What Should We Make of the 2012 Critics' Choice Award Nominations? (Analysis)

THR's awards analyst explains why people should pay closer attention to the picks of the Broadcast Film Critics Association than other awards-dispensing groups.
Warner Bros. Pictures

On Tuesday morning, the Broadcast Film Critics Association revealed its nominees for the 18th annual Critics' Choice Movie Awards. (Full disclosure: I'm a voting member.) Many of the groups that announce nominations and awards before the Academy do exist in a bubble -- there is, for instance, virtually no history of correlation between the Spirit Awards and the Oscars, even if people pay attention to them as if there is -- but that is not the case with the CCMA. The CCMA noms and awards, in fact, correlate with the Academy's as often as any group's. Last year, for instance, the BFCA nominated all nine of the films that ultimately were nominated for the best picture Oscar (plus one other that was not), whereas the PGA overlapped with the Academy on just seven.

If this rule holds true this year, then the folks associated with DreamWorks' Lincoln should be very happy today and probably will be very happy again on Jan. 10, when the Oscar nominations will be announced in the morning and the CCMA will be presented in the evening: Their film scored an astounding 13 nominations -- a BFCA record, surpassing the 12 that were bestowed upon Black Swan (2010) -- including best picture, best director (Steven Spielberg), best actor (Daniel Day-Lewis), best supporting actor (Tommy Lee Jones), best supporting actress (Sally Field), best adapted screenplay (Tony Kushner) and best acting ensemble. (This is the first year in which the Oscar noms will take place before the Critics Choice Awards, which, unfortunately, could mean that some people snubbed for the former but nominated for the latter will skip the CCMA.)

Hot on the heels of Lincoln is Universal's musical Les Miserables, which scored 11 nominations of its own, including best picture, best director (Tom Hooper), best actor (Hugh Jackman), best supporting actress (Anne Hathaway) and best acting ensemble. The film has proved to be a huge crowd-pleaser at its early screenings, but the fact that it had such an impressive showing Tuesday is somewhat surprising, in the sense that critics' reviews of the film have been decidedly mixed -- though a bit less so when one considers that the BFCA really loves musicals, based on the fact that it honored even the poorly reviewed Nine (2009) with a field-leading 10 nominations.

STORY: 'Lincoln' Leads Critics Choice Awards With Record-Setting 13 Mentions

Most surprising to me is the relatively lackluster showing of Sony's Zero Dark Thirty, which wound up with just five nominations. They were big ones, to be sure -- best picture, best director (Kathryn Bigelow), best actress (Jessica Chastain), best original screenplay (Mark Boal) and best film editing -- but this is the same film that in the past week was chosen as the year's best by the New York Film Critics Circle, the Boston Society of Film Critics, the New York Film Critics Online, the Washington D.C. Area Film Critics and the National Board of Review. Since CCA voting took place during the past week, as well, it is hard to know what to attribute this discrepancy to. I suppose that the tastes of the aforementioned critics groups always have erred a bit more highbrow than the BFCA, which is, like the Academy, more populist-leaning.

Among other noteworthy nominations:

  • Despite being finished and screening so recently, The Weinstein Co.'s Django Unchained still managed to score a best picture nomination. This is a testament to the distributor's agility and aggressiveness, since it probably had to arrange a lot of last-minute special screenings for BFCA members in far-flung cities to ensure that they had a chance to see the film before filling out their ballots.
  • Veteran character actress Ann Dowd (Compliance) won NBR's best supporting actress award last week and was nominated again in that category Tuesday. Magnolia Pictures tells me that they plan to send screeners of the film to the Academy's acting branch within the next few days, which means that a best supporting actress Oscar nomination now looks like a very real possibility.
  • Movie star-turned-character actor Matthew McConaughey (Magic Mike) continued his improbable run to an Oscar nomination for his performance in a summer indie about male strippers. Last week he won the New York Film Critics Circle's best supporting actor award, and he was nominated again in that category Tuesday.
  • Sony's Skyfall cracked into the above-the-line categories -- a first for an installment of the James Bond franchise -- with Javier Bardem and Judi Dench scoring best supporting actor and best supporting actress nominations, respectively. The film also was nominated for best cinematography, best action movie, best actor in an action movie (Daniel Craig) and best song (Adele's title song).
  • Fox Searchlight's The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and Focus Features' Moonrise Kingdom joined Warner Bros.' Argo, The Weinstein Co.'s Silver Linings Playbook, Les Miserables and Lincoln in the best acting ensemble category.
  • Stephen Chbosky, who turned his best-selling novel The Perks of Being a Wallflower into a screenplay, was nominated for best adapted screenplay over much higher-profile competition.
  • Jennifer Lawrence remains the "It" girl of the moment, scoring four mentions Tuesday, more than any other individual. For Silver Linings Playbook, she was recognized with noms for best actress, best actress in a comedy and as part of the best ensemble. She also was nominated for best actress in an action movie for The Hunger Games.

And, in the way of noteworthy snubs:

  • I was quite surprised that Sony Pictures Classics' Amour, one of the year's best-reviewed films, was not among the 10 best picture nominees.
  • Although Django scored a best picture nomination and a best original screenplay nom for Quentin Tarantino, it was completely shut out of the acting categories. I think that this is less a reflection of the film than it is of widespread confusion about which categories its actors fall into. A source close to the film clarified to THR on Monday that they are pushing for Jamie Foxx in the best actor category and Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Samuel L. Jackson for best supporting actor.
  • Awards-hopefuls that were completely shut out: AFFRM's Middle of Nowhere, Focus Features' Hyde Park on Hudson and Promised Land, Fox Searchlight's Hitchcock, IFC Films' On the Road; Magnolia's Take This Waltz, Millennium Entertainment's The Paperboy, Music Box Films' The Deep Blue Sea, Open Road Films' The Grey, Roadside Attractions' Arbitrage, Sony's Hope Springs and The Weinstein Co.'s Quartet.