It’s that time of the year again – awards seasons, of course
The national Board of Review are back at their usual place -pole position, this year on Thursday December 2nd.The NBR having been attempting to be more transparent in recent years, but the identity of the voters hasn’t been elaborated beyond this select group of film enthusiasts, filmmakers, professionals, academics and students. Looking at their awards history the NBR has managed to find itself some awfully tame and conservative film students, but never mind. They have always been a faithful ally of the studios only occasionally throwing a curveball accolade. The NBR are prone to Americana so Power of the Dog could surprise here, and if they are feeling an impulse to be edgy Licorice Pizza or C’mon C’mon could be up their street. However, the reception of West Side Story could render all crystal balls obsolete. From that film Rita Moreno could find herself being serenaded all the way to Oscar night where the love denied Bacall and Stallone could well be lavished on her. I expect the four main and most reputable critics groups -New York, LA, Boston and the National Society- to be immune but the lesser fraternities could be salivating for film, director and stars.
Last year the NYFCC shocked by picking First Cow as their best film- they went through a long spell of being starstruck and their pre-pandemic jiggling of their announcement date to pip the NBR did look as if they were determined that Hollywood should hear their drumming first.
Indifferent BO and guarded streaming data make the awards this year very uncertain. But remember even in a pre-pandemic year the critics groups often shock with compromise choices that can only coming from tactical voting and attempts to share the wealth. The NYFCC stunned in the past with The Accidental Tourist as best film (!!!!) and Cameron Diaz for leading lady. THE LA group picked that meticulously acted but soapy little tv movie in the bedroom as their best film of 2001 over Mulholland Drive but when the Angelenos listed their one hundred best films of 2000-2010, Mulholland Drive was at the top of the pile and In the Bedroom was notably, but deservedly, absent. Even the more consistently august National Society of Film Critics, who don’t vote until January 8th, are prone to the occasional lapse- Capote as best film, and more recently The Rider over Roma. The NSFC used to discount proxy votes after the first round of balloting to attendees only meaning the NYC area resident critics were more likely to push their choices at the annual New York meeting, but they are allowing online participation from critics not travelling to New York, that could limit an idiosyncratic selection. However, with independent cinema threatened by a new ecosystem that is superheroes for cinemas everything else to streaming the critics may want to highlight smaller and foreign language films.
So who is going to win? Lady Gaga won over the NBR with A Star is Born wouldn’t discount her again at but I can’t see House of Gucci figuring in the critic voting although her film’s success, by pandemic standards, may it increasingly likely that the business will want to acknowledge and applaud her since she’s the film main asset. Jessica Chastain’s essay of Tammy Faye Bakker has sunk and the only real publicity it managed was Chastain complaining about the make-up and then backtracking. However embarrassing box-office is not the death knell it would be in a normal year so Chastain and even Jodi Comer could be thrown a life-jacket. Not sure if Olivia Colman’s subtle work will come through, she is superb but there could be a bit fatigue with her after a run of two or three wonderful years.
My hunch, or rather vain hope, is that somewhere Michelle Pfeifer is going to stun. French Exit was pulled from calendar 2020 to take advantage of the extended Oscar qualification period when it really needed a critical gong to push it forward. Pfeiffer got exceptional notices and even if her Oscar boat has sailed and sunk her work could be salvaged -I’m counting on LA to go gaga over this local and then gorge themselves provincially on Licorice Pizza.
This a strong year for the ladies but not for the actors; there are some performances -Rex, Cage, Dinklage, Washington, Collins and possibly Cooper in Nightmare Alley– that merit consideration but Oscar-wise it looks like we will be seeing Will Smith holding a statuette aloft, alas.
The supporting pool, of both sexes, is typically large, and I don’t think there is an actor or actress capable of sweeping the board or gathering absolute momentum. Could be totally wrong but I expect different names from the different groups being applauded.
Here are Symposion’s predictions
National Board of Review 2 December 2021
Best Film West Side Story or Power of the Dog
Best Director Jane Campion Power of the Dog or Denis Villeneuve Dune
Best actor Will Smith King Richard or Clifton Collins Jockey
Best Actress Penelope Cruz Parallel Mothers or Nicole Kidman Being the Ricardos
Gaga could triumph here again
Best Supporting actor Bradley Coper Licorice Pizza
Best Supporting actress Frances McDormand for Tragedy of Macbeth or Toni Collette Nightmare Alley
New York Film Critics Circle 3 December 2021
Best Film West Side Story or Power of the Dog
Best Director Jane Campion Power of the Dog or Steven Spielberg West Side Story
Best actor Joaquin Phoenix C’mon C’mon or Nicolas Cage Pig
Best Actress Penelope Cruz Parallel Mothers or Olivia Colman the Lost Daughter
Best Supporting actor Jonah Hill Don’t Look Up
Best Supporting actress Kathryn Hunter Tragedy of Macbeth
Los Angeles Film Critics Association Sunday 12 December 2021
Best Film Licorice pizza or C’mon C’mon
Best Director Jane Campion
Best Actor Clifton Collins Jockey or Simon Rex Red Rocket
Best Actress Michelle Pfeiffer French Exit
Bes Supporting Actor Reed Birney Mass
Best Supporting actress Kathryn Hunter Tragedy of Macbeth or Dowd/Plimpton Mass
New Generation award: Alana Haim or Simon Rex