With the start of December, that means that awards season has truly begun as different voting bodies release their top picks for the year. This week the National Board of Review and the Independent Spirit Awards started building buzz for a few high profile potentials.
Let’s break it down…
The important thing to remember is that simply because a film wins an award (or is even nominated for one) does not mean that it automatically becomes a shoo-in for an Oscar. Different critics groups and voting bodies carry different weight, so take all of these stories with a grain of salt. With that said, however, a win or a nomination does raise a film’s profile, so members of the Academy may be more inclined to prioritize these films over a film that has yet to win any official accolades. It’s all about hype and marketing, as many people who lost to the Weinstein brothers will tell you.
On Thursday the National Board of Film revealed its top ten films of 2011. Leading the charge is Martin Scorcese’s Hugo, a 3D family film based on the 2007 bestselling illustrated book The Invention of Hugo Cabaret by Brian Selznick. The film is about a boy who repairs his deceased father’s automaton in 1930s Paris. It is 93% fresh on rottentomatoes and came in fifth at the US box office last weekend with just over $11 million. The Best Picture award, as well as one for direction for Scorcese, as well as the strong critical and box office reception bodes well for the film’s chances. If it can retain a solid hold this weekend at the box office, Scorcese’s first kidpic has a good chance to place in a few categories.
Also of note at the National Board of Review was the strong finish for Alexander Payne’s The Descendants starring George Clooney (who also awarded Best Actor). Payne’s film has been burning up the box office in limited release and will continue expanding throughout December. The other big winner was Tilda Swinton’s Best Actress win for We Need to Talk About Kevin – a much smaller film that is only beginning to make an impression. The film will debut in theatres in the coming weeks and tells the story of a mother coping with her son’s status as a school shooter. Look for more awards attention for Swinton as more people discover the film.
The other awards story this week was the announcement of the Independent Spirit Awards nominees, which recognizes accomplishments in filmmaking “outside of the studio system” (a loaded sentence if ever there was one). These awards have less bearing on Oscar nominations because the voting body is smaller. Still, it is significant that the biggest nominee was black and white silent sensation The Artist, which is rapidly becoming a shoo-in for a Best Picture nomination. Other nominees include arthouse action flick Drive (with Ryan Gosling), cult drama Martha Marcy May Marlene (with breakout actress Elizabeth Olsen), Beginners (with likely Best Supporting Actor Christopher Plummer) and more of The Descendants. Notable MIAs include Woody’s Allen Midnight in Paris (his highest grossing film since 1986’s Hannah and Her Sisters) and George Clooney.
At this time, the field is still murky. The Artist‘s nomination for the Spirit Awards and wins (from New York Film Critics Circle) suggests it is the frontrunner in this year’s Best Picture race, though awards analysts are being cautious with their accolades because of one particular film: Stephen Daldry’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close with Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock. Extremely… is coming into the game with a lot of expectations given Daldry’s pedigree (cumulative nominations for Billy Elliot, The Hours, and The Reader: 17 with 2 wins). But the director is also a notorious fuss – he tinkers with his final cut up to the last minute, which means that the completed film has yet to be screened for critics (hence its exclusion from the National Board of Review’s list). It will be interesting to see what happens when word of its quality finally emerges, given that several high profile Best Picture candidates (The Iron Lady, J. Edgar) have had their chances downgraded to “only acting” nomination status due to tepid critical (and in J. Edgar‘s case financial) reception.
Thus far the majority of the nominees and winners have been small, indie-style films (such as Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life or Mike Mills’ Beginners, which tied for Best Picture at the Gotham Independent Film Awards). There are, however, still a few dark horse commercial competitors such as Young Adult, Ivan Reitman’s second collaboration (after Juno) with screenwriter Diablo Cody. So what does it all mean? For now there are a lot of films competing for five to 10 Best Pictures spots. Stay tuned as the race continues throughout December and into the new year.
Don’t forget: Bitchstolemyremote will release our completely subjective best and worst film picks for your reading pleasure between December 19 and 23.