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Category: National Society of Film Critics

Mo'Nique's and Christoph Waltz's amazing -- and very rare -- awards sweep

February 10, 2010 |  6:16 pm

Lots of stars almost pulled off a full sweep of the key early awards during derby season, then went on to win the Oscar. But only 15 stars, according to my count, actually accomplished a total romp in modern times. Many others were like Robert De Niro ("Raging Bull"). He won most of the major kudos of 1980 except one. At the National Society of Film Critics, he lost best actor to Peter O'Toole ("The Stunt Man"). Or Heath Ledger ("The Dark Knight"), who almost swept the board last year, but also got tripped up by the national society (losing to Eddie Marsden, "Happy-Go-Lucky") plus New York Film Critics Circle (lost to Josh Brolin, "Milk").

Oscars Academy Awards news precursor 2

It sure looks like Christoph Waltz ("Inglourious Basterds") and Mo'Nique ("Precious") are juggernauts that can't be stopped this year. They both won all four major critics' awards (National Society of Film Critics, New York Film Critics Circle, Los Angeles Film Critics Assn., Broadcast Film Critics Assn.) plus the Golden Globe and Screen Actors' Guild Awards. It's important to note that SAG has only been bestowing awards since 1994, BFCA (Critics' Choice Award) since 1995. After that, four actors claimed all six prizes: Nicolas Cage ("Leaving Las Vegas"), Daniel Day-Lewis ("There Will Be Blood"), Helen Mirren ("The Queen") and Forest Whitaker ("Last King of Scotland"). 

In 1994, Martin Landau ("Ed Wood") and Dianne Wiest ("Bullets Over Broadway") pulled off full sweeps of the precursor prizes that included the SAG Award. Before that, a sweep was defined as snagging laurels from the three leading groups of print journos (New York, L.A. and national society) plus the Golden Globe. Actors who accomplished that: Sally Field ("Norma Rae"), Gene Hackman ("Unforgiven"), Dustin Hoffman and Mery Streep ("Kramer vs. Kramer"), Holly Hunter ("The Piano"), Jack Nicholson ("Terms of Endearment"), Michelle Pfeiffer ("The Fabulous Baker Boys"), Sissy Spacek ("Coal Miner's Daughter"), Mary Steenburgen ("Melvin and Howard"), Meryl Streep ("Sophie's Choice") and Emma Thompson ("Howards End"). All of the stars mentioned above went on to win the Oscar with one exception. Pfeiffer was stopped by Jessica Tandy ("Driving Miss Daisy").

The New York Film Critics Circle began doling out trophies in 1935, the national society in 1966. To give our awards analysis in this blog article some context, I'm beginning our scrutiny at 1976, the year the L.A. critics joined the kudos game.

Of the above-named champs, these also won National Board of Review: Cage, Field, Hunter, Mirren, Nicholson, Pfeiffer, Spacek, Streep, Thompson, Whitaker. I don't consider that to be a crucial part of the definition of a full sweep, however, since it's not an industry award – not bestowed by journalists or industry insiders. NBR is really like a People's Choice Award bestowed by sophisticated New Yorkers. Since we don't count the nationwide People's Choice Award, maybe we shouldn't count NBR either.

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Meryl Streep and Jeff Bridges ALMOST won National Society of Film Critics Awards

January 3, 2010 |  4:23 pm

Meryl Streep ("Julie & Julia") and Jeff Bridges ("Crazy Heart") almost won best actress and actor awards from the National Society of Film Critics today when they led during early voting but then eventually lost after further balloting to Yolande Moreau ("Seraphine") and Jeremy Renner ("The Hurt Locker").

The society's voting conclave at Sardi's restaurant in New York was one of the most harmonious, speedy sessions in recent memory. Many of the top awards were decided on the first ballot by all 46 voters (out of 64 members total) — 20 present, 26 proxy voters in distant cities who submitted paper ballots. Those quick category decisions included best picture ("The Hurt Locker"), director (Kathryn Bigelow, "The Hurt Locker") and  foreign film ("Summer Hours").

