Don't forget to pay serious attention to what those 58 rascal members of the National Society of Film Critics do this Saturday. They're meeting at Sardi's restaurant in New York City to vote on their awards, which should finish up around 4:30 p.m., at which time we'll post the winners' list here. Oftentimes their voting doesn't impact the Oscars because results are kooky ("American Splendor" and "Topsy-Turvy" for best picture) or just come so late in the derby. But sometimes they have surprising oomph in the home stretch. I'm certain that the NSFC played a key role in the surge behind "The Pianist" four years ago. The society definitely put "Annie Hall" on the kudos map back in 1977. Woody Allen's chestnut had been released early that year. In fact, its review in Variety can be found smack-dab in the middle of columns and columns of the tradepaper's Oscar coverage of the previoius derby. No doubt it would've been overlooked by Oscar voters later if the society hadn't revived interest in it at year's end.
"Topsy-Turvy" was also chosen best pic by the New York Film Critics Circle, by the way, which is no small coincidence. The two critics' groups share many of the same members. Yes, the national society does pool input from critics across the U.S., but their votes only count on the initial ballot. If the races get competitive, and they usually do, proxy votes are thrown out after the first round and only members present at Sardi's get to decide the outcome. Member overlap used to be much more extensive than it is now, though.