One of my most anticipated movies of this month is Zero Dark Thirty, a title that shot way up my list following the incredible critical response the movie received last week when it was first screeend for the press (see the initial buzz out of the gate here). Part of that response was, of course, awards relevant, with the director Kathryn Bigelow and actress Jessica Chastain filling out much of the praises for their cemented Oscar worthiness. But I think if the Oscars didn't exist, it would still be getting an excitable boost and would still be high on my radar. And either way, the fact that it was just named Best Picture (and Bigelow as Best Director and Greig Fraser for Best Cinematography) by the New York Film Critics Circle now has little influence on my decision to see it.
The same goes for most of their other picks, which simply give empty or merely surplus honor to already-popular films such as Lincoln and Amour. However, the NYFCC's choice of Rachel Weisz as Best Actress for The Deep Blue Sea does suddenly have me wanting to see this movie that I had apparently ignored theatrically and otherwise would have mostly forgotten about. And as usual, any weight thrown towards documentaries (the members chose The Central Park Five as the best nonfiction film of the year and How to Survive a Plague as best first film) is okay in my book. And I appreciate when I'm alerted to things I'm not familiar with at all, such as with the recently announced Producers Guild Award documentary nominees, which include A People Uncounted, a film I'd never even heard of previously.
For those of us who heavily follow movie news and reviews, it's not easy to be surprised by or introduced to films that received major awards consideration. Sometimes, however, smaller and indie honors like the Gotham Awards (nominees here), the Independent Spirit Awards (nominations here) and the Cinema Eye Honors (nominees here) will elevate our interest in certain lesser-known titles or put them on our radar for the first time. Films I have been made aware of as very necessary (or even just existing) through these include Keep the Lights On, Fill the Void, Return, Middle of Nowhere, Four, Here, Gimme the Loot, Francine, An Oversimplification of Her Beauty, Bestiaire and Meanwhile in Mamelodi. Seen all of them? Any of them? Do you wish to now that you've seen them nominated for something?
Most of the world isn't made up of movie geeks like us, though, and bigger accolades like the Oscars, Golden Globes and others may still have great power and influence for movies, including Zero Dark Thirty, though moreso for docs and foreign films and any lightly distributed or marketed releases that might make their way into being mentioned on worldwide TV courtesy of the televised ceremonies. Still, imagine a silent, black-and-white film like The Artist earning $44 million in the U.S. without the Oscar buzz, never mind the Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor wins. And bet on the fact that Beginners did a whole lot better in rentals following its Best Supporting Actor win for Christopher Plummer.
Often it is really annoying that the awards season concept and the Oscars in particular has such a major influence on filmmaking, release dates, reviews and other things, but we can't deny that awards can help films big and small and aid in our awareness and decision making regarding what movies to check out.
How much do awards matter in your decision to see a movie?
Here are some responses received so far via Twitter:
Join the next discussion on Twiter by following Christopher Campbell (@thefilmcynic) and Movies.com (@Moviesdotcom).