With the lively, fun and star-packed Critics Choice Awards on Sunday night at the Fairmont Century Plaza ballroom (and accompanying viewing party upstairs that elegantly handled the 300 members and guests who lost the organization’s ticket lottery and couldn’t get a seat) now history, there is really nothing between it and the January 24 announcement of Oscar nominations. With the nationally televised show airing 48 hours before Oscar balloting closes (Tuesday at 5 pm PT) though, its influence could be strong, especially for moving speeches from the likes of Brendan Fraser; an impressive sweep of top categories Best Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, Supporting Actor (Ke Huy Quan becoming the runaway train of acting winners thus far this season) for Everything Everywhere All At Once; and among other memorable moments, the great Guillermo del Toro looking to continue sweeping up every animated trophy in sight.
But as a group of critics spread across the country, and now even the globe with a ramped-up international membership as well, the formerly called Broadcast Critics Association has since its inception 28 years ago gained a strong reputation for uncannily presaging the Oscar Best Picture winners and nominees — particularly for a critics group and not a guild like PGA, SAG, and DGA with membership that overlaps with the Academy’s. In fact, in the first 10 years of this century, CCA and Oscar Best Picture winners matched eight times, only differing in 2004-2005 when CCA chose Sideways and Brokeback Mountain over Oscar winners Million Dollar Baby and Crash (two movies that built their AMPAS momentum late, while CCA is snapshot in time a bit earlier in the season). In the past 11 years, however, it has been about 50-50, perhaps reflecting significant increases in the membership and demos of both organizations. In the past six years, in fact, they have only matched in 2017 with The Shape of Water and in the heavily pandemic-affected year of 2020 with Nomadland, the latter a bit of an aberration since so few contenders were released.
So what does this mean for the chances of Everything Everywhere All At Once after winning five awards Sunday off of an impressive 14 nominations that made them far and away the leader in terms of noms going in? Does it just reflect critics vs. industry? Keep in mind, Everything Everywhere has collected a ton of Best Picture wins from regional critics groups, well, everywhere: Atlanta, Austin, Utah, Central Florida, Dallas Ft. Worth, Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Las Vegas, Music City, North Carolina, North Texas, Oklahoma, Online Female Critics Org, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Southeastern, St. Louis, UK, Washington DC, not to mention the Gothams. That collective strength seems to match CCA’s national reach in its love for the film, but again will the industry and Academy follow?
Indications are definitely yes with its leading five SAG nominations, PGA and DGA nods, an inevitable WGA nomination coming January 25, a leading eight Indie Spirit nominations and more. It also has a significant showing on the BAFTA longlists with 11 mentions in just about every category it might be eligible; those final BAFTA nominations will be announced Thursday. It looks like a tsunami of industry support across the board for the A24 indie-that-could, and it might be in the position to generate the kind of enthusiasm that Parasite and CODA were able to do — especially with a SAG ensemble win should that come. In this case it appears CCA is part of leading the charge, unlike those aforementioned other two more recent Best Picture Oscar winners.
An eventual Best Picture Oscar win for Everything Everywhere would also upset the apple cart of conventional thinking for awards contenders. It didn’t hit the usual festival circuit of Oscar hopefuls from Cannes to Venice, Telluride, Toronto, but rather premiered at SXSW in March, not the typical festival launchpad for a Best Picture campaign.
The biggest question though is will the older-skewing AMPAS membership stick with the multiverse-jumping film and frenetic pace that plays well in theaters but may not work as well on the Academy’s digital platform where, unfortunately, likely most of the voters will be seeing it. No doubt with this latest endorsement from Critics Choice last-minute voters will be watching today to see what all the shouting is about.
The other race emerging and interesting to watch is Best Actor, where in the course of the past six days we have had four different winners emerge: both Austin Butler (Elvis) and Colin Farrell (The Banshees of Inisherin) at the Globes; Bill Nighy (Living) at the newly non-gender specific Los Angeles Film Critics, which had their ceremony Saturday night; and Fraser for The Whale on Sunday at Critics Choice. All four appear to be a lock for Oscar nominations, and the race at this point looks to be wide open. We have to wait several weeks before the SAG Awards on February 26 before getting more of an indication where that race could be heading. Even the Indie Spirits can’t give a clue with their new non-gender-specific categories, where eight women, and only two men (Jeremy Pope and Paul Mescal) were nominated. Crazy year.
Meanwhile, there can be no question spirits were high at the 28th Critics Choice Awards (I am a member and president of the Film Branch), and I want to thank Focus Features for inviting me to sit at its front-row table for Tár (a few more feet and we would have been on stage), particularly chairman Peter Kujawski and co-chariman Jason Cassidy who were a lot of fun to sit with, along with CCA Best Actress winner Cate Blanchett, her brilliant co-star Nina Hoss, and Tár writer-director-producer Todd Field.
Blanchett, who has won just about everything this year for her stunning performance, seemed genuinely shocked to win at CCA (she was absent at the Globes, where she also won). I told her I loved her speech, particularly where she hoped the “televised horse race” of awards season could stop and we could just honor the breadth and depth of so many great performances out there. Don’t count on it ever happening, but it is a lovely thought.
Now on with the horse race.