Eye on the Oscars: “Zero Dark Thirty” wins The New York Film Critics and the National Board of Review awards
Two days ago, The New York Film Critics Circle got a head start on the awards season this year, giving its Best Picture prize to “Zero Dark Thirty”, Oscar-winner Kathryn Bigelow’s upcoming account of the mission to kill Osama Bin Laden. Today, the National Board of Review awards concurred. What does this mean for the Oscar picture? Well, let’s look.
The New York Film Critics Circle consists of 35 Gotham-based critics, and is arguably the most influential critics award, along with the Los Angeles Film Critics Association. It’s not the most predictive of eventual Best Picture Oscar winners, but it’s an excellent gauge for potential nominees. Of the 77 NYFCC winners before “Zero Dark Thirty”, 69 went on to become Best Picture Nominees, and 29 went on to win (including last year’s Best Picture winner, “The Artist”). Of the eight winners that failed to score Best Picture nods, six (“Day For Night”, “Amarcord”, “The Player”, “Leaving Las Vegas”, “Mulholland Drive”, and “United 93”) earned Best Director nods. The two outliers to score neither Picture nor Director nods (1999’s “Topsy-Turvy” and 2002’s “Far From Heaven”) still earned screenplay nods and four total nominations apiece.
Long story short, winning the NYFCC award puts you on the Academy’s radar, and you tend to stay there.
The National Board of Review tends to get derided in serious film circles, with its lax membership standards and requirements for voting. Their annual top 10 lists can include some real head-scratchers, films that end up gaining zero awards season traction (“J. Edgar”, “The Ides of March”, “The Bucket List”, “The Kite Runner”). However, in more recent years their number one picks tend to at least score Best Picture nominations. Their last to fail to do so was a real oddball of a winner, 2000’s “Quills” (which did end up scoring Geoffrey Rush a Best Actor nod). Since then, every one of their winners has ended up getting a Best Picture nod.
So, it’s been a good showing early on for “Zero Dark Thirty”. It should be interesting to see how audiences react to it, and if it turns into the Best Picture frontrunner. Remember, Bigelow’s “The Hurt Locker” won Best Picture despite being a summer release that grossed just $12 million domestically. “The Hurt Locker” also did well in the critics awards, taking both the NYFCC and the Los Angeles Critics Association.
Remember, though, that we are still at the beginning of the Awards season. “The Social Network” looked like an unstoppable Juggernaut at the start of its awards season, but its momentum faded as the months progressed, and “The King’s Speech” rode a groundswell of box office success and Guild support to Oscar victory. We’re only starting the climb up the roller coaster.