OSCAR TRACKER: Looking Back at Last Year’s Critic Awards

2014 Oscar Predictions - 12 Years a Slave

Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave, a film that is expected to do well in this year’s critic awards.

Today the New York Film Critics Circle kicks off the major critics awards with the announcement of their annual winners, which will begin trickling in around 10:00am ET and continue throughout the morning. They will be followed by the National Board of Review tomorrow and the LA Critics, Boston Critics, and New York Online Critics all in the coming days. Before this surge of critics awards descends upon us, however, I thought it would be worthwhile to take a glance back at last year’s awards to see how much the critics actually matter.

Last year, Zero Dark Thirty quickly moved to the top of many Oscar charts after it was given the Best Picture award by the New York Critics (both NYFCC and NYFCO), the National Board of Review, and the Boston Film Critics. The film’s director Kathryn Bigelow was also the favorite among most critics groups with awards from the New York, Boston, Austin, Washington, and Chicago critics among many others. Despite this early momentum, Bigelow was not nominated for Best Director and Zero Dark Thirty narrowly secured a Best Picture nomination.

2014 Oscar Predictions - Lincoln - The Critics AwardsThere was also consensus in the Best Actor race, but this early favorite actually did end up lining up with the Academy Awards. Daniel Day-Lewis won the Best Leading Actor award from critics groups in New York, Boston, Chicago, Washington, and many more for his performance in Lincoln. Best Actress was a little more varied with Jessica Chastain of Zero Dark Thirty, Rachel Weisz of The Deep Blue Sea, Emanuelle Riva of Amour, and Jennifer Lawrence of Silver Linings Playbook all winning early critics awards before the Oscar eventually went to Lawrence. Supporting Actor and Supporting Actress were similarly muddled with anywhere from five to nine different winners throughout precursor season.

What does this mean for the Critic Awards relevance to the Oscar race? In previous years, my assumption had always been than unless there was unanimous agreement among critics, their awards had little influence on which films and performances the Academy chooses. However, last year proved that even with consensus, there is still no guarantee that critics groups and Oscar voters will agree. Critics awards were set up to be entirely independent bodies with their own opinions and in recent years, those have been diverging further and further not only from the Academy, but from one another. This is better for everyone as it not only displays an excellent diversity of opinion, but it makes the Oscar race more exciting for its lack of predictability.

Notes on Oscar Prediction Updates

2014 Oscar Predictions - American Hustle- Critic AwardsOscar prediction updates have been made in every category, except the short films, and the Oscar pages have been made more easily navigable with category listings at the bottom. There is independent analysis on the page of each individual prediction, so be sure to check that out, but I thought it would be beneficial to include a few general notes about some of the bigger changes.

American Hustle has now been seen by a select number of critics and the word of mouth seems to be rather tepid. The film did not receive the rapturous response it would require to overcome major players like 12 Years a Slave and Gravity. Kris Tapley of In Contention saw the film and says that Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper give the most notable performances, and those might be the only major factors in the Oscar race this year. American Hustle remains in the Best Picture category, but drops significantly while Cooper and Lawrence move up slightly in their respective races.

Big increases come this week for The Dallas Buyers Club, Nebraska, and The Wolf of Wall Street. The first two continue to get great buzz from critics and seem likely to do very well in the acting races, which usually helps in other categories. Scorcese’s film has been seen by a few and word of mouth is very strong with speculation it should play very well with the Academy.

The technical categories get their first update of the season and updates come in every other category. Check them all out and be sure to share your thoughts on the Oscar race in the comments!

View the Complete 2014 Oscar Predictions

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  • Justin Jagoe

    I’m totally with you in your skepticism about the critics’ awards as precursors. If anything, it was the Guild awards last year that gave us the strongest indicators of who would ultimately win. I am inclined to quibble slightly about Zero Dark Thirty being used as the litmus test for critics’ ability to predict, however, if only because that film had to deal with the (not insignificant) controversy surrounding its depiction of torture. I feel like the cultural dialogue helped significantly in shooting Bigelow’s movie in the foot. But the success of Argo with the Guilds over the Critics definitely supports your point.

    At any rate, I might have started looking forward to the Critics’ lists a bit more now than the Guild awards, or even the awards themselves. The critics tend to be a bit more idiosyncratic and, even if movies like The Artist or The Social Network pop up repeatedly on all these regional critics’ lists, they still take time to recognize smaller (and superior) movies like The Master or The Act of Killing, as some groups are already doing this year.

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