And the winners are ...
Movie awards season kicks into high gear this week, and four film organizations got things started by naming their top films of the year on Sunday. Let's look at some of the winners, and examine what these awards tell us about potential Academy Award nominations.
Although the American Film Institute does not pick an overall winner, their annual AFI Awards highlight the ten top American films of the year. This year's picks are:
- The Hangover
- The Hurt Locker
- The Messenger
- A Serious Man
- A Single Man
- Up in the Air
Since there are ten films on this list, it is tempting to view these awards as a predictor of the eventual Academy Award nominations. Although most of the Academy's Best Picture nominations are usually found on AFI's list, these awards tell us nothing about non-U.S. films, like 2007's Atonement and 2008's Slumdog Millionaire. Of the movies on the above list, both Coraline and Sugar would be major surprises to receive Best Picture nominations, and popular comedy The Hangover would be only slightly less surprising.
Boston Society of Film Critics
The Boston critics named Kathryn Bigelow's The Hurt Locker -- Metacritic's highest-scoring movie of the year so far, at 94 -- 2009's best picture. Bigelow received Best Director honors, and the film scored five awards in all from the group. Acting nods went to Hurt Locker's Jeremy Renner and Julie & Julia's Meryl Streep. Also notable: Up in the Air was completely shut out. The BSFC consists of 18 local professional critics, including the Boston Globe's Ty Burr and Wesley Morris.
Interestingly, these critics and the Academy have agreed on their top film selections for each of the past three years. You'd have to go back to 2005 -- when the Boston critics selected Brokeback Mountain and the Academy voters sided with Crash -- to find a difference.
Los Angeles Film Critics Association
Like their counterparts in Boston, the L.A. critics also opted for The Hurt Locker -- and Bigelow -- as the year's best film and best director. The LAFCA, however, showed more love for Up in the Air, awarding the George Clooney vehicle runner-up status for film of the year. Crazy Heart's Jeff Bridges took best actor honors, while the critics named Yolande Moreau -- star of the little-seen French biopic Seraphine -- as top actress.
The Los Angeles critics have developed a reputation for giving their top honors to films that are shunned by Academy voters, disagreeing with the Academy's Best Picture choice every year since 1993. These critics selected WALL-E as the best film of 2008, and There Will Be Blood as 2007's winner.
New York Film Critics Online
A slightly lesser-known organization, the New York Film Critics Online -- as the name suggests -- is comprised of Internet critics based in New York. These critics selected James Cameron's Avatar as the year's best film, and also honored Bigelow, Bridges and Streep as director, actor, and actress of the year. In 2008, the NYFCO agreed with the Academy's choice of Slumdog Millionaire.
But wait, there's more
Critics groups from Chicago to New York will reveal their honorees on Monday, while Tuesday morning will see the announcement of the Golden Globe nominations. To date (including the awards above), The Hurt Locker leads all honorees with two Best Picture awards, followed by Up in the Air with one.