Saturday, December 24, 2005

Bakers Dozen: The Critics Awards Thus Far

Already wished you "happy holidays". So here's something to ponder if you aren't in the Christmas spirit --the Critics Awards. Better late than never right? By now Brokeback Mountain's winning streak is old news. Old. What a funny word. Strange how swift the life-cycle of an entertainment commodity can be. So... I prefer to think of this news as comfortably broken in --like a pair of jeans that are really flattering to the collective critical ass. Jeans that won't get dropped at the Salvation Army anytime soon.

The success of Ang Lee's romantic drama is not the only story in the collection of the dozen critics awards announced thus far. Surveying this year's honors you see other notable patterns as well.

Best Picture
Brokeback has nearly 2/3rds of the Best Picture prizes so far. There is always a critical leader but what is more interesting in the spoils is that there is no runner up. The other lucky films named by someone somewhere as "BP" (Cinderella Man, Munich, A History of Violence, King Kong, The Squid and the Whale) number but 5 and none have repeated the feat. So when read together, they read more as "not Brokeback" choices than as "this movie is the best" statements.

Most Notable Omission: Capote. Up until the awards began, it looked like a major contender for BP recognition from critics groups. Hasn't managed one such honor.

Best Director

Same thing here. Ang Lee takes 8 of the 13 prizes but no rival emerges. Spielberg, Meirelles, Clooney, Miller, and Cronenberg all have one city's critics group to claim as their support base.

Most Notable Development: Woody Allen's buzz for the Match Point"comeback" has been slow and steady ever since Cannes. But it still didn't net him any critical wins. Hmmm.

Best Actress / Supporting Actress
Here at last a contest emerges. Reese Witherspoon in Walk the Line has conquered six associations. Her chief critical rival Felicity Huffman from TransAmerica has a trio of supporting groups. Remaining solo prizes go to: Vera Farmiga, Keira Knightley, Joan Allen, and Laura Linney. This is looking just like the Oscar Best Actress race: A couple of dominant players but otherwise this is all over the place.

The supporting actress field is also a mix of names. Catherine Keener for her film anchoring work in Capote (and The 40 Year Old Virgin) and Amy Adams for her scene-stealing work in Junebug both appear four times. But the story here may be that neither leader is a sure get with Oscar. Two time winner Rachel Weisz in The Constant Gardener looks more bankable as a future Oscar nominee. And, while we're on that train of thought so do one-prize-only ladies numbering three: Michelle Williams, Frances McDormand, and Maria Bello.

Most Notable Development: Shutouts for still frequently buzzed lead Oscar contenders like Dench, Theron, Zhang, and Watts in particular. She seemed to have some degree of passionate critical support --at least as far as the text of actual reviews goes. The supporting awards thus far have dovetailed neatly with what appears to be the actual critical consensus.

Best Actor / Supporting Actor
Phillip Seymour Hoffman's title star turn in Capote has nine of the thirteen prizes which would usually mark him as the absolute winner. Then you notice that Heath Ledger is the only other actor to have won anything (four groupings have labelled him the best). Between the two then, there is a stranglehold. This battle supreme will probably last up until the minute that Hilary Swank opens that envelope and reads the lucky name at the Oscar ceremony.

Supporting Actor, meanwhile, is too boring to talk about. The Oscar race will be between Paul Giamatti and George Clooney... neither of them winning for the actual performance but for those intangibles that always make the Oscar race maddening/fascinating.

Most Notable Development: Back to lead actor: Everyone else will have to say "it's just a pleasure to be nominated"

Other Awards
In the other fields a few quick stories emerge or are confirmed. Wallace and Gromit will take the Best Animated Film trophy as expected... No other cartoons have managed anything like its support base. The intoxicating visuals of 2046 still seem to be on a loop in the critical mind, which makes you wonder if the Academy will finally notice a Wong Kar Wai picture. Even with a solo nod like cinematography. They've never done so before but there's a first time for everything. And, it isn't totally uncommon for foreign films to score in that category if nowhere else. And finally, there's this: None of the contenders for Best Screenplay seem invincible. There's big support for at least six of the major contending films.

There's a few groupings left to go as the OFCS, Cinemarati, and the big daddy major kudos from the National Society of Film Critics are announced. Then we'll see all of this translate into Oscar nominations. Or not.


Anonymous said...

Yes, I too have noticed how Dench is a consistently assumed nominee, but hasn't really been cited yet (other than as runner up with one awarding body... I think L.A.?) Though there's probably always the BAFTA!

A shame, because I really love the performance, and indeed movie itself. Though anything which reminds me of Being Julia (a larger-than-life, grand performance in an underrated movie about theatre) is a good thing.


Anonymous said...

Corpse Bride won the NBR award, and every other NBR winner (in this category) turned to be the Academy Award winner, so I don´t think the race is over yet...

adam k. said...

Best Actor is going to be especially tricky, because I kind of expect Heath to take the globe, but Hoffman to take the SAG and IFP. BFCA I dunno... I guess the smart money'd be on Hoffman there, but I wouldn't bank on it.

I'm thinking Heath will probably win the oscar, though, I don't know why.