By Matt Neglia The 22nd Critics Choice Awards are over and they managed to move up their date to come out before Golden Globe, Screen Actor Guild and Oscar nominations could even be announced. This gave the voting committee a very small window to see as many films as possible (And some such as “Passengers,” “Silence,” and “Rogue One” could not be seen in time) and vote earlier than they ever had before. So it stands to question, are the Critics Choice Awards going to be as predictive of the Oscars as they have been in year’s past? Are their wins premature and indicitive of how things currently feel in Phase 1 of the awards season race? Let’s dive a little deeper into some of these developments.
1. “La La Land” Is A Tech Player
“La La Land” won three above the line categories but the other five were all in technical awards. It won for cinematography, editing, production design, score and best original song for “City of Stars” (Over what many people thought would be the winner, “Audition”). It must be pointed out that “La La Land” is the frontrunner for Best Picture and whenever a musical wins, they typically tend to bring a lot of technical awards with it. Sound Mixing was not a factor here, but you have to believe that it will be come Oscar time. Even if “Silence” or “Jackie” (Which surprisingly won two technical awards along with a Best Actress win for Natalie Portman, more on that in a moment) does challenge “La La Land” in some of these categories such as cinematography and production design, still expect on Oscar night for “La La Land” to walk away with more technical wins than any other film.
2. Emma Stone vs. Natalie Portman
Isabelle Huppert may be dominating the critics groups right now but it was Natalie Portman who struck a critical blow in getting the Critics Choice Award for Best Actress for her stunning performance in “Jackie.” Many were expecting Emma Stone to start her momentum for Best Actress here tonight but Portman winning here was not so much a shock as it was an interesting development. She is giving the best performance of her career in what is quite possibly one of the most competitive years for the category ever. In Emma’s favor, she is a previous nominee who has not won before (Unlike Natalie who won back in 2010 for “Black Swan”), she’s starring in the Best Picture frontrunner and she’s also the young and beautiful type that AMPAS traditionally likes to honor at this stage in her career. So where does that leave us? The Golden Globes will certainly not help, as both are predicted to win in their respective categories. So it will all come down to SAG and BAFTA. Stay tuned, this could certainly get interesting.
3. Casey Affleck Is Still In It
I firmly believe that Denzel Washington will win the Oscar come February. I may not have seen the film yet, but all the buzz is indicating that he gives career best work that is undeniable. Casey Affleck is currently my personal choice to win and he really needed the win here tonight to stay alive in this race. Now, even though I believe Denzel is going to win, that does not mean Casey is down and out. A win here, a chance to give a speech (He even shouted out the writers being rewraded off camera which drew some applause and goodwill) and keeping his name out there will certainly help him as we close in on the Golden Globes and the Screen Actor Guild Awards. It is here where many believe Casey will fall to Denzel and once “Fences” opens at the end of the month, the word of mouth and buzz will be all about Washington as we head into Phase 2. While I expect the narrative of rewarding one of the greatest actors of our time with a third Academy Award for acting to take hold, Casey is still in this race.
4. Screenplays May Not Be What We Expected
Ask any pundit and they will tell you that Adapted Screenplay was probably going to go to “Fences” and Original Screenplay to either “Moonlight” or “Manchester By The Sea.” Well, two things happened tonight at the Critics Choice awards. First, “Arrival” shockingly won Best Adapted Screenplay (It also won the award from Washington DC Area Film Critics). And second, Best Original Screenplay ended up in a tie between supposed favorite “Manchester By The Sea” and “La La Land” (Which also won at the Washington DC Area Film Critics Awards, hmmm…). If you ask me, I would say that there is no way “La La Land” (duh), “Moonlight” and “Manchester By The Sea” go home empty handed on Oscar night. These three films are the three which the entire race is being built around. People want to still believe there is a race for BestPicture/Best Director between these three films. “Moonlight” is expected to win an acting award, where “Manchester By The Sea” is contending for Best Actor but has the best shot at winning here for Original Screenplay. So while, “Manchester By The Sea” is still considered the favorite here in the hopes that the Academy spreads the wealth on Oscar night, also consider that in the last 30 years, only 8 films have won Best Picture without a corresponding Screenplay win. That bodes really well for “La La Land.” But really all you have to do is ask yourself, is “La La Land” going to sweep? Or is the Academy going to want to spread the wealth? If you take the spread the wealth approach, also realize that the Academy could honor all of the above mentioned films if their awards went something like this…Best Picture/Best Director – “La La Land,” Best Actor/Supporting Actress – “Fences,” Best Supporting Actor – “Moonlight,” Best Original Screenplay – “Manchester By The Sea,” and Best Adapted Screenplay – “Arrival.” Now wouldn’t that be nice?
5. Supporting Categories Are Dare I Say…Locked
Say whatever you want but it’s pretty clear at this point that unless something miraculous happens, Viola Davis is going to be an Oscar winner in 2017. She faces stiff competition from Michelle Williams and Naomie Harris to be sure. However, it’s truly Viola’s time. She has had to endure a tough loss back in 2011 and she’s back now with what is said to be career best work in “Fences.” After getting wins from Washington DC, San Francisco, New York Online Film Critics and now Critics Choice, it’s pretty clear that a consensus is starting to form and no one seems to be complaining about it. And for the record, I’m not either. Another consensus is Mahershala Ali for “Moonlight.” At the beginning of the season, yours truly felt that all though he was spectacular in the film, his limited screentime would ultimately hurt his chances at a nomination. I was still clinging to the idea that one of the “Silence” actors would nab a victory here and although Issey Ogata is building some momentum for his villanous turn in Scorsese’s latest, Ali has proven himself to be an unstoppable force in this category. He now has ten individual wins from different critics groups and is being seen now as the way to reward “Moonlight” come Oscar night. After winning the Critics Choice Award tonight, it’s hard to see how he loses any steam as the weeks go on. I hesitate to say that any race this early is sewn up, but these two extraordinary performers are making believe just that.
So what are some of your biggest takeaways from the Critics Choice Awards? Do you agree with my points? Are there any shocking snubs you can forsee? Let me know in the comments down below and thank you. You can follow Matt and hear more of his thoughts on the Oscars and Film on Twitter at @NextBestPicture