe Yun Jeong-hie (Poetry
) is going to improve their 60% record over the past decade. But congratulations to her and to diversity. The Descendants
winning Best Picture is not much of a surprise to industry experts, especially considering its the third Alexander Payne film in a row to win the group's coveted price after About Schmidt
(2001) and Sideways
(2004). It was also a film that certainly needed no lift to get Oscar's attention either.
Two films may have received such a boost though from L.A. Asghar Farhadi's A Separation
won Best Screenplay over other such favorites such as The Artist, The Descendants, 50/50
and the aforementioned Moneyball
. (L.A. still does not differentiate between Original and Adapted.) The group is on an eight-year hot streak in seeing its choices here go on to a nomination. In fact, in their 36 year history only four times has their script choice not received an Oscar nomination. The only one looking at better odds from them is Terrence Malick (The Tree of Life
) who took the Best Director prize. Only three times in L.A.'s history has their Director not been nominated for an Oscar. THREE TIMES since 1975 - Spike Lee (Do the Right Thing
- 1989), David Cronenberg (Dead Ringers
- 1988) and Terry Gilliam (Brazil
- 1985). So if you believe in the evolution of Oscar season, a nomination for Best Director is usually groundwork for a Best Picture nod - particularly in a five-plus system.
Some out there doubted the chances for Malick's film heading into awards, but as expected by yours truly it is really making a showing with the critics. While The Artist
has certainly made its presence known as a leading Best Picture contender (with victories from N.Y., Boston, D.C. and the New York Film Critics Online), The Tree of Life
is the leading awards victor at the moment with 13 compared to The Artist
's 9. Sure, six of them have been for Emmanuel Lubezki's cinematography, but even in the Top Eight categories, Malick's film trumps Michel Hazanavicius' 6-5. (The Descendants
has 7 there.)
Boston critics didn't have quite as much use for The Tree of Life
except for Lubezki, but the number watchers may have more of a use for them than even L.A. Since 2001, they are hardly blowing L.A. out of the water in the nomination game with a scant percentage lead of 77 over 75.3. The Artist,
Michelle Williams, Albert Brooks and the (again) Moneyball
winners are firmly penciled in on many pundits' final lists. This could be a further boost for Hugo
and Martin Scorsese though, who got his second win of the season (alongside Hazanavicius and Malick) from a group that has watched 9 of their last 10 choices get nominated. Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaids
) won two prizes for Best Supporting Actress from Boston and NYFCO over the weekend and hopes that she can improve Boston's 5-for-11 streak since 2001 in the category.
Perhaps of greater importance to the overall scheme is Boston's even better streak over L.A. in seeing their choices get not just nominations, but the final gold statue. 39%-to-30% Boston reigns since 2001 in that regard and since 2008 have seen at least three of their top seven choices go on to win the Oscar. Which three do you like? The Artist
, Brad Pitt and Albert Brooks? Still too early to call for sure as we still have Chicago to look forward to this week as well as the guess-the-Oscar groups themselves, the Broadcast Film Critics Association and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. Don't look to those two them to throw in any surprises, which we could certainly use some of in this race.