The Critics' Choice Awards may have revealed a thing or two about this year's Oscars derby.
Even before last night most Oscarologists believed that "Slumdog Millionaire" was ahead for best picture and director, so the Critics' Choice Awards just helped to underscore that point. Are the Critics' Choice Awards really trusty Oscar prophets? Well, they only forecast seven of the Oscars' winners of best picture correctly, but most of the misfires were in the kudo's early days of its 13-year history. Over the last seven years, it's nailed five correct. The two differences: the broadcast film critics preferred "Sideways" to "Million Dollar Baby" in 2004 and "Brokeback Mountain" to "Crash" in 2005.
What the Critics' Choice Awards pointed the harshest spotlight on was the Kate Winslet problem. Voters snubbed "Revolutionary Road," which — happily for Kate — focused attention on her "supporting" role in "The Reader." Thus she pulled off the big upset last night, prevailing over Penelope Cruz ("Vicky Cristina Barcelona"), who now has good reason to be nervous about the derby ahead.
Cruz had early momentum thanks to claiming trophies from the New York Film Critics Circle, Los Angeles Film Critics Assn. and National Board of Review, but what about the Golden Globes this Sunday? Even before last night I was predicting Winslet will snag the Globe simply because I know how much members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. love "The Reader" and want to give it a big win someplace. If that happens, suddenly the Penelope Cruz bandwagon comes to a screeching halt. Can it get back rolling again?
That depends on which category Oscar voters put Winslet — lead or supporting for "The Reader"? Obviously, it's a lead role that was sneakily campaigning in supporting because Winslet preferred the movie directed by her husband, Sam Mendes, "Revolutionary Road." Now kudos chaos reigns. The Globes nominated Winslet in lead for "Rev Road," but the academy?
Over the last five years, the Critics' Choice Awards did great predicting the Oscars' best actor race (correctly forecasting all five) and lead actress (four), but since the broadcast critics didn't nominate Winslet for "Rev Road" this year, it's hard to size up what to think of the tie between Anne Hathaway ("Rachel Getting Married") and Meryl Streep ("Doubt"). Up till last night, most pundits had Winslet ahead to win the Oscar for "Rev Road."
I have a hunch the Critics' Choice Awards just did a fine job tattling on how little support there is in the industry for her turn in "Road." And pointing to the two true front-runners: Hathaway and Streep.
As for the other top races, I think the Critics' Choice Awards correctly forecast Sean Penn ("Milk") for best actor -- even though I think Penn will lose to Frank Langella ("Frost/Nixon") this Sunday at the Golden Globes. And even though there's a hex at the Oscars on dead guys, it's starting to look like nothing can stop that diabolical Joker Heath Ledger ("The Dark Knight")!
Photo: Weinstein Co.