Brow Beat

The Oscar Race Is On, and It Is Wide Open

It’s still anyone’s game.

Photo by © Courtesy of Sundance Institute

Back in August, I mapped out the necessary steps Boyhood needed to take in order to score a Best Picture spot at the Oscars. As I noted then, the slight handicap it faced by being released in the middle of the summer—well in advance of the supposed awards season—was not a real cause for alarm: Quite a few early-release films have been nominated for Best Picture, and several have gone on to win.

So how are Boyhood’s chances looking now, with awards season fully upon us? It is basically a lock for a Best Picture nod. And unlike last year, when 12 Years a Slave was deemed the film to beat as early as September (and continued to gain steam month after month), there is no clear front-runner in that category this year. If you had to pick one, you might even pick Boyhood. Yesterday, the New York Film Critics Circle anointed the film Best Picture and Richard Linklater Best Director. Since 2000, most winners of that award have earned nominations for Best Picture, and four of those films have won the top Oscar.

The NYFCC surprised a bit with its Best Actor and Actress winners: Timothy Spall for Mr. Turner and Marion Cotillard for The Immigrant and Two Days, One Night. Neither has been tipped as a likely Oscar nominee, but this may help put them in the race: As with Best Picture, nearly every NYFCC winner in those categories since 2000 has earned an Oscar nomination.

The NYFCC passed over Birdman, which just last week got six nominations at the Independent Spirit Awards. But at the Gotham Awards, also announced yesterday, the film beat out Boyhood, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Love Is Strange, and Under the Skin for Best Film, and Michael Keaton won Best Actor over Bill Hader (The Skeleton Twins), Ethan Hawke (Boyhood), Oscar Isaac (A Most Violent Year), and Miles Teller (Whiplash). The Gotham Awards have lined up with Oscar nominations less consistently in recent years than the NYFCC Awards have—neither Inside Llewyn Davis nor Moonrise Kingdom, for instance, both Gotham winners for Best Film, were nominated for Best Picture Oscars.

The Gotham Awards also have categories that are distinct from the Academy’s, with Breakthrough Awards given to a director and an actor. Generally, the chances of these winners being acknowledged by the Academy are not great; two years ago, for instance, Emayatzy Corinealdi won for the understated Middle of Nowhere, though she was never in the Oscar conversation. Still, this year’s winners, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night director Ana Lily Amirpour and Dear White People star Tessa Thompson, can point to Beasts of the Southern Wild as an exception: Benh Zeitlin won Breakthrough Director in 2012, and later earned a surprise Best Director nomination.

Even less reliable for Oscar forecasts are the National Board of Review Awards, announced this afternoon. The NBR doesn’t disclose who its voters are, and many critics dismiss its awards for that reason. That said, the movies it honors with its Best Film are usually eventual Best Picture nominees. So what should we make of this year’s selection, A Most Violent Year? Will the quietly buzzed-about film be an Oscar finalist? Or is the NBR out of step with the Academy this year? I lean toward the former, though t’s impossible to say for sure. It does, in any case, reinforce the general impression that there is no Oscar front-runner right now. One other thing we can say for certain: The NBR really liked The LEGO Movie. It made their Top 10 list and won Best Original Screenplay.

Full lists of the NYFCC, Gotham, and NBR winners are below.

New York Film Critics Circle Awards

Best Picture

Best Actor
Timothy Spall, Mr. Turner

Best Actress
Marion Cotillard, The Immigrant and Two Days, One Night

Best Director
Richard Linklater, Boyhood

Best Screenplay
The Grand Budapest Hotel 

Best Supporting Actor
J.K. Simmons, Whiplash

Best Supporting Actress
Patricia Arquette, Boyhood

Best Animated Film
The Lego Movie

Best Cinematography
Darius Khondji, The Immigrant

Best First Film
Jennifer Kent, The Babadook

Best Foreign Language Film

Best Nonfiction Film (Documentary)

Special Award
Adrienne Mancia

Gotham Awards

Best Actress
Julianne Moore, Still Alice

Best Actor
Michael Keaton, Birdman

Best Documentary

Gotham Independent Film Audience Award

Bingham Ray Breakthrough Director Award
Ana Lily Amirpour, A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night

Breakthrough Actor
Tessa Thompson, Dear White People

Special Jury Award for Ensemble Performance 
Steve Carell, Channing Tatum, and Mark Ruffalo, Foxcatcher

National Board of Review Awards

Best Film
A Most Violent Year

Best Director
Clint Eastwood, American Sniper

Best Actor (TIE) 
Oscar Isaac, A Most Violent Year
Michael Keaton, Birdman

Best Actress
Julianne Moore, Still Alice

Best Supporting Actor
Edward Norton, Birdman

Best Supporting Actress
Jessica Chastain, A Most Violent Year

Best Original Screenplay
Phil Lord & Christopher Miller, The Lego Movie

Best Adapted Screenplay
Paul Thomas Anderson, Inherent Vice

Best Animated Feature
How to Train Your Dragon 2

Breakthrough Performance
Jack O’Connell, Starred Up & Unbroken

Best Directorial Debut
Gillian Robespierre, Obvious Child

Best Foreign Language Film
Wild Tales

Best Documentary
Life Itself

William K. Everson Film History Award
Scott Eyman

Best Ensemble

Spotlight Award
Chris Rock for writing, directing, and starring in Top Five

NBR Freedom of Expression Award

NBR Freedom of Expression Award

Top Films
American Sniper
Gone Girl
The Imitation Game
Inherent Vice
The Lego Movie

Top 5 Foreign Language Films
Force Majeure
Gett: The Trial of Vivian Amsalem
Two Days, One Night
We Are the Best!

Top 5 Documentaries
Art and Craft
Jodorowsky’s Dune
Keep On Keepin’ On
The Kill Team
Last Days in Vietnam

Top 10 Independent Films
Blue Ruin
A Most Wanted Man
Mr. Turner
Obvious Child
The Skeleton Twins
Stand Clear of the Closing Doors
Starred Up
Still Alice