Critics' Choice Noms: Helpful Hints About How the Academy, Other Awards Groups May Vote

THR's awards columnist tries to make sense of the picks of the Broadcast Film Critics Association, of which he is a member.
Atsushi Nishijima/Twentieth Century Fox
'The Favourite'

It's easy to pick on the Critics' Choice Awards. The annual ceremony, which is determined by the hundreds of members of the Broadcast Film Critics Association and is now in its 24th year, takes place in an airport hangar and occasionally devolves into a circus-like atmosphere, with some of the BFCA members — many out-of-towners who build their once-a-year trip to Hollywood around this event — scrambling to get as many photos with celebrities as they can during commercial breaks, while some awards are presented during those breaks, as well (something the Oscars are planning to copy in February). Plus, this year's Critics' Choice nominations, which were announced Monday morning, feature directing and acting categories with as many as seven nominees, which creates the appearance that they were arbitrarily expanded in order to increase the attendance of big names.

But, knock them as you might, there is no denying that the voting members of the BFCA, of which I am and long have been one, have the pulse of — or, at least, a similar pulse to — the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which is probably why most of the nominees always turn up. Indeed, last year, the BFCA was the first major group that broke for many of the eventual Oscar winners, including The Shape of Water; Guillermo del Toro; Gary Oldman; Frances McDormand; Sam Rockwell; Allison Janney; the screenplays of Call Me by Your Name and Get Out; Roger Deakins' lensing of Blade Runner 2049; Mark Bridges' costumes for Phantom Thread; Darkest Hour's makeup and hairstyling; the animated feature Coco and its original song "Remember Me'; The Shape of Water's original score and production design; and the list goes on.

Therefore, it is worth noting what and who the BFCA nominated — and did not nominate — Monday.

The Favourite landed the most noms, 14, while Black Panther registered the second-most, 12 — although it must be noted that there are special Critics' Choice categories recognizing comedies and action movies, which boosted their respective totals. Also scoring high on the nom leaderboard: First Man, which had been virtually ignored all awards season until now, with 10; Mary Poppins Returns, A Star Is Born and Vice with nine; Roma with eight (including four for Alfonso Cuaron — director, original screenplay, cinematography and film editor); and Green Book with seven.

The Critics' Choice best picture category guarantees 10 nominees, while the Academy's can include anywhere from five to 10. The BFCA, unlike the National Board of Review or American Film Institute, included First Man among its 10 finalists, along with the consensus frontrunners A Star Is Born, Roma, Green Book, The Favourite, Black Panther, Vice, Mary Poppins Returns, BlacKkKlansman and If Beale Street Could Talk. That means that there was not room for on-the-bubble contenders like Eighth Grade and First Reformed, which have received major recognition not only from the indie-specific groups that determine the Gotham and Spirit awards, but also from AFI, and that the studio pic A Quiet Place, which AFI included, is also out, along with Can You Ever Forgive Me?, Bohemian Rhapsody, Widows and Crazy Rich Asians.

Now might be a good moment to point out that many BFCA members are not among the highbrow snobs who comprise other high-profile critics' groups, but rather junket interviewers and TV talking heads whose tastes are probably more aligned with the general public's — much like many of Academy members from below-the-line branches.

To find out which seven of the 10 picture nominees voters are most serious about, you can probably look to the director nominees, which, unlike at the Oscars, are chosen here by the exact same group of people who also chose the picture nominees. It is no surprise to see Roma's Cuaron, A Star Is Born's Bradley Cooper, The Favourite's Yorgos Lanthimos or Vice's Adam McKay among the finalists. But it is interesting that, for the category's final three slots, voters opted for Green Book's Peter Farrelly (yes, even critics are now getting behind one of the two brothers who made Dumb & Dumber), BlacKkKlansman's Spike Lee and First Man's Damien Chazelle — and not Ryan Coogler, the wunderkind director of Black Panther, or other supposed critics' darlings like Eighth Grade's Bo Burnham, First Reformed's Paul Schrader, Cold War's Pawel Pawlikowski or If Beale Street Could Talk's Barry Jenkins.

