The Broadcast Film Critics Choose, and Their Picks are “Choice.”

13 Jan

The Artist won more awards, but it was still a big night for audience favorite, The Help. Viola Davis (far left) won Best Actress while Octavia Spencer (far right) won Best Supporting Actress. Furthermore, the whole cast shared the award for Best Ensemble. From left to right: Davis, Jessica Chastain, Emma Stone, Allison Janney, Cicely Tyson, Ahna O'Reilly, Chris Lowell, and Spencer. Is The Help now the movie to beat for the SAG Award for Best Ensemble?

The Broadcast Film Critics Association’s “Critics’ Choice Awards” have been around since the mid 1990s; however, they’ve only been televised nationally for the last decade. Even with the TV coverage, the event doesn’t make as much of a splash with viewers as, say, the Golden Globes, which are often held on or around the same week in January. Of course, like the Globes, and the SAG awards, the Critics’ Choice Awards are often promoted as some kind of crystal ball for all things Oscars, and that is often–though not always–the case, so let’s take a look to see what we can see:

  1. Best Picture – The Artist
  2. Best Actress – Viola Davis (The Help)
  3. Best Actor – George Clooney (The Descendants)
  4. Best Director – Michael Hazanavicius  (The Artist)
  5. Best Supporting Actress – Octavia Spencer (The Help)
  6. Best Supporting Actor – Christopher Plummer (Beginners)
  7. Best Acting Ensemble – The Help
  8. Best Original Screenplay – Woody Allen (Midnight in Paris)
  9. Best Adapted Screenplay – Steve Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin w/Stan Chervin (Moneyball)
  10. Best Cinematography – TIE: Janusz Kaminski (War Horse); Emmanuel Lubezki (The Tree of Life)
  11. Best Art Direction – Dante Ferretti and Francesca Lo Schiavo (Hugo)
  12. Best Editing – Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo)
  13. Best Costume Design – Mark Bridges (The Artist)
  14. Best Makeup – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
  15. Best Visual Effects – Rise of the Planet of the Apes
  16. Best Animated Feature – Rango
  17. Best Foreign Language Film – A Separation (Iran)
  18. Best Documentary – George Harrison: Living in the Material World
  19. Best Song – “Life’s a Happy Song” (The Muppets)
  20. Best Score -Ludovic Bource (The Artist)

Okay, so The Artist's Ludovic Boucer won the Critics' Choice award for Best Score, but director Michael Hazanavicius has come under fire for borrowing a significant chunk of music from Bernard Herrmann's classic score for Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo, starring Kim Novak (l) and James Stewart (r). Novak has even gone so far to blast The Artist in full page Variety ads, comparing the appropriation to rape. Well, I don't know about the whole "rape" part, but I do know that I recognized the use of Herrmann's music immediately (and this was before Novak spoke out publicly). Anyway, I found it distracting: it took me out of the movie I was watching. That noted, Herrmann is listed in the closing credits, so there is no ethical issue involved. Furthermore, because 80% of the film's score is original, it is still eligible for Academy consideration.

Well, perhaps, The Artist really is the pic to beat after all. Of course, just because the critics love it  doesn’t mean the Academy will love it equally; after all, last year all the critics’ groups–including the BFCA–could not get enough of The Social Network, but The King’s Speech proved to be the favorite among the guilds, that is, the people who make movies–and those accolades were in some ways better indicators of Academy outcome. My take is that The Artist, a French film that pays homage to classic American films–black and white silent films in particular–is a lot of fun, and well done for what it is, yet it suffers from a lack of gravitas or even originality for that matter. Scene after scene plays like something almost too familiar: Singin’ in the Rain, Citizen Kane, Sunset Boulevard, The Nutty Professor, and even Forrest Gump, among others. In the end, the movie just seems to be about other movies. I don’t get that that’s such a huge achievement, and I’m surprised that so many film critics have fallen all over themselves to honor something so derivative. To clarify: I don’t think the actual filmmakers ever intended for their whimsical pastiche to be a major awards contender, but the minute star Jean Dujardin won Best Actor at Cannes, and the Weinstein brothers secured U.S. distribution, the movie was set-up to be prime Oscar bait, thereby inviting as much skepticism as praise.

Otherwise, I’m glad to see Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer front and center in their respective categories. The Oscar for Best Actress still seems very much up for grabs, mainly between Davis, Meryl Streep (The Iron Lady) and Glenn Close (Albert Nobbs), but maybe the tide is turning in Davis’s favor. I’d like that, but it’s too early to start making bets.  Also, I’m glad to see Spencer getting attention after being overshadowed by her co-star Jessica Chastain in much of the year-end voting. My hunch is that the Best Supporting Actress Oscar will go to either Chastain or Spencer. Of course, Chastain has had a remarkable year, but Spencer’s performance is wonderful in a “bigger than life” kind of way. Actually, Spencer and Chastain make a great pair in their many scenes as Spencer’s no-nonsense Minny has her patience tested by Chastain’s ditz with a heart of gold. Furthermore, and this is not a prediction but an observation, The Help is so chock-full of glorious performances that it could be the start and finish of the Best Supporting Actress slate, what with the likes of Chastain and Spencer, as well as Allison Janney, Sissy Spacek, and Bryce Dallas Howard.  I’d love to see that happen, honestly.

In spite of George Clooney’s Best Actor win for The Descendants, I still think Brad Pitt is the “upset” about to happen. Let’s see how it goes with the Globes.  It also looks as though Christopher Plummer is unbeatable, and that’s not a bad thing because Beginners is a wonderful movie. Have you seen it? Have you seen the trailer at least?  Also, what about that tie for Best Cinematography? Oh sure, Lubezki is clearly the favorite at this point in the game; meanwhile, Kaminski, with whom Lubezki tied, isn’t even nominated for the guild award. I also think Robert Richardson (Hugo) is looms as a possible spoiler come Oscar night.

Btw: Plummer is being referred to as an Oscar nominee in this clip for his performance in 2009’s The Last Station.

Okay, the Globes are next. I also plan follow up entries on the ASC awards as well as a comparison-contrast between the Writers Guild and the USC Scripter awards.

Thanks for your consideration…

The official site of the Broadcast Film Critics Association’s “Critics’ Choice Awards”:

http://www.criticschoice.com/

Entertainment Weekly article about Kim Novak, Bernard Herrmann’s music from Vertigo, and The Artist:

http://insidemovies.ew.com/2012/01/09/kim-novak-slams-the-artist-for-using-vertigo-theme-artist-director-michel-hazanavicius-responds/

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