Critics' Choice Awards: 5 Takeaways as Oscar Nom Voting Comes to a Close

THR's awards columnist shares thoughts about Guillermo del Toro, 'The Post,' James Franco, 'Wonder Woman' and 'In the Fade.'
Christopher Polk/Getty Images for The Critics' Choice Awards
'The Shape of Water' team accepts the best picture Critics' Choice Award.

I've now had a chance to sleep on the results of the 23rd annual Critics' Choice Awards, which were held Thursday night (and which I voted for as a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association and Broadcast Television Journalists Association). These are my five biggest takeaways, with the close of Oscar nomination voting just hours away.

* * *

1. Guillermo del Toro is going to be hard to beat in the best director race.

It is far from assured that The Shape of Water, which won best picture honors at the Critics' Choice Awards, will do the same at the Oscars, since the Oscars employ a preferential ballot, which the Critics' Choice Awards do not, and that can affect things a lot. But what is looking clearer and clearer to me is that the community loves Shape of Water's director, del Toro, who has won a Golden Globe and a Critics' Choice Award in a matter of five days and was greeted with great enthusiasm, from voters and his peers, on both occasions. He's a character, with the profile of Hitchcock and the passion of Tarantino. He's a charmer, and everyone from journalists to Academy members talk about what a lovely guy he is and how much they hope he wins. And he's a master filmmaker, which even people who aren't enamored with his film readily acknowledge. Should he bag the best director Oscar, del Toro will be its fourth Mexican winner in the last five years, with all four wins spread among "The Three Amigos" (Alfonso Cuaron won for Gravity in 2014 and Alejandro G. Inarritu won for Birdman in 2015 and The Revenant in 2016). Dunkirk's Christopher Nolan, who seemed to occupy the pole position heading into this week, had better up his glad-handing game during phase two, or this category could slip away from him very quickly.

2. It's time to start worrying about The Post.

Even with the star power of Steven Spielberg, Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks, as well as a storyline that is an implicit rebuke of President Donald Trump, this drama was shut out at the Golden Globes (0 for 6) and the Critics' Choice Awards (0 for 8). The fact that it couldn't even make a dent with groups of journalists suggests it's going to have a very hard time elsewhere — to the point that I'm starting to worry about Spielberg, Streep and Hanks even landing Oscar nominations. (Spielberg, it must be noted, was not among the DGA Award nominees on Thursday.) In fairness, this week The Post did pick up best picture, best actor and best actress prizes at the National Board of Review Awards; Streep taped a video in which she heaped praise on Hanks and expressed disbelief that he hasn't received an Oscar nom in 17 years; and Hanks guested on my podcast — all signs of life for the film. But it certainly appears to be on shaky ground.

3. James Franco is getting slammed — but will probably still get nominated for an Oscar.

This week — the very week when Oscar voters were filling out and turning in their ballots — has been the best of weeks and the worst of weeks for the director and star of The Disaster Artist. He won best comedy actor Golden Globe and Critics' Choice awards — a one-two punch that would normally suggest that someone is a slam-dunk for a best actor Oscar nom — but he also got raked over the coals on multiple late-night talk shows en route to the Los Angeles Times publishing an exposé that alleges he is yet another Hollywood perpetrator of sexual misconduct. Many could not believe that Franco won the Critics' Choice Award in the wake of the Times story, but the reality is that voters had not seen the Times story prior to the close of voting on Tuesday night, so Franco's offscreen conduct wasn't a consideration for many. While Oscar voting has continued after the publication of that piece, I'm skeptical that a significant number of voters have encountered or processed the news, or that a significant number of those who have will change their voting plans as a result. So, in what will surely provoke this year's version of #OscarsSoWhite outrage, I expect that Franco will still land a best actor Oscar nom on Jan. 23.

4. Don't count out Wonder Woman.

The more I talk to Academy members, the more I hear rumblings about this summer's biggest hit — if not because it's a cinematic work of art, then because no movie better captures this new era of female empowerment. Beyond that, there is a massive amount of affection in the community for its director, Patty Jenkins, and its leading lady, Gal Gadot — the latter is currently the biggest movie star in the world — who have been at as many awards ceremonies as anyone this year. In the past week, Jenkins and Gadot attended the AFI Awards, where their film was recognized as one of 2017's 10 best, and where Jenkins, an AFI alum, received a shout-out from AFI's head honcho, Bob Gazzale, and was invited to offer the closing benediction; then Gadot presented at the Golden Globes; then Jenkins and Gadot jetted to New York to accept the National Board of Review's Spotlight Award; and then both came back to L.A. to attend the Critics' Choice Awards, where the film was awarded best action movie and Gadot accepted the pre-announced #SeeHer honor, prompting one of the few standing ovations of the night. I'm not sure if/where all of this love will manifest itself in the Oscar nominations, but an Academy member with whom I had breakfast this morning thinks that the directors branch may include Jenkins (emphasizing that the DGA, with 17,000-plus voters, is a very different group from the Academy's directors branch, which has just 512), and that the film may sneak into the best picture category, too. I'd feel better about the prospects of the latter if the Academy hadn't stepped away from the very policy — a guaranteed 10 best picture nominees — that it created, in the wake of The Dark Knight's snub in 2009, as part of an effort to include this sort of popular movie. Instead, we could end up with as few as five nominees, which is better than 10 for absolutely no one.

5. In the Fade steps into the spotlight.

Among the many Golden Globe winners that repeated at the Critics' Choice Awards were del Toro, Franco, Darkest Hour's Gary Oldman, Three Billboards' Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell, I, Tonya's Allison Janney, Coco, Shape of Water composer Alexandre Desplat and, last but not least, German film In the Fade. The Academy is in the process of winnowing its shortlist of nine foreign-language films to a final list of five nominees. In the Fade is on the longlist, and I am fairly confident that the Academy noticed how much the rest of the community likes Fatih Akin's film and will not leave it off the final five. And, if it makes the final five, then I think it stands an excellent shot at winning — voters will be more inclined to check it out than some of its competition, thanks to its accumulation of accolades, its timely story (about the rise of hate groups and hate crimes) and their familiarity with star Diane Kruger. Only France, Italy, Spain, Japan, Sweden and Denmark have accumulated more nominations for the foreign-language film Oscar than Germany's 10, and should it rack up No. 11, Germany could become only the ninth country to have won three times or more.