National Society of Film Critics Meryl Streep Jeff Bridges news

However, when the voting in some categories continued to a second ballot, out-of-town proxies fell out of the tallying, following society rules, and only the 20 members present at Sardi's could vote. This radical change in procedure often affects the award outcomes dramatically.  So does another voting rule: A winner must not only have the most points but appear on a majority of ballots.

Streep led today on the first ballot for best actress with a score of 33 over Yolande Moreau and Carey Mulligan ("An Education"), who both had 29 points. However, when proxies dropped out of voting on the second round, Mulligan fell out of the top three and Moreau won with 22 points over Streep (21) and "Bright Star" performer Abbie Cornish (19).

The best-actor vote also went two rounds.  Bridges led on the first session with a big lead (52) over Renner (39) and "Up in the Air" star George Clooney (26). But Clooney dropped out of the top three on the second round when Renner (30) triumphed over Bridges (24) and "Bad Lieutenant" star Nicolas Cage (15).

The most heated battle was over best supporting actress, which went five rounds. Mo'Nique ("Precious") led during all sessions with Anna Kendrick ("Up in the Air") in the place position. Vera Farmiga ("Up in the Air") and Edith Scob ("Summer Hours") jockeyed with Samantha Morton ("The Messenger") for the show spot during various ballots, but that third spot eventually went to Morton.

Christoph Waltz ("Inglourious Basterds") led during all three ballots for best supporting actor. Woody Harrelson ("The Messenger") came in second on the first ballot, then tied Christian McKay ("Me and Orson Welles") on the second round.

Below are the final point scores. Read more about the National Society of Film Critics' vote results here.

* = winner

*1. "The Hurt Locker" 64  (Kathryn Bigelow)
2. "Summer Hours" 23 (Olivier Assayas)
3. "Inglourious Basterds" 17 (Quentin Tarantino)

*1. Kathryn Bigelow  85  ("The Hurt Locker")
2. Olivier Assayas 23 ("Summer Hours")
3. Wes Anderson  18 ("Fantastic Mr. "Fox")

*1. Yolande Moreau 22 ("Seraphine")
2. Meryl Streep 21 ("Julie & Julia" and "Fantastic Mr. Fox")
3. Abbie Cornish 19 ("Bright Star")

*1. Jeremy Renner  30  (The Hurt Locker")
2. Jeff Bridges 24  ("Crazy Heart")
3. Nicolas Cage  15  ("Bad Lieutenant")

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'The Hurt Locker' victory at National Society of Film Critics: Good news for 'Avatar'?

January 3, 2010 |  2:49 pm

Avatar Titanic National Society of Film Critics news

When "The Hurt Locker" beat "Avatar" and other rivals for the best picture prize bestowed today by the National Society of Film Critics, it marked the fourth time that the group agreed with the other two prestigious critics' organizations that have been in existence for several decades: the New York Film Critics Circle and the Los Angeles Film Critics Assn.

Previously, the groups concurred on "L.A. Confidential" (1997), "Schindler's List" (1993) and "GoodFellas" (1990). That means that the last time the trio lined up, a different film sailed on to win the Oscar over "L.A. Confidential" -- "Titanic." Its director, of course, was James Cameron, who's currently in the derby with "Avatar." Hmmm . . . should producers of "The Hurt Locker" be worried?

The Oscars rubber-stamped "Schindler's List," of course, but the academy preferred "Dances With Wolves" to "GoodFellas" in 1990.

See the full list of NSFC winners here.

Photos: "Avatar" (20th Century Fox), "Titanic" (Paramount)


Meryl Streetp and Jeff Bridges ALMOST won National Society of Film Critics Awards

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'The Hurt Locker' sweeps National Society of Film Critics Awards

January 3, 2010 |  1:50 pm

The Hiurt Locker News

"The Hurt Locker" swept the awards bestowed today by the National Society of Film Critics during its voting conclave held at Sardi's restaurant in New York. The Iraqi war drama won best picture, director (Kathryn Bigelow) and actor (Jeremy Renner as a daredevil U.S. soldier who disarms bombs).

