It’s Time for An Awards Season Reality Check

By  · Published on December 8th, 2015

What a week it has been for the Awards Season!

On Monday, Gotham Independent Film Awards unveiled their winners. Tuesday saw National Board of Review (NBR) announcing theirs. New York Film Critics Circle (NYFCC) voting and announcement took place on Wednesday, followed by Boston Online Film Critics Association (BOFCA) taking their turn on Saturday. Things got even crazier on Sunday: Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA), Boston Society of Film Critics (BSFC), and New York Film Critics Online (NYFCO) all revealed their winners on the same day, with British Independent Film Awards (BIFA) joining the fun from across the pond later in the afternoon/evening.

How critics or other voting bodies might impact the Oscar race is surely not the point of any of the awards they hand out. Yet they do offer some clues about the current landscape before groups like Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) chime in and announce their nominees later this week (on Wednesday 12/9 and Thursday 12/10, respectively.) They even help shape the momentum in some cases.

Following the high traffic of last week, certain narratives come into sharper focus. Todd Haynes’ Carol and Tom McCarthy’s Spotlight continue to hold their secure ranks in the awards race. Late releases (and so far, light-to-no shows) like The Hateful Eight (Quentin Tarantino), The Revenant (Alejandro G. Iñárritu) and Joy (David O. Rusell) wait for the industry to start weighing in. Saoirse Ronan (Brooklyn) and Brie Larson (Room) still look to be the two frontrunners in the Best Actress race, with Charlotte Rampling also enjoying a great showing with her performance in Andrew Haigh’s 45 Years.

Here are 4 takeaways from the critics’ awards:

1. This year’s race has no clear frontrunners.

So far, at least. LAFCA and BSFC went with Spotlight as their Best Picture winner. NYFCC crowned Carol, while BOFCA and NBR awarded Mad Max: Fury Road as the best of 2015. There doesn’t seem to be a strong consensus building around any passion picks or perceived frontrunners this year. Until the guilds start speaking, the race is anyone’s guess.

2. Mad Max: Fury Road is in the race.

Perhaps no passionately loved movie benefited more from the awards noise of last week than the George Miller-directed Mad Max: Fury Road. Seen only as a possible challenger just a few weeks ago, but looking more and more likely to crack the Best Picture and Director race (in addition to Best Actress, Production Design, and Cinematography categories,) Mad Max: Fury Road is the film critics might help carry all the way to the Oscars. BOFCA and NBR voted it as the Best Picture of 2015, while it was the runner up Best Picture for LAFCA and BSFC. Meanwhile, George Miller was named the Best Director by both BOFCA and LAFCA.

3. Kristen Stewart got a huge boost.

With all the talk about category fraud –lead performances of both Rooney Mara (Carol) and Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl) being pushed in supporting categories- it’s nice to see an actual and thus far slightly forgotten supporting role getting some attention and love. With wins from BFSC, BOFCA and NYFCC (runner up in LAFCA), Kristen Stewart got a major push heading into this critical week, just before SAG and HFPA ballots closed. Her performance as the cool and savvy assistant of an acting legend in Clouds of Sils Maria might very well go all the way to the Oscars, thanks to the passionate support of critics.

4. Steve Jobs: largely ignored.

Except for Michael Fassbender’s Best Actor win from LAFCA, Steve Jobs was pretty much nowhere to be seen in last week’s awards. That might not mean anything for the Oscars –nominations for Michael Fassbender, Aaron Sorkin, and Kate Winslet are still likely (in addition to a possible Best Picture nod for the film.) But no doubt the Danny Boyle-directed film lost some blood.

You can see a helpful, running roundup of major critics groups’ 2015 awards over at Thompson on Hollywood.

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Freelance writer and film critic based in New York. Bylines at Film Journal, Time Out NY, Movie Mezzanine, Indiewire, and others.