How much should Oscar watchers read in the results of Sunday night’s 28th Critics Choice Awards?
One school of thought says “not much”. After all, the Critics Choice Awards are determined by the Critics Choice Association, an organization made up of some 500 broadcast, radio and online critics and entertainment journalists based primarily in the United States – including, full disclosure, yours truly. — while the Oscars are determined by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, an organization made up of some 10,000 people based around the world who actually work on movies. In other words, there is no overlap.
Another school of thought, however, suggests that Critics Choice voter picks could still influence Members of the Academy, who are currently voting – and will continue to do so until Tuesday – to determine their Oscar nominees, and who have shown a trend, especially as the organization has grown bigger and younger (meaning more voters are busy with their careers and don’t have time to watch as many movies as older voters), to automatically approve picks from the rewards groups that precede them.
Here is my five takeaways from the Critics Choice Awards.
1) Brendan Fraser got the adrenaline rush he needed
For his transformative performance in The whale, Fraser got a lot of love at fall film festivals – but his film itself was poorly reviewed (it’s at 66% on Rotten Tomatoes) and, perhaps not coincidentally, his buzz had gone down. calmed down a bit at the end of the year. It was overlooked for major critics awards and lost at Gothams (at Up toit is Danielle Deadwyler) and the Golden Globes (at Austin Butler to Elvis). And after the Globes, many I spoke with felt like the sentiment and momentum had shifted to Butler.
But Fraser prevailed on Sunday and made the most of his moment in the spotlight. From the moment his name was called, he was visibly emotional (which voters notice, because they like to vote for people they think really appreciate their support), and also on the message: he thanked Darren Arofnosky for bringing him back from “the wilderness,” noted that “it took me 32 years to get here” and told those struggling that “if you too can have the strength to get up and go.” ‘go to the light, good things will happen’ – all of this I see as an effort to remind people, as subtly as possible, that he has dedicated his time and, unlike some of his competitors, that he may never get another photo like this.
One thing to keep in mind: Seven of the last 10 Best Actor Critics Choice Award winners have won the corresponding Oscar — but two of the three who weren’t, like Fraser, sentimental critics’ picks (Michael Keaton to birdman and Chadwick Boseman to Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom) who then lost at the Oscars due to unsentimental choices (Eddie Redmayne to The theory of everything and Anthony Hopkins to The fatherrespectively).
2) Everything everywhere all at once was clearly the critics’ choice
Some seven weeks after winning the Gotham Award for Best Feature Film and less than 24 hours after winning the Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Picture (the latter tied with Tar), Everything everywhere all at once turned out to be the big favorite of the CCA. (It came in with 14 names at the top of the pack, three more than any other film, so it wasn’t exactly a shock.)
Although his leading lady, michelle yeolost best actress to Tarit is Cate Blanchettand the movie itself lost Best Ensemble and Best Comedy to Glass onion: a mystery at loggerheads, it still scored five wins, three more than any other film. After receiving the award for Best Original Screenplay, Best Editing and Best Supporting Actor (Ke Huy Quan), it was a surprise Best Director winner (Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinertaka “Daniels”), at which point it became almost certain that he would also win Best Picture, which he did.
Only five of the last 10 winners of the Critics Choice Award for Best Picture have won the corresponding Oscar (Childhood, The Earth, Rome, Once upon a time in Hollywood and The power of the dog not all of them managed to repeat themselves), and, in line with these numbers, I can see things going both ways for Everywhere in the best race for the Oscars.
As was the case with last year’s Best Picture Oscar CODA (which, by the way, lost Best Picture Critics Choice Award to The power of the dog ), there is an outsider aspect to Everywhere (an indie that became an unlikely blockbuster) and the people who worked on it (who faced adversity throughout their careers and yet still seem adorable) who make it impossible to root against them.
Contrary to CODANevertheless, Everywhere is a thought-provoking and polarizing film, which could land it in trouble in the preferential ballot (ranked choice) the Academy employs for the Best Picture Oscar. And the movie plays less well with the elderly – they tend to get lost in the multiverse of it all – who still have a disproportionate presence in the Academy.