The society voted Yolande Moreau best actress for "Seraphine." Previously, she won best actress for her portrayal of French artist Seraphine de Senlis at the Cesar Awards (France's equivalent of the Oscars) where "Seraphine" swept up seven trophies, including best picture. She also won the lead actress laurels bestowed by the Los Angeles Film Critics Association.

Earlier this derby season, "The Hurt Locker" was voted best picture by the New York Film Critics Circle, Los Angeles Film Critics Association, Boston Society of Film Critics, Gotham Awards and other groups.

Other NSFC winners:

Supporting Actor: Christoph Waltz, "Inglourious Basterds," and Paul Schneider, "Bright Star"

Supporting Actress: Mo'Nique, "Precious"

Screenplay: Joel and Ethan Coen, "A Serious Man"

Foreign-Language Film: "Summer Hours"

Nonfiction Film: "The Beaches of Agnes"

Cinematography: Christian Berger, "The White Ribbon"

Production design: Nelson Lowry, "Fantastic Mr. Fox"

The society includes 64 members from major media outlets in Los Angeles, New York, Boston, Philadelphia and Chicago, including Time, Newsweek, New Yorker, Village Voice and It's been bestowing awards since 1966.

Photo: "The Hurt Locker" (Summit)


Meryl Streetp and Jeff Bridges ALMOST won National Society of Film Critics Awards

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Curious Oscar Theory: Best picture = best title?

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Behind the scenes of the Gotham film critics awards

December 14, 2009 |  1:54 pm

NYFCC logo Our good pal Lou Lumenick, film critic for the New York Post, has written a must-read item detailing the results of various rounds of balloting by the New York Film Critics Circle. As Lou notes, "the NYFCC and the Los Angeles Film Critics Assn. rarely agree on their top choices" and yet "the New Yorkers almost exactly duplicated the L.A. list." And unlike previous years when compromises seemed to be commonplace, this year only the best documentary award went to a contender ("Time and the City") that was not leading either alone or in a tie on the first ballot.

The first round of voting was a single choice by the 21 members present and eight proxies. Only the animated film prize was awarded with just one ballot as L.A. champ "Fantastic Mr. Fox" won with 14 votes to eight for "Up" and three for "Coraline."

For the second round, both members present and proxies used a weighted ballot with three, two and one points allotted. The winner had to appear on a majority of ballots as well. L.A. victor "The Hurt Locker" took best picture in this round with 42 points, outpolling "Up in the Air" (25 points) -- which was also the runner-up in L.A. -- and "Fantastic Mr. Fox" (16 points) combined. Likewise, "Hurt" helmer Kathryn Bigelow -- who also won out West -- was the decisive winner in the second round, racking up 56 points, with Wes Anderson ("Fantastic Mr. Fox") second with 15 points and Quentin Tarantino ("Inglorious Basterds") third with 13 points. [L.A. runner-up Michael Haneke ("The White Ribbon") did not figure in this race.]

Meryl Streep ("Julie & Julia") won best actress in this second round, with her 31 points outscoring Tilda Swinton (29) and Carey Mulligan (24). [While surprise L.A. winner Yolande Moreau ("Seraphine") did not contend here, Mulligan was runner-up out West.] L.A. champ Mo'Nique ("Precious") won the Gotham supporting actress award on the second ballot, and her 49 points was more than the combined scores of "Up in the Air" players Vera Farmiga (26) and L.A. runner-up Anne Kendrick (21).

