It is impossible to turn on the television without seeing a barrage of December content ranging from Christmas movies to holiday-themed credit card commercials. For many, December marks the most wonderful time of the year for that very reason. We’re buying gifts, we’re listening to the music and we are looking forward to spending time with family. It’s beautiful. For many though, our emotions are elated not by an old Christmas movie coming on TV, but by a new Martin Scorsese movie coming out with an awards-friendly release date.
I mean, sure, all of that other holiday stuff is great (I guess). But guys, Hell or High Water is making a strong showing in the early awards and we have a new Star Wars movie coming out, and that makes this the most wonderful time of the year.
When it comes to an Oscar column, I feel like every week in December will have a ton of content, so we will be picking and choosing what to cover each week. For today, let’s cover four major set of awards and check the state of the race as it stands now.
National Board of Review (11/29)
Continuing their tradition of being the first out of the gate, the National Board of Review (NBR) announced their winners on November 29 and I’m a big fan of these nominees. As a blogger engaging in the “Oscar prediction business,” I know I’m not supposed to get personal, but there’s always a personal element to this game and it is a lot of fun seeing your favorite films included in the awards conversation.
You can view the list of nominations here, but let’s just draw some attention to specific nominees in different categories:
NBR confirmed everyone’s overall predictions and cemented Manchester By The Sea as one of the frontrunners this year. The organization gave the Kenneth Lonergan drama it’s Best Film prize, as well as Best Screenplay for Lonergan and Best Actor for Casey Affleck. Expect to see all of these come Oscar predictions, especially Affleck. In their overall group of best films, the other “safe” picks that made it were La La Land, Moonlight, Sully, and Silence (of which NBR was the first group to see the film).
Outside of the Affleck win in Best Actor, the other three acting prizes came from unexpected places. Amy Adams won Best Actress for Arrival, Naomie Harris won for her Moonlight, and Jeff Bridges (!) won for Hell or High Water. All three of those films were included in NBR’s over group of Best Films, Hell or High Water and Arrival join Hail, Ceasar! and Hacksaw Ridge when it comes to the “surprising” picks (2016 really was a great year for film).
While we’re not gonna single out any one movie that doesn’t deserve an award (these are all good movies), it was surprising to see who was left out. Mainly, it is kind of a big deal that Fences is nowhere to be seen at all. Viola Davis is not just considered a “favorite” for Best Supporting Actress, for all intents and purposes she has already received the award for many pundits. For whatever reason, the NBR didn’t take to Fences like we expect other awards bodies to do, though don’t feel to sad for the Denzel Washington picture, it’s time in the spotlight is still to come.
New York Film Critics Circle (12/1)
The first regional critics group out of the gate is also one of the most influential when it comes to shaping the awards conversation. You can view the full list of nominations here:
We can see some of the “safe bets” play out in NYFCC’s selection in Casey Afleck winning Best Actor, Mahershala Ali winning Best Supporting Actor for Moonlight, Zootopia winning Best Animated, and Kenneth Lonergan winning an additional Best Screenplay award here. With NYCC, a consensus started in two categories. First, it looks like Barry Jenkins is going to be the go-to director for this part of the season for his direction of Moonlight (he also won Best Director at NBR). Second, after a lot of conversation as to whether it qualifies or not, O.J.: Made In America has risen to dominance and looks to be the frontrunner for the Best Documentary race, winning here at NYFCC.
While it looks like Barry Jenkins is becoming the consensus pick for Best Director, everyone seems a little split on Best Picture. While NBR went with Manchester By The Sea, NYFCC went with Damien Chazelle musical La La Land. Now to a general audience member, this isn’t surprising at all, “of course the critics went with that artsy La La Land!” they might say. But inside the awards world, everyone was expecting the critics groups to be “too cool” for La La Land, seeing it as an industry favorite, while Manchester By The Sea and Moonlight were really in the critics’ wheelhouse. Well expectations be damned, La La Land is here to play across the board this year!
Broadcast Film Critics Association (The Critics Choice Awards) (12/1)
In addition to these more niche groups, we got our first look at what the televised awards race will look like. The BFCA casts a pretty wide net when it comes to their awards. I mean, they nominated Matt Damon for “Best Actor In An Action Movie” for his turn in this year’s Jason Bourne. So while some like to scoff at the BFCA, their main body of awards help give us a glimpse at the more popular Academy tastes and honestly, it’s nice to see a group of nominations that are not stuck in the specific pigeonhole we normally see in awards season.
Since these are all nominees and not just winners, we have a big group of movies to look over (you can read the nominations here). There’s not really a point in breaking down the snubs or surprises here, there are both in almost every category. Let’s take a look at their Best Picture nominees as its a safe bet that 75% of them will be nominated come Oscar time:
- Hacksaw Ridge
- Hell or High Water
- La La Land
- Manchester by the Sea
The Los Angeles Film Critics Association (12/4)
Ok, these people are out of control. LAFCA member Drew McWeeney put it best when he tweeted,
He’s not saying anything about any of the other groups listed here, but this definitely serves as a reminder to us in the blogosphere that might rely a little too heavily on the critics groups for our Oscar predictions. The majority of their winners are way out in left field, and you know what, that’s great! I think it’s way more fun when various groups give their specific tastes instead of everyone getting in line with the consensus. Instead of analyzing their winners, simply listing them will tell you everything you need to know about LAFCA’s eccentric tastes:
Best Animation: Your Name
Best Editing: O.J.: Made in America
Best Production Design: The Handmaiden
Best Screenplay: The Lobster
Best Supporting Actress: Lily Gladstone (Certain Women)
Best Actress: Isabelle Hupert (Elle/Things to Come)
Best Actor: Adam Driver (Paterson)
You guys see what I mean? They were have a grand ol time out in LA this past Sunday afternoon! Now I will say this, they did have some “conventional” picks by awarding Mahershala Ali Best Supporting Actor and Barry Jenkins Best Director for their work in Moonlight (we truly are living in good times if Moonlight is the “conventional” pick). While others have given Jenkins their Best Director award, LAFCA went all the way and crowned Moonlight the best picture of the year. It felt good writing that sentence and I hope this is just the beginning of Moonlight’s season.
So there you have it folks, we are off to the races and the awards are being handed out. Though I’m not the only one to say this, at this point we have a three-way race. Be looking to La La Land, Manchester By The Sea and Moonlight to lead any group’s list of nomination (and their exclusion will now be surprising as we move forward). At this point (and I haven’t seen a lot of these nominees), it is surprising that we don’t have that one film that most people dislike but it keeps getting nominated. These are all great movies, and I’m looking forward to the rest of the awards season.
Bonus Video: The wonderfully put together “The 25 Best Films of 2016: A Video Countdown” by David Ehrlich–
Like what you’ve read?