The Awards Line: Tightening the Locks with Critics' Groups

The Awards Line: Tightening the Locks with Critics' Groups

Dec 19, 2011

In a week that should be known as "Awards Week" from now on, three large voting bodies and critic groups from major cities announced their winners and/or their nominees. We spoke of Los Angeles and Boston in last week's column, but since then the Chicago Film Critics Association has spoken up, as has the Screen Actors Guild and the "predictive" groups of "journalists" that make up the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (aka The Golden Globes) and the Broadcast "Film Critics" Association. Yes, those quotation marks may as well be air quotes. No matter how little stock we put into these groups' penchant for being noticed first and getting the right celebrities for their TV shows even sooner than that, the numbers, as you will see, rarely lie. And the major races have tightened up as a result.


Of the three top markets that pride themselves with an exemplary list of actual film critics, New York, Los Angeles and Chicago each have a pretty solid track record of late in seeing their winners become nominees. We can examine their winners becoming big winners later on. One stage at a time. With all the hubbub that NY & LA get with their announcements, it is actually the City of Big Shoulders with a more positive winners-to-nominees ratio. Chicago has seen 61 of 75 winners in the major categories since 2001 for an 81.3% tally while New York is at 77.1% (54/70) and Los Angeles resides at 75.3% (55/73).

Both Los Angeles and Chicago agreed that Terrence Malick (The Tree of Life) was the year's Best Director and 27-out-of-28 of their agreements (sans WALL-E for Best Picture in '08) have been Oscar-nominated. Chicago was even more in sync with New York agreeing that Albert Brooks, Jessica Chastain and Moneyball were the best in their categories, though Chicago chose Chastain exclusively for The Tree of Life, and Moneyball was cited as the Best Adapted Screenplay. When New York and Chicago have agreed in the last decade, 28 of 32 times that film or performance was nominated.

It is sad that we have to lump in the Screen Actors Guild with the star-shagging majority that makes up the other two groups on this list, but we're dealing with patterns here. And this column never ignores patterns. For example, did you know that since 2001 an actor receiving a nomination from the BFCA, HFPA and SAG has gone onto an Oscar nomination 33 of 36 times? Shame about Paul Giamatti (Sideways), Russell Crowe (Cinderella Man) and Ryan Gosling (Lars and the Real Girl) but it is true. This year no less than four actors meet that criteria, giving pretty solid odds to George Clooney (The Descendants), Leonardo DiCaprio (J. Edgar), Jean Dujardin (The Artist) and Brad Pitt (Moneyball). The only other actor this week to receive more than just a single mention was Michael Fassbender (Shame), who was ignored by SAG but nominated in Chicago. Unfortunately that BFCA/Globes/Chicago combo was not enough to get Ryan Gosling nominated last year for Blue Valentine, which, like Shame, did once brandish an NC-17 rating. Though it did work out for Terrence Howard back with 2005's Hustle & Flow.

For that fifth slot, each group has their own suggestions. The BFCA liked Ryan Gosling (Drive). SAG chose Demian Bichir (A Better Life). Chicago recommends Gary Oldman (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) and particularly Michael Shannon (Take Shelter) who took top prize for Best Actor. And if odds are your thing, in the history of the CFCA, their choice in that category has failed to receive an Oscar nod only three times - Paul Giamatti (2004 - Sideways), Gene Hackman (2001 - The Royal Tenenbaums) and Jeremy Irons (1988 - Dead Ringers). Could we be looking at a Fassbender vs. Shannon battle for number five?

If you thought 91.6% were good odds for the four near-locks for Best Actor, how does 97.2% strike you for the ladies? That's right, applying the same formula above since 2001, 36 out of 37 Best Actress nominees tripled up by BFCA, the Globes and SAG have been nominated. Except for Angelina Jolie (A Mighty Heart). Who does that leave us with for 2011? How about Viola Davis (The Help), Meryl Streep (The Iron Lady), Tilda Swinton (We Need to Talk about Kevin) and Michelle Williams (My Week with Marilyn).

From here the final slot gets a little hazier. Unlike with the actors, the women had three performances getting more than just a single mention this week. Glenn Close (Albert Nobbs) picked up nods from the Globes and SAG. Elizabeth Olsen (Martha Marcy May Marlene) got the other two in Chicago and the BFCA. Charlize Theron (Young Adult) then got invited to the parties thrown by the Globes and the BFCA's even worse television awards gathering. In the new century, nods exclusive to the star caterers are 1-for-5. A BFCA nod supplemented by Chicago is 1-for-2 and the Globe/SAG team-up is 2-for-5 after Judi Dench (2001 - Iris) and Helen Mirren (2009 - The Last Station) failed to be nominated by the other groups. Signs limply point to Glenn Close in line for her sixth nomination and the added weight of her never having won an Oscar could elevate the case for her to join Davis, Streep, Swinton and Williams in the lineup on Jan. 24.

Over in the Supporting categories, the ladies garnering that trifecta are 25-for-27 without even counting the category swapping of Jennifer Connelly (A Beautiful Mind), Catherine Zeta-Jones (Chicago) and Kate Winslet (The Reader) over the years. This year, the three closest to being locks are Bérénice Bejo (The Artist), Jessica Chastain and Octavia Spencer (both for The Help). Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaids) and Shailene Woodley (The Descendants) were both nominated by Chicago but not by the Globes and SAG, respectively. That could leave Carey Mulligan (Shame - BFCA & Chicago) and Janet McTeer (Albert Nobbs - Globes & SAG) on the outside looking in.

Finally, if you want odds you cannot argue with, try the Supporting Actors who have gone a perfect 26 for 26 when getting BFCA, Globe and SAG nods since '01. Too early to extend congratulations to Kenneth Branagh (My Week with Marilyn) and Christopher Plummer (Beginners)? Albert Brooks (Drive) should have no problem riding his New York & Chicago victories to a nomination and give one final finger to SAG voters who preferred Armie Hammer (J. Edgar) for some insane reason. Nick Nolte (Warrior) was snubbed by the Globes, but when Chicago, SAG and the BFCA pick up the ball it usually works out OK as it did for Mark Ruffalo (2010 - The Kids Are All Right), Hal Holbrook (2007 - Into the Wild), Jake Gyllenhaal (2005 - Brokeback Mountain) and Benicio Del Toro (2003 - 21 Grams). Enough to make us forget it didn't for Alfred Molina (2002 - Frida). Who will Academy voters agree with for that fifth slot then? Chicago and the BFCA who went with Patton Oswalt (Young Adult) or the Globes & SAG who liked Jonah Hill (Moneyball)? The numbers favor Jonah. But we are still a full month away.

Categories: Features, Awards
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