George Clooney ("Up in the Air," "Fantastic Mr. Fox") won best actor in the third round where the weighted ballot remained but proxies were dropped. His 38 points edged out L.A. winner Jeff Bridges ("Crazy Heart") at 29 points and "Hurt Locker" star Jeremy Renner with 18 points. [L.A. runner-up Colin Firth ("A Single Man") was not in the mix in any significant way in New York.]

L.A. supporting actor victor Christophe Waltz did not win in New York till the third ballot when, with 36 points, he prevailed over Christian McKay ("Me and Orson Welles") at 25 and L.A. runner-up Peter Capaldi ("In the Loop") with 13 points. 

Likewise, L.A. winning cinematographer Christian Berger ("The White Ribbon") only won over the Gotham critics in the third round when his 30 points bested the work of "Avatar" lenser Mauro Fiore (21 points) and "A Serious Man" shooter Roger Deakins (18 points). [L.A. runner-up Barry Ackroyd ("The Hurt Locker") did not figure in the New York race.]

The screenplay award in New York almost went to L.A. champs Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner ("Up in the Air") on the third ballot, but as the rules precluded any new contenders at that point, there had to be a re-vote and L.A. runners-up Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci and Tony Roche ("In the Loop") ended up winning with 29 points to 28 for the "Air" crew while "Inglorious Basterds" writer-director Tarantino came in third with 19 points.

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Who belongs to the National Society of Film Critics?

January 5, 2009 |  8:45 am

Here's a list of current members the National Society of Film Critics, which announced its award winners this past weekend. If there's no media affiliation cited after a member's name, that means that the journo is in between gigs and must land a new media outlet over the next year or else drop out of the group. The society's longtime executive director is Elisabeth Weis.

MEMBERS: Sam Adams (Philadelphia City Paper), John Anderson (Newsday), David Ansen (Newsweek), Gary Arnold, Sheila Benson (Seattle Weekly), Jami Bernard (Moviecitynews.Com), Peter Brunette (Hollywood Reporter), Ty Burr (Boston Globe), Jay Carr (Turner Classics Online, NECN), Eleanor Ringel Carter (The Daily Report), Godfrey Cheshire (Metro Magazine), Mike Clark (USA Today), Richard Corliss (Time), David Denby (The New Yorker), Morris Dickstein (Dissent), Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times), David Edelstein (New York Magazine), Steve Erickson (L.A. Magazine), Scott Foundas (L.A. Weekly), Chris Fujiwara (Boston Phoenix), Owen Gleiberman (Entertainment Weekly), Molly Haskell (Town and Country), J. Hoberman (Village Voice), Richard T. Jameson (Pacific Publishing Newspapers), Dave Kehr (Film Comment), Lisa Kennedy (Denver Post), Peter Keough (Boston Phoenix), Stuart Klawans (The Nation), Andy Klein (L.A. Citybeat), Nathan Lee, Emanuel Levy (Paste), Dennis Lim, Todd McCarthy (Variety), Joe Morgenstern (Wall Street Journal), Rob Nelson (Minnpost.Com), Gerald Peary (Boston Phoenix), John Powers (Vogue), Peter Rainer (Christian Science Monitor), Carrie Rickey (Philadelphia Inquirer), Jonathan Rosenbaum (Www.Jonathanrosenbaum.Com), Andrew Sarris (New York Observer), Richard Schickel (, Lisa Schwarzbaum (Entertainment Weekly), Matt Zoller Seitz (New York Press), Henry Sheehan (KCET-TV, KPCC-FM), Robert Sklar (Cineaste), Michael Sragow (Baltimore Sun), Chuck Stephens (San Francisco Bay Guardian), David Sterritt, Jan Stuart (Newsday), Amy Taubin (Film Comment), Charles Taylor (Newark Star-Ledger), Ella Taylor (L.A. Weekly), Kevin Thomas (L.A. Times), Desson Thomson, Peter Travers (Rolling Stone), Kenneth Turan (L.A. Times), James Verniere (Boston Herald), Armond White (New York Press), Michael Wilmington (Chicago Daily Herald), William Wolf (Wolf Entertainment Guide), Stephanie Zacharek (

Best actress?