But if the Academy does not to go for Everywhere, so what would that go to instead? I could see The Fabelmans or Top Gun: Maverick do well on a ranked ballot – but the only other ceremony that uses a ranked ballot is the PGA Awards, meaning we won’t see if/how a ranked ballot might impact their chances until February 25.
3) Quan and Bassett look locked up
When Troy Kotsurwho won Best Supporting Actor (and the Oscar) last year for his performance in CODA, came on stage Sunday night to present the Critics Choice Award for Best Supporting Actress, he recalled what a slam-dunk looks like. Indeed, Kotsur won virtually every honor he was eligible for from the start to the end of last awards season.
In my eyes, the woman to whom he presented a Critics Choice Award, Black Panther: Wakanda Foreverit is Angela Bassetteand the man who won Best Supporting Actor Critics Choice Award, Everywhereit is Ke Huy Quan, look a lot like slam-dunks too. Like Kotsur, they gave very good performances, and they also have compelling narratives not unlike his own: they’ve been around for a long time; they had ups and downs and bullshit they never should have endured; but they held on and they’re still here, not just surviving, but thriving.
It’s pretty hard to resist, and I find it hard to imagine anything or anyone derailing either’s Oscar trajectory.
4) Globe Winners Tank at Critics Choice
Less than a week after dominating the Golden Globe Awards — another awards show where journalists determine the winners — The Banshees of Inisherin went 0 for 9 (plus its two male stars were both MIA due to COVID) and The Fabelmans went 1 for 11 (winning only Best Young Actor/Actress for Gabriel LaBelle) at the Critics Choice Awards.
Also with disappointing screenings from Critics Choice: Babylon went 1 for 9 (best production design), Elvis went 1 for 7 (best hair/makeup), Avatar: The Way of the Water went 1 for 6 (best visual effects) and Top Gun: Maverick went 1 for 6 (better cinematography).
5) Pay attention RRR
RRRIndia’s musical period thriller that turned out to be a giant phenomenon around the world, won an impressive of them Critics Choice Award: Best Foreign Language Film and Best Original Song for “Naatu Naatu,” the same track that received the corresponding Golden Globe and helped win the film the award for Best LA Music/Score Film Critics Association Award.
Make no mistake about this: RRR is in serious Oscar competition – not for best international feature film (India really fucked the dog up by submitting another film instead), but definitely for best original song, and most likely for best picture (remember that ‘there are 10 guaranteed spots and the Academy has never been a more international organization) and Best Director (SS Rajamouli has already won the New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Director).
RRR is distributed in the United States by Variance Films, the same company that was behind drive my car, the Japanese film that ended up last year with Oscar nominations for Picture, Director and Screenplay in addition to a nominee for Best International Feature Film. And the same stubborn publicist who managed this film’s awards campaign, Josh Haroutanianmanages RRR‘s.
On Saturday at Ross House, a screening room on Mount Olympus, I could see the enthusiasm dozens of Academy members have for the film. Like them, I braved horrible rains just to be there, which I see as a testament to the buzz for the film; unlike them, I was not there for the screening or a post-screening reception with Rajamouli and his cousin/composer/songwriter “Naatu Naatu” Mr. M. Keeravanibut to record a podcast with Rajamouli which will go live on Monday.
As my sound engineer was settling in, I realized that the film was approaching its signature “Naatu Naatu” sequence, so I asked Rajamouli if he would mind delaying the start of our conversation for a few minutes so that I can see the reaction of the public. He happily agreed, so we snuck out to the back of the theater and, of course, people were visibly amazed throughout the number and clapped at the end.
Does that mean RRR will be nominated not only for Best Original Song, but also for Best Picture and Best Director, as was the case at the Critics Choice Awards? Of course not. But, in particular because the film can not being nominated for the Best International Feature Oscar, I wouldn’t be surprised if either or both nominations end up happening.
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