Historically speaking, the National Board of Review are the awards group that kicks off the critics awards phase of awards season. But starting in 2011, the New York Film Critics Circle have taken that slot. The NYFCC, the oldest and, arguably, most prestigious critics group in the nation, have been handing out their awards since 1935. The winner of the New York Film Critics Circle Best Film prize almost always goes on to net a Best Picture Oscar nomination. Previous winners include American Hustle (2013), Zero Dark Thirty (2012), The Artist (2011), The Social Network (2010), and The Hurt Locker (2009). All those films either went on to win Best Picture or score a Best Picture Oscar nomination. Below are their winners for 2014, which were announced today (December 1) with my quick thoughts on each winner.
BEST FILM: Boyhood
Richard Linklater’s Boyhood was always pegged to be one of the favorites going into this awards season. This win confirms my thoughts that the film will be a critics juggernaut. It might not sweep the groups the way The Hurt Locker and The Social Network did in their respective years but I wouldn’t be surprised if it had a showing on the level of, say, last year’s big Oscar winner, 12 Years a Slave.
BEST DIRECTOR: Richard Linklater (Boyhood)
An extremely well-deserved win! If there’s any category Boyhood deserved to be rewarded, it’s direction. Linklater’s achievement—shooting the film with the same cast and crew over a 12-year period—may not be the first of its kind but its seamless narrative and naturalistic performances make it feel like a one-of-a-kind achievement.
BEST ACTOR: Timothy Spall (Mr. Turner)
I haven’t seen Mike Leigh’s latest as of yet but Spall’s win is an inspired pick, especially when voters could have easily gone for someone predictable like Michael Keaton (Birdman), Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything) or Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game). But that’s what separates this group from other local groups. Spall’s win is a nice boost for his awards chances, and should act as a nice complement to his Best Actor win at Cannes. It also works as recognition for a perpetually overlooked character actor.
BEST ACTRESS: Marion Cotillard (Two Days, One Night and The Immigrant)
Another wonderful choice! I haven’t seen the Dardennes’ Two Days, One Night as yet but Cotillard’s work in the shamefully under-appreciated The Immigrant is easily one of the finest performances of the year. Glad to see the New Yorkers highlighting it—especially considering the film’s distributor (The Weinstein Company) has shown no interest in giving it an awards push.
BEST SCREENPLAY: Wes Anderson (The Grand Budapest Hotel)
Yes! I was afraid that Wes Anderson’s delightful period caper would be forgotten in the awards season avalanche since it opened in March, but I’m glad to be proven wrong. It’s one of my favorite films of the year and needless to say, an absolutely deserving winner of this prize. Now, if only another awards group would go to bat for Ralph Fiennes’ sublime performance.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: J.K. Simmons (Whiplash)
This is the least surprising win of the set. From the moment I finished watching Whiplash, I was certain Simmons would be a major awards contender for his fierce work here. This is only the first of many awards the beloved veteran will be picking up this season. I’m expecting him to sweep the circuit all the way to the Oscars. It’s not my favorite performance of the year but I can’t say he’s not worthy.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Patricia Arquette (Boyhood)
Like Simmons, I fully expect Arquette to win a bounty of awards this season too. She’s the heart and soul of one of the year’s best films and I hope this win is a harbinger of an eventual Oscar.
BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM: Ida (Poland)
Ida has been on my To-Watch list for at least two months now. I’m glad that it’s finally out on Netflix streaming – just in time for the season. Is this our Foreign Language Oscar frontrunner? The World War 2 setting, plus the sensitive subject matter give it a solid advantage.
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE: The LEGO Movie
The LEGO Movie wouldn’t be my top choice for this award but it has the advantage of still being the year’s most popular animated film, and it’s surprisingly subversive satire. Still, I was hoping the New Yorkers would spring for something like The Tale of Princess Kaguya or The Boxtrolls. Anyway, no real complaints here.
BEST NON-FICTION FILM: Citizenfour
Is Citizenfour going to be another one of those award season sweepers? Laura Poitras’ documentary checks off all the requisite categories for a Best Documentary winner: it covers a Capital “I” Important subject matter, it hits the zeitgeist sweet spot, it’s politically resonant, it’s an underdog story etc… How can anything else compete?
My favorite win of this group! Khondji’s suitably gloomy work on James Gray’s period drama was evocative of Gordon Willis’ 1970s output, specifically The Godfather Part II. Here’s hoping he isn’t forgotten by other industry groups.
BEST FIRST FILM: The Babadook (director Jennifer Kent)
Babadook! Babadook! Babadook! I don’t think I’ll tire of that title.
To catch up on the 2014 Awards Season as it stands so far, click here.