January 5, 2009 |  8:32 am


Film critics love to do wacky things when voting for awards, so you shouldn't be too surprised that a member of the National Society of Film Critics nominated Eve — Wall-E's robot galpal — as best actress. That's the category where most mischief lands. In recent years, various wags at the New York Film Critics Circle nominated Bianca, the blow-up sex doll from "Lars and the Real Girl," and Tom Cruise ("Vanilla Sky") as lead actress contenders. Yes, that's right, actress.

Photos: Disney, MGM, Paramount

Upsets at the National Society of Film Critics Awards! 'Bashir' bumps off 'Wall-E'!

January 4, 2009 |  9:32 am

It's the most surprising best-picture choice of the National Society of Film Critics since "Babe" in 1995! This year's selection of "Waltz With Bashir" marks the first time that the society has ever picked an animated film or a documentary.

"Bashir" won on the second ballot with 26 points, followed by "Happy-Go-Lucky" and "Wall-E," which tied for second place with 20 points. "Bashir" only came in third on the first ballot, however, after "Milk" landed in second, and "Wall-E" emerged as the initial front-runner. "Wall-E" was recently voted best picture by the Los Angeles Film Critics Assn.


Results often change dramatically between the society's first two voting rounds due to a shift in members' input. On the first ballot, all 63 members of the National Society of Film Critics may send in votes from various locations across the U.S., but only critics present at the voting session held at Sardi's restaurant in New York may participate in second and subsequent ballots. This year 49 nationwide members sent in ballots for the first round; 23 were present at Sardi's.

Many races were chosen in just one ballot, including best actor (Sean Penn, "Milk") and actress (Sally Hawkins, "Happy-Go-Lucky"), who've swept most earlier awards from critics. Best screenplay was decided in two ballots, but "Happy-Go-Lucky's" Mike Leigh led both rounds. That victory is controversial since Leigh insists that his films — largely created via improvisational acting — don't have typical screenplays. In fact, up at Toronto Film Festival last September, Leigh told Gold Derby vehemently, " 'Happy-Go-Lucky' doesn't have a script!"

Leigh also won best director — but on the second ballot. On the first ballot, Danny Boyle ("Slumdog Millionaire") led by a wide margin, followed by Gus Van Sant ("Milk"), then Leigh in third place.

Front-runners also shifted during the first and second voting phases for best supporting actor and actress. Heath Ledger ("The Dark Knight") led on the first ballot, but lost to Eddie Marsan ("Happy-Go-Lucky") on the second. Eventual winner Hanna Schygulla ("The Edge of Heaven") was only ranked forth in the first tally. Penelope Cruz ("Vicky Cristina Barcelona") led the first round, followed by Viola Davis ("Doubt") and Rosemarie DeWitt ("Rachel Getting Married").

While voting, members rank three choices in each category on a weighed ballot, assigning three points to their top choice, two to their second and one to their third. Winners must not only have the most points, but appear on a majority of ballots. This latter requirement is what often causes voting to go many ballots and get contentious. Last year the battle over best supporting actor went four heated rounds during which the lead place shifted back and forth between Javier Bardem ("No Country for Old Men"), who led on the first canvass, and eventual winner Casey Affleck ("Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford").

As per the society's rules, the separate category for best foreign-language film was dropped after Israel's "Bashir" won best picture. In that top race, the society used to have a snooty reputation for always picking artsy foreign-lingo fare, usually from France ("Day for Night," "The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie") or Sweden ("Persona," "Shame"). That's only happened several times since 1990, most recently in 2006 ("Pan's Labyrinth").

Strangely, the society didn't consider the documentary category to be redundant this year. That prize went to "Man on Wire," and "Bashir" didn't land among the top three vote-getters.

