Critics' Choice Awards: Noms Give Hope to On-the-Bubble Oscar Hopefuls

Two Days, One Night Still - H 2014
Courtesy of Toronto International Film Festival

Two Days, One Night Still - H 2014

I would venture a guess that a handful of longish-shot Oscar hopefuls — among them Unbroken's Angelina Jolie, Gone Girl's David Fincher, The Grand Budapest Hotel's Ralph Fiennes, Two Days, One Night's Marion Cotillard, Inherent Vice's Josh Brolin and Snowpiercer's Tilda Swintonquoted Dumb and Dumber's Jim Carrey on Monday morning when the Broadcast Film Critics Association announced its nominees for the 20th annual Critics' Choice Movie Awards: "So you're telling me there's a chance!"

That's because the BFCA smiled upon each of these individuals with major nominations, whereas few, if any, other major organizations have done the same.

The memberships of the BFCA, a group of several hundred journalists (full disclosure: I'm one of them), and the Academy, a group of several thousand filmmakers, don't overlap in any way. But the BFCA's Critics' Choice noms still matter because they signal to Academy members — among the few people in the world who still pay attention to what critics think about films — that certain films and people that they haven't yet checked out are indeed worthy of making time to see and consider.

Critics' Choice noms have, over the past several years, been among the most consistently strong predictors of Oscar noms — but, of course, it's important to note that the BFCA nominates 10 films for best picture, whereas the Academy reserves the right to nominate anywhere between five and 10, and the BFCA nominates six performers in each of its acting categories, whereas the Academy limits itself to just five, so a Critics' Choice nom can sometimes represent nothing more than a tease.

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Even so, when a Critics' Choice nom follows SAG and Golden Globe noms, that generally seals the deal for an Oscar nom. Indeed, over the 19 years in which all four groups have issued awards, only 14 performances have ever received noms from the first three but not the fourth: Cameron Diaz for Vanilla Sky (2001), Paul Giamatti for Sideways (2004), Russell Crowe for Cinderella Man (2005), Leonardo DiCaprio for The Departed (2006), Ryan Gosling for Lars and the Real Girl (2007), Angelina Jolie for A Mighty Heart (2007), Mila Kunis for Black Swan (2010), DiCaprio again for J. Edgar (2011), Tilda Swinton for We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011), John Hawkes for The Sessions (2012), Marion Cotillard for Rust and Bone (2012) and, last year, Tom Hanks for Captain Phillips, Emma Thompson for Saving Mr. Banks and Daniel Bruhl for Rush.

This year, that bodes very well for 18 people vying for one of the Academy's 20 acting slots. In the best actor category: The Imitation Game's Benedict Cumberbatch, Nightcrawler's Jake Gyllenhaal, Birdman's Michael Keaton and The Theory of Everything's Eddie Redmayne. In the best actress category: Cake's Jennifer Aniston, The Theory of Everything's Felicity Jones, Still Alice's Julianne Moore, Gone Girl's Rosamund Pike and Wild's Reese Witherspoon. In the best supporting actor category: The Judge's Robert Duvall, Boyhood's Ethan Hawke, Birdman's Edward Norton, Foxcatcher's Mark Ruffalo and Whiplash's J.K. Simmons. And in the best supporting actress category: Boyhood's Patricia Arquette, The Imitation Game's Keira Knightley, Birdman's Emma Stone and Into the Woods' Meryl Streep.

Of the other Critics' Choice-nominated performers, all except Cotillard, Brolin and Swinton have received a Globe nom but not a SAG nom — namely, best actor nominees Ralph Fiennes (The Grand Budapest Hotel) and David Oyelowo (Selma) and best supporting actress nominee Jessica Chastain (A Most Violent Year).

The only performer who received SAG and Globe noms but did not receive a Critics' Choice nom is Foxcatcher's Steve Carell.

Last year, eight of the 10 films that received best picture Critics' Choice noms went on to be among the nine best picture Oscar noms. The BFCA nominated two films that the Academy did not (Inside Llewyn Davis and Saving Mr. Banks) and the Academy nominated one film that the BFCA did not (Philomena).

The best picture Critics' Choice noms bring encouraging news for Gone Girl, Nightcrawler, Unbroken and Whiplash, which had not been nominated for the best ensemble SAG Award or one of the two best picture Golden Globe awards, the two key best picture Oscar precursors that have been announced up to this point. They also reinforce the good news that The Grand Budapest Hotel received when it was nominated for those two prizes — as was also the case for fellow best picture Critics' Choice nominees Birdman, Boyhood, The Imitation Game and The Theory of Everything. And they also reinforce the prospects of Selma, which was nominated for best picture (drama) Globe but not the SAG ensemble prize.  

Read more Golden Globe Awards Nominations: The Complete List

More than those of most other groups, BFCA members clearly liked Grand Budapest, giving it 11 total noms, second only to Birdman's 13. They include not only picture and Fiennes' best actor nom but also Wes Anderson's noms for direction and original screenplay. Fiennes also was nominated for best actor in a comedy (a category in which Birdman's Keaton also landed a second nom). BFCA voters also demonstrated support for Inherent Vice (nominating not only Brolin but also Paul Thomas Anderson's adaptation of Thomas Pynchon's novel); Snowpiercer (in addition to Swinton, they gave it noms for best art direction and best sci-fi/horror movie); and Unbroken (nominating it for best pic, Jolie's direction, Ethan Coen, Joel Coen, Richard LaGravenese and William Nicholson's screen adaptation of Laura Hillenbrand's biography and Roger Deakins' cinematography).

Like the earlier-announcing groups, the BFCA did not go for Clint Eastwood's American Sniper, which showed up only in the categories of best action movie and best actor in an action movie (Bradley Cooper). And while Interstellar landed a respectable seven total noms, none were in any of the major categories, which has to be regarded as a rough blow to the film's prospects, considering that critics have always been Christopher Nolan's base of support.

Two other nominations are guaranteed to serve merely as tantalizing reminders to their recipients of how close they came to Oscar noms that they most assuredly will not receive: best documentary nominee Glen Campbell: I'll Be Me (which landed a nom over another great music-related doc, Keep on Keepin' On) was not included on the Oscar shortlist that was announced earlier this month and is therefore ineligible for that prize; and Antonio Sanchez's score for Birdman, which was deemed ineligible for the best original score Oscar and therefore has no shot at getting good news on the morning of Jan. 15. That evening may be a different story, though, because that's when the Critics' Choice Awards ceremony will take place at the Hollywood Palladium and air live on A&E.

Twitter: @ScottFeinberg