Critics Awards: Should We Listen to the Consensus?

Every year, the major movie critics groups in North America release their own awards of sorts in the months leading up to the Oscars. Since New York and L.A. are the major film cities, their critics groups get the most attention. But did you know that Indiana has a critics group? Are you eagerly anticipating which performances the North Texas critics will honour this year?

My point is that critics groups have very little impact on the eventual Oscar nominees. Critics groups consist of a relatively small group of people who often feel very passionately about certain films (those Indiana critics really liked Win Win, for example). It’s unwise to make rash proclamations about certain contenders just because they did/did not get recognized by a certain group. However, you can find patterns in these precursor awards that can be very telling. If the same performances keep getting mentioned over and over again by the critics, then they’re certainly worth considering. The same goes for opposite cases. On the eve of the SAG nominations, here’s a look at a few surprising patterns that I’ve noticed in this year’s critics precursors.

Six Curious Cases of the 2011 Awards Season (so far)

1. The reign of Albert Brooks (and Christopher Plummer, somewhat)

Most people considered Brooks a strong contender for an Oscar nomination after the release of Drive. However, he’s surprisingly all but swept the early precursor awards. Starting with the New York film critics, Brooks has received recognition from nearly every group. In the few cases where he’s lost out, it’s been to fellow veteran Christopher Plummer. Is Best Supporting Actor turning into a two-man race?

2. Where is Glenn Close?

Widely thought to be a frontrunner in the Best Actress race, Glenn Close has been unexpectedly absent all awards season. She did get a Satellite Award nomination, but those are notoriously worthless. Even her co-star, Janet McTeer, has managed to drum up some buzz? So what happened with Glenn? That’s not to say that her chances are dead (and I wouldn’t be surprised to see her snag a SAG nom), but it’s not a great start.

3. So is Melissa McCarthy, like…happening?

There’s no way that Melissa McCarthy can get an Oscar nomination for Bridesmaids. No way. But then why does her name keep coming up? Why did I have to add her into my charts after she won too many critics awards to ignore? Stranger things have happened, after all (what’s up, Robert Downey Jr. in 2008?)

4. Critics like their Actors gloomy (and indie)

Shame and Take Shelter are two films that have flown under the public’s radar this fall, likely thanks to their small scale and bleak subject matter. But they certainly have caught the attention of critics, and their leading men (Michael Fassbender and Michael Shannon) and supporting ladies (Carey Mulligan and Jessica Chastain) have been all over the precursor awards. It’s hard to say how these films will play with the Academy. Michael Fassbender is becoming a stronger contender daily (especially thanks to DiCaprio’s fading chances), so maybe the indie films will represent, after all.

5. Leonardo DiCaprio: always the bridesmaid, never the bride

This should have been Leo’s year. We gave Kate Winslet an Oscar for her showy period piece, and J. Edgar was supposed be Leo’s The Reader, dammit! But now it’s looking like her might not even be nominated. I’m still hanging onto hope and leaving him in my predictions, but things aren’t looking good.

6. Branagh, Redgrave, Oldman, and Theron kinda-sorta impress

These respected actors have all scooped up nominations from the critics, but they also haven’t been the critical darlings that some expected. Their films aren’t going to get armfuls of Oscars, so they need all the support they can get. The bigger precursors (SAG, Golden Globes) can bring them back from the fringes of their categories.

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