Critics groups, especially ones based in New York, are infamous for tossing in gag contenders. This year Eve — Wall-E's robot lover — got a vote for best actress and Jean-Claude Van Damme made the lead-actor slugfest.

The National Society of Film Critics was launched in 1966 by journalists who were banned from the New York Film Critics Circle. It's only agreed with the Oscars on best picture four times — "Annie Hall" (1977), "Unforgiven" (1992), "Schindler's List" (1993) and "Million Dollar Baby" (2004) — but it played a key role in advancing "Annie Hall" in the academy derby. Most recently its Oscar impact could be felt after it chose "The Pianist" (2002) as best picture, giving it serious momentum. At the Oscars ceremony, many observers believed it was about to pull off an upset for best picture after it won best screenplay and pulled off shockeroos for lead actor (Adrien Brody) and director (Roman Polanski). Nonetheless, "Chicago" held onto its front-runner status and danced off with the top prize at the end of the night.

1. "Waltz With Bashir" — 26 points
2. "Happy-Go-Lucky" — 20
2. "Wall-E" — 20

1. Mike Leigh ("Happy-Go-Lucky") — 36
2. Gus Van Sant ("Milk") — 20
3. Danny Boyle ("Slumdog Millionaire") — 16

1. Sean Penn ("Milk") — 87
2. Mickey Rourke ("The Wrestler") — 40
3. Clint Eastwood ("Gran Torino") — 38

1. Sally Hawkins ("Happy-Go-Lucky") — 65
2. Melissa Leo ("Frozen River") — 33
3. Michelle Williams ("Wendy and Lucy") — 31

1. Eddie Marsan ("Happy-Go-Lucky") — 41
2. Heath Ledger ("The Dark Knight") — 35
3. Josh Brolin ("Milk") — 29

1. Hanna Schygulla ("The Edge of Heaven) — 29
2. Viola Davis ("Doubt") — 29
3. Penelope Cruz (Vicky Cristina Barcelona") — 24

1. "Man on Wire" — 55
2. "Trouble the Water" — 34
3. "Encounters at the End of the World" — 26

1. "Happy-Go-Lucky," Mike Leigh — 29
2. "A Christmas Tale," Arnaud Desplechin — 24
3. "Synecdoche, New York," Charlie Kaufman — 17

1. "Slumdog Millionaire," Anthony Dod Mantle — 29
2. "Flight of the Red Balloon," Lee Ping-Bing — 22
3. "The Dark Knight," Wally Pfister — 18
4. "Still Life, "Yu Lik-Wai" — 18

"Razzle Dazzle: The Lost World"

Photos: Disney / Sony Pictures Classics

Get ready for the 'Slumdog' sweep!

December 8, 2008 | 10:32 pm

While snooping among the ranks of the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. today, it became quite clear that "Slumdog Millionaire" is destined to win best drama picture next Jan. 11. Considering it recently won the National Board of Review and is the current fave of The Envelope's Oscar pundits to bag the top Oscar, it seems poised to sweep most of the annual derby.

But the cliffhanger remains: how thorough the sweep?

Only once in modern film history has one movie won the top prize at every major Hollywood award — "Schindler's List" (1993) — so the odds are stacked against "Slumdog" to do the same. I don't think it can sweep the trifecta of print critics' awards, for example: the New York Film Critics Circle, Los Angeles Film Critics Assn. and the National Society of Film Critics. Even when the Gothamites and Angelenos agree on a best pic, the NSFC usually takes its own course. In 2004, when New York and L.A. picked "Sideways" in early December, NSFC embraced "Million Dollar Baby" a month later. In 2005, when New York and L.A. picked "Brokeback Mountain," NSFC chose "Capote."


New York and L.A. don't usually select the same film, though. Last year NYFCC picked "No Country for Old Men" and LAFCA chose "There Will Be Blood." This year I'm betting that they both pick "Slumdog" when the Angelenos vote today and the New Yorkers cast ballots Wednesday. The reason: The movie is not only a winner in every way, it's got snob appeal, being an indie with art-house credentials. Director Danny Boyle has been a critics' darling since "Trainspotting" (1996), but he's never won an award from a major U.S. film critics group. "Slumdog" is just the chance they've been waiting for.