Fairly or not, the BFCA, like other awards groups that recently announced their picks, can expect to take flak for not including among the seven directing nominees a single woman, especially a day after the Los Angeles Film Critics Association awarded its best director prize to Leave No Trace's Debra Granik.

There are seven nominees for best actor and best actress, as well. For best actor, room was found for Vice's Christian Bale, A Star Is Born's Bradley Cooper, Green Book's Viggo Mortensen, Bohemian Rhapsody's Rami Malek and At Eternity's Gate's Willem Dafoeall of whom were Golden Globe-nominated last Thursday — plus First Reformed's Gotham Award winner Ethan Hawke and First Man's Ryan Gosling. Left on the outside looking in: the young guns, including Golden Globe nominees Lucas Hedges (Globe-nominated for Boy Erased, but also eligible for Ben Is Back), BlacKkKlansman's John David Washington (also a Globe nominee), Stan & Ollie's John C. Reilly (who did land a Critics' Choice nom for best actor in a comedy) and The Old Man & the Gun's Robert Redford, plus Beale Street's Stephan James.

The best actress category includes A Star Is Born's Lady Gaga, The Favourite's Olivia Colman (LAFCA's winner on Sunday), The Wife's Glenn Close, Mary Poppins Returns' Emily Blunt, Can You Ever Forgive Me?'s Melissa McCarthy and Hereditary's Gotham Award winner Toni Collette — plus Roma breakout Yalitza Aparicio. That means there was no room for Golden Globe nominees Rosamund Pike (A Private War), Elsie Fisher (Eighth Grade, although she is nominated for best young actor/actress), Nicole Kidman (Destroyer) or Charlize Theron (Tully), not to mention the formidable Viola Davis (Widows), Julia Roberts (Ben Is Back), Carey Mulligan (Wildlife), Kathryn Hahn (Private Life) or New York Film Critics Circle winner Regina Hall (Support the Girls).

The supporting acting categories include only six nominees each. For the men, they are Green Book's Mahershala Ali, Can You Ever Forgive Me's Richard E. Grant, Beautiful Boy's Timothee Chalamet and BlacKkKlansman's Adam Driver — Golden Globe nominees all — plus A Star Is Born's Sam Elliott and Black Panther's Michael B. Jordan (it would be huge for the film's best picture Oscar prospects if Jordan can land an Oscar nom, as well), but not Golden Globe nominee Sam Rockwell (Vice), Nicholas Hoult (even though seemingly everyone else associated with The Favourite got a nom), Lin-Manuel Miranda (Mary Poppins Returns) or Hugh Grant (who had been thought a possibility for Paddington 2).

The distaff supporting selections are exactly what you would expect for a category with six slots: Vice's Amy Adams, The Favourite's Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz, If Beale Street Could Talk's Regina King, Boy Erased's Kidman and First Man's Claire Foy. As the season progresses, though, I would keep an eye out for Roma's Marina de Tavira, Crazy Rich Asians' Michelle Yeoh or even Leave No Trace's teen-breakthrough Thomasin McKenzie (who was nominated for best young actor/actress).

The BFCA also has a category through which it aims to recognize the year's best acting ensemble, just like the SAG Awards, voting for which ended Sunday night, and my hunch is that the BFCA's picks are pretty much what SAG-AFTRA's will be revealed to be Wednesday: Black Panther, The Favourite, Vice, Crazy Rich Asians and Widows. One of those could be bumped by A Star Is Born, but probably not be Roma or Green Book, as they mostly center on a small group of performers, and SAG tends to reward large casts.

The only other nominations and snubs of note? A Quiet Place, despite having virtually no dialogue, landed an original screenplay nom over the likes of The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, Sorry to Bother You, Private Life and Ben Is Back. The beautiful black-and-white Cold War and sun-hued The Rider were somehow not among the six cinematography nominees. Green Book's score, which has been disqualified by the Academy's music branch for drawing its cues overwhelmingly from preexisting music, was nominated by the BFCA (over Golden Globe nominee A Quiet Place). And, on the heels of landing zero song mentions at the Golden Globes, Mary Poppins Returns has bounced back with two Critics' Choice nominations, booting the likes of Annie Lennox ("Requiem for a Private War" from A Private War) and Kesha ("Here Comes the Change" from On the Basis of Sex).