The Gotham Awards and the New York Film Critics Circle awards just officially kicked off the next stage of Oscar season, in a big way for “Everything Everywhere All At Once,” “TÁR,” and “The Banshees Of Inisherin” in particular. This may well be a sign of things to come, as these three critical darlings and potential Oscar frontrunners will likely win the majority of regional prizes in the next several weeks. But if it is evenly divided between all three or just two of these films – or at the very least, if one of them doesn’t overwhelm the others – that alone would make this the closest critic award season in recent memory.
Regardless of whether the critic award wins to make a real impact with industry and Academy voters or not, they usually turn out the same way lately. Whether it was “Roma” in 2018, “Parasite” in 2019, “Nomadland” in 2020, or “The Power Of The Dog” in 2021, there has been one apparent and dominant winner among critics these last four years. In fact, no other film even came close to them, as Next Best Picture’s own archives show as proof.
Before its eventual defeat for Best Picture, “Roma” had 25 critic and precursor Best Picture wins, easily outpacing the eight for “The Favourite” and the seven for “Green Book” before it won the Oscar. “Parasite” was even more dominant the following year, with 29 Best Picture wins to the mere 10 for runner-up “Once Upon A Time In Hollywood,” before the Academy gave it win number 30. “Nomadland” racked it up even further with 41 Best Picture wins to “Promising Young Woman’s” ten before its final Best Picture victory, and then “The Power Of The Dog” topped out at 33 Best Picture wins to “Belfast’s” seven and a mere five pre-Oscar wins for “CODA.”
Two of those four dominant critic winners fell short at the Oscars anyway, raising more doubt about how valuable pre-Oscar awards are. Regardless of how these films performed with the Academy, they were virtually the only big winners with the critics and all the other precursors. Once they latched onto them as their preferred Best Picture, very few went the other way the longer the season went on.
Even some of those who rooted for “Roma,” “Parasite,” “Nomadland,” and “The Power Of The Dog” probably grew tired of them winning over and over to an extent – or grew tired of fending off complaints from those who were. Depending on the year and the most dominant film, it can get easy to get fed up with the same old results or to wish critics would spread the wealth around a little more. But as it stands, it’s been five years since they actually did.
2017 was indeed the last year there was any doubt, or a somewhat close outcome, as to what the critics’ top choice would be. While the season’s biggest winner was ultimately “Get Out,” it did so with only 15 Best Picture prizes overall. In fact, it was actually followed close behind by “Lady Bird’s” 10, and eight each for “The Shape Of Water” and “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” before “The Shape Of Water” broke that tie at the Oscars. This reflects how 2017 was probably the most competitive Oscar season of recent years. Just as “Get Out,” “The Shape Of Water, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” and “Lady Bird” split the critics’ prizes, they split Oscar frontrunner status at one time or another. Unlike when “Nomadland” dominated all of 2020, when both “Roma” and “The Power Of The Dog” lost at the end to big underdogs in 2018 and 2021, and when “Parasite” caught presumed industry favorite “1917” at the end of 2019, 2017 was a real three and sometimes four-film race where the wealth was spread beyond just one favorite the entire season.
2016 was an evenly split year too, but that was a season where “Moonlight” and “La La Land” won literally almost every Best Picture prize there was. According to Next Best Picture, they each won 21 Best Picture prizes before “Moonlight” broke the tie on Oscar night, while the rest of the field combined to win only 11. But that, even more so than 2017, is the exception that proves the rule.
However, 2022 has all the makings of being the next exception. So far, “Everything Everywhere All At Once” has already won Best Picture at the Gotham Awards and the Atlanta Film Critics Circle, while Ke Huy Quan has already started sweeping Supporting Actor. Yet “TÁR” has also won Best Film and Best Actress for Cate Blanchett at the New York Film Critics Circle, while “The Banshees Of Inisherin” also won Best Screenplay and Best Actor for Colin Farrell at both New York and Atlanta. Should they each take major awards from the National Board of Review on December 8th, it would further establish that these three films should be the season’s biggest winners for a while.