The big difference between the New York and L.A. critics' awards will be in acting races. If the Angelenos pick Mickey Rourke ("The Wrestler"), as I think they will, then the New Yorkers will pick someone else, just to be different, a day later. Rourke's a good bet for LAFCA because the group of 44 members is more than 75% male. Count on them getting caught up in a testosterone rush over "The Wrestler." Wanting to pick something else the next day, the New York group (also overwhelmingly male, but it just added several female members!) will probably opt for a low-budget, critically praised indie about a nerdy abandoned old guy (just like NYFCC members) that was produced in New York: "The Visitor," starring Richard Jenkins.

Beware: If "The Wrestler" sets off a hormonal tsunami, it might end up snatching away one of the best-picture awards from LAFCA or NYFCC. The other one will still go to "Slumdog."

In the best actress race, one of the two critics groups will inevitably opt for snooty Kristin Scott Thomas speaking French and looking all morose and depressed all the time in "I've Loved You So Long." Since LAFCA votes first, it'll probably nab her before the New Yorkers do. Gothamites will want to pick someone else, but who? I'm just guessing Kate Winslet ("Revolutionary Road"), but that's just a wild guess, and anything's possible given the group's odd voting process.

Here are my full predix below. See a full breakdown of other pundits' at

Best Picture: "Slumdog Millionaire"
Best Director: Danny Boyle, "Slumdog Millionaire"
Best Actor: Mickey Rourke, "The Wrestler"
Best Actress: Kristin Scott Thomas, "I've Loved You So Long"
Best Supporting Actor: Heath Ledger, "The Dark Knight"
Best Supporting Actress: Taraji P. Henson, "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"

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Those diehard print dudes in the New York Film Critics Circle finally recognize (wow) the Internet — and women!

November 18, 2008 |  1:40 pm

Extra! Extra! Breaking news: Newspapers' Stalinist rule over all media is kaput!

The triumph of the Internet over competing media is official. Its clout was widely acknowledged for years, sure, but there's been a curious holdout: a bunch of graybeards hiding in the alternate universe of the New York Film Critics Circle who think they still rule the planet along with chaps named Pulitzer and Hearst.

When the New York Film Critics Circle was formed in 1935, it was comprised of "13 metropolitan cinema soothersayers" engaged in "star chamber proceedings," according to the New York Times. Members all belonged to the city's many newspapers, which included the American, Daily News, Herald Tribune, Journal, Mirror, Post, Times, Sun and World-Telegram. No one else was permitted to join — not even widely respected film critics writing for magazines and book publishers.

Magazine writers were so irked about being shut out of NYFCC that, in 1966, they formed a rival critics group also based in Manhattan — the National Society of Film Critics, which permitted newspaper journos to join too. Technically, all critics can join NSFC, but TV riffraff like the late Joel Siegel has always been shut out. (Joel used to complain to me bitterly about it when he was a regular contributor to the old For the most part, Web writers have been shunned too, but a few have been tolerated. At least they are — theoretically — eligible to submit applications for membership.

Not true at NYFCC, which finally caved in and permitted magazine journos to join a few decades ago, but otherwise it's remained a print-only closed circle.

However, today NYFCC announced that Web writers are finally included as the names of three new members were unveiled: Karen Durbin (Elle Magazine), Dana Stevens ( and Stephanie Zacharek ( It's startling that all three are women.



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Odds on Oscars' best-actor race: Can Clooney upset?

February 18, 2008 | 10:36 am

Now that we're in the home stretch of the Oscar derby, here are Gold Derby's odds in the best-actor race.

