For nearly 100 years now, the National Board of Review announcing their annual end-of-year awards on November 30 has been the starting gun of sorts for the precursor season. There’s no real logical reason for this – the NBR is just a group of New York film enthusiasts, not even professional critics. But they’re the first group to really thoroughly distill the major contenders of the season, so there it is.

That is, they WERE the first group to distill the major contenders of the season. The New York Film Critics’ Circle has announced that they will release their superlatives a full two days earlier than the NBR, on November 28.

Now, this move does make a certain amount of sense. Moving up from early December does allow the NYFCC to separate themselves from the glut of critics’ awards that all come out in that same week or two – certainly in the last two years, when “The Social Network” and “The Hurt Locker” completely dominated, the NYFCC was just another voice in the pack rather than a trend-setter. Now they’ll definitely get plenty of attention (the idea of Armond White getting even more media attention is not necessarily a comforting one, though – “MINE, ALL MINE”).

But I have to say I’m a bit disappointed with the NYFCC for making this move. The critics’ awards, while commonly discussed as precursors to the Oscars, shouldn’t be thinking of their decisions in terms of the general awards season; if anything, they should take a principled stand for alternative candidates in the middle of the madness. Maybe this’ll help some fringe contenders gain some steam for their campaigns early on, but the point is that sort of thing shouldn’t even be on their minds. UNLIKE the Oscars, which are pretty much just about industry politics and finding the most generally appeasing middle-of-the-road film (let’s be real here), the critics’ awards should be about recognizing the best of the year in film. And by moving their awards up that early, the NYFCC might not even get to see some of the big year-end films: “War Horse,” “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” and “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” in particular are in serious danger of not getting seen in time. That’s not exactly keeping an objective eye on the season if you purposefully exclude late entries.

Anyway. In other news, the Gotham Independent Film awards announced their 21st annual nominees a couple years ago. The smaller, lamer east-coast cousin of the Independent Spirit Awards, the Gothams are considered by some to be the start of the precursor season, but since I just spent several paragraphs whining about the NYFCC’s move to be “first,” I’m going to stick to those guns. The Gothams can give us a sign of what indie contenders COULD be primed for a campaign, but they’re hardly a make-or-break deal. There’s nothing terribly surprising here, anyhow: the only thing I’m going to take away is that “Take Shelter” and its stellar lead Michael Shannon might be more of a presence than we thought. Might.

Gotham Independent Film Award nominees 

Best Feature

  • Beginners
  • The Descendants
  • Meek’s Cutoff
  • Take Shelter
  • The Tree of Life
Best Documentary
  • Better This World
  • Bill Cunningham New York
  • Hell and Back Again
  • The Interrupters
  • The Woodmans
Best Ensemble Performance
  • Beginners
  • The Descendants
  • Margin Call
  • Martha Marcy May Marlene
  • Take Shelter
Breakthrough Director
  • Mike Cahill, “Another Earth”
  • Sean Durkin, “Martha Marcy May Marlene”
  • Vera Farmiga, “Higher Ground”
  • Evan Glodell, “Bellflower”
  • Dee Rees, “Pariah”
Breakthrough Actor
  • Felicity Jones, “Like Crazy”
  • Elizabeth Olsen, “Martha Marcy May Marlene”
  • Harmony Santana, “Gun Hill”
  • Shailene Woodley, “The Descendants”
  • Jason Wysocki, “Terri”
Best Film Not Playing at a Theater Near You
  • Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same
  • Green
  • The Redemption of General Butt Naked
  • Scenes of a Crime
  • Without

2 thoughts on “FIRST

  1. 1. Can we go see “The Redemption of General Butt Naked”?
    2. Scanning the breakthrough actor list only serves to reinforce the idea about female actresses getting much more hype and “breakthrough” status at a younger age than males.
    3. Boo New York Film Critics’ Circle.

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