Right now, between “Everything Everywhere All At Once’s” months of buzz, “TÁR’s” own passionate base for Blanchett and the movie, and “The Banshees Of Inisherin” winning more unanimous praise than even Martin McDonagh’s own “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” did, any one of them could wind up being the biggest Best Picture winner before the Oscars. But while either of them could rack 20-30 wins or more on the critics’ circuit, it is still just as likely that they could be far more evenly divided. What’s more, this doesn’t even count how films like “Women Talking,” “Aftersun,” “Decision To Leave,” “RRR,” or even presumed industry favorite “The Fabelmans” may chip away with some wins of their own.
There was no doubt this time last season that “The Power Of The Dog” would have a stranglehold with critics, partly because of its own power and because of somewhat lacking competition from a limited batch of other critical favorites. “Nomadland” clearly dominated 2020 in every way from the start, as did “Parasite” in 2019, even as many doubted the industry would follow suit at first – especially after it didn’t work with “Roma” in 2018. But for the first time in five years, there is still substantial doubt over who will be the critics’ top pick before they start voting.
“Everything Everywhere All At Once” has been a “Parasite” like storybook favorite since March, so if anything runs the table until the industry weighs in, it probably has the best chance – and might have the best opportunity to go all the way at the Oscars too. But “TÁR” can certainly make a big critical run to cement its Best Picture nomination and perhaps Blanchett’s third Oscar victory, while “The Banshees Of Inisherin” can lay the groundwork for a major run in multiple major races of its own. Yet even though “The Fabelmans” and “Women Talking” each got shut out at the New York Film Critics Circle, there may be enough room to go around for them with other critics as well.
If this is destined to be the most competitive critic awards season since 2017, it can’t be said that the signs weren’t there. Like with “Get Out,” this season has its own groundbreaking critical darling released way back in the spring in “Everything Everywhere All At Once.” Like with “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” this season has its own McDonagh black comedy favorite with perhaps multiple acting frontrunners in “The Banshees Of Inisherin.” Like with “Lady Bird,” this season has a female-led contender helmed by an actress turned director in “Women Talking,” even if the latter has far heavier subject matter. And like with “The Shape Of Water,” this season has a film in “The Fabelmans” that might not be the big critical winner but should still win its share before a potential industry surge in Best Picture and Best Director – and each of them have the movies themselves as major subplots too.
Despite all these similarities, it must be considered that one film will pull ahead and make 2022 look more like 2018, 2019, 2020, and 2021 after all. Critics tend to have tunnel vision even in the most competitive years and even when most people agree with their chosen favorite. For the last four years, at least when it comes to Best Picture, there’s only been one clear favorite for them from the very beginning – and it was always obvious from the start what it would be. That film this year could very easily be “Everything Everywhere All At Once” or “TÁR,” or even “The Banshees Of Inisherin.” Nonetheless, this likely won’t be the same story when the industry weighs in, unlike in 2017. No matter how many Best Picture critic wins “TÁR” pulls off, Blanchett will still be predicted as its best, if not only, chance to win any major Oscar. And even if “The Fabelmans” and “Women Talking” have only a few wins, they would still not be counted out with the Academy as long as they’re significant favorites in other major categories – namely Best Director for Steven Spielberg and Best Adapted Screenplay for Sarah Polley.
Even so, just as there isn’t a unanimous Oscar favorite yet between “The Fabelmans,” “Everything Everywhere All At Once,” “The Banshees Of Inisherin,” and “Women Talking,” this could also be the first critics’ award season in years where there isn’t one dominant winner either. If that holds, then maybe this will be a rare year where the Oscars’ Best Picture choice isn’t evident by Oscar night either.
Do you think this is a competitive year for Best Picture? What do you think is the current frontrunner and who are you predicting to go all the way to an Oscar win? Please let us know your thoughts in the comments section below or on our Twitter account and check out the Next Best Picture team’s latest Oscar predictions here.
You can follow Robert and hear more of his thoughts on the Oscars and Film on Twitter at @robertdoc1984