Daniel Day-Lewis, "There Will Be Blood" — Even
George Clooney, "Michael Clayton" — 6/5
Johnny Depp, "Sweeney Todd" — 8/1
Tommy Lee Jones, "In the Valley of Elah" — 12/1
Viggo Mortensen, "Eastern Promises" — 20/1

Sure, Day-Lewis is out front, but I don't think he's as far ahead as other pundits believe. Remember the last time he looked like an Oscar inevitability after sweeping the early kudos for portraying a different sinister role? In 2002, he got upset by Adrien Brody ("The Pianist"). Sure, things were different then. "Gangs of New York" even had more nominations (10) than "There Will Be Blood" does now (8), but it wasn't widely respected like "Blood" nor a viable contender to win best picture, as "Blood" is. But it does remind us Oscarwatchers not to make assumptions about a notoriously frisky derby where lead ponies sometimes trip up.

I think that there's another past best-actor race that may — perchance — have parallels to today. In 1986, "Mona Lisa" star Bob Hoskins swept every early major award, just as Day-Lewis has this year: New York and L.A. film critics, National Society of Film Critics, Golden Globe and BAFTA. Like Day-Lewis, Hoskins is a Brit who is going up against a hip, dashing American matinee star with a chiseled jaw, huge fan base and aura of Hollywood icon. Paul Newman ended up winning for "The Color of Money" largely because he was ridiculously overdue after six previous defeats. But Clooney may have something else going for him.

Never before has Clooney been nominated in the lead race. We don't know how strong his support may be. Apparently, it's huge enough to propel "Michael Clayton" to seven nominations, including best picture. The film itself is admired, but let's be honest: that's largely because of Clooney. It fills a huge gap. Clooney is such a superstar that you'd expect there would be many films like "Clayton" that feature him in the lead role, looking like Clooney, handsome and jaunty, acting all angst-beset, then suddenly finding his Inner Hero. But he's consistently chosen such quirky, artistically challenging parts that "Clayton" is the Clooney movie all Hollywood has been waiting for.

So many of my fellow Oscarologists are so aware of "Clayton's" popularity with voters that they warn us a best-pic upset is possible (a long shot, granted, but possible) and now they're suddenly hopping on the Tilda Swinton bandwagon this late in the derby, convinced that that's where voters will put their "Clayton" vote. But I ask you: If voters are really that keen on "Clayton," why would they put that vote anywhere but behind the man who makes them love it so?

Yes, it seems that Day-Lewis may be the likely winner, but I am much more leery of Clooney than they are and give him better odds than they do. Tomorrow is the deadline for us pundits at TheEnvelope to log our final predix. I am thisclose to ditching Day-Lewis for Clooney and may do so.


(Photos: Handmade Films/ Buena Vista/ Warner Bros./ Paramount Vantage)

Can Sean Penn upset the Coens at DGA Awards?

January 25, 2008 |  6:37 pm

I'll be at the Directors Guild of America Awards on Saturday night — blogging results live here — and fully expect, as most pundits do, to be informing you that the Coens just won the feature-film trophy. But, beware: upsets are possible by Sean Penn and Paul Thomas Anderson.


First, let's dish Anderson. "There Will Be Blood" is the biggest surprise of derby season: nothing at all like "Boogie Nights" or the pix he's done in the past. It's been declared best picture by the National Society of Film Critics and L.A. Film Critics Association (by comparison, "No Country for Old Men" claimed New York Film Critics' Circle and Critics' Choice — not quite as snooty or close to Hollywood home) and it has more of a big, serious epic sprawl. "Blood" is fresher — it spilled out at Christmastime; "No Country" came out in November. This latter factor could actually be a drawback, though, since fewer voters have probably seen "Blood" compared to "No Country." There are 13,000 DGA members scattered across the U.S. where "Blood" has been in limited release, compared to 370 members of the Oscars' directors' branch who have easy access to local screenings, private or theater, across L.A. Sometimes it helps to be out of the gate early, but "Blood" still, surprisingly, mustered a nomination, so that means voters are paying attention.


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