The New York Film Critics Circle Seizes First-Vote Spotlight

"It's fun to cause a little trouble," says NYFCC chair John Anderson.
Will Steven Spielberg’s "War Horse" be screened in time for the first major awards of Oscar season?

The New York Film Critics Circle plans to steal the spotlight from The National Board of Review, traditionally the first influential awards voting body of the Oscar season, by announcing its awards on Nov. 28 (instead of Dec. 13 like last year). "We're the New York Film Critics Circle," NYFCC chairman John Anderson tells The Hollywood Reporter. "Why shouldn't we be starting the conversation? The Gotham Awards are given out Nov. 28, the National Board of Review votes Dec. 1, we're hardly jumpstarting the awards season dramatically."

But it is a dramatic move. "It takes back the buzz we've lost to LA Film Critics Circle [which voted Dec. 12 last year] and the crones at National Board of Review," says one NYFCC member. Says Anderson, "They [the National Board of Review] have almost no reason to exist except to be the first group to announce their choices. And have you ever tried to find out who the members of the National Board of Review are? It's like the Masons or something. It's like some kind of secret society. And why should they have any influence at all? You guys on the West Coast have the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, we have the National Board of Review."

PHOTO: Steven Spielberg’s 'War Horse' Poster Debuts

Critics of the move to earlier voting charge that it could affect the fates of films not yet released, and improve the odds for ones already released. Says the nameless NYFCC member, "Who gets hurt? Us, for having to vote day after Thanksgiving, having to see everything by then, small films that we'd watch on DVD screeners at last minute in search of something better than [Steven Spielberg's not-yet-screened] War Horse. Who benefits? Movies screened at Toronto & NYFF & Venice & Telluride."

VIDEO: 'War Horse': Newest Trailer Heavy on Orchestration, Heartstring Pulling

"The movies are done," retorts Anderson. "I don't think that there's a movie that would be in contention, although it's hard to say that without having seen them, the ones that we've got in our minds that are probably going to be in contention are all finished and the studios are sitting on them because that's what their Oscar strategy calls for. So it's a bit of a crap shoot, but I'm betting you that we see everything without much trouble before Thanksgiving." One NYFCC insider says, "They will show War Horse in time, I have this on good authority." Other contenders can also simply send their screeners and hold their screenings early. "What will be interesting to see will be whether the National Board of Review tries to vote before Thanksgiving. I wouldn't rule it out," says Anderson.

Online and on Twitter, the NYFCC move is controversial. "Everyone's bitching and moaning about it." says Anderson, who can't see what the big deal is. Still, he admits, "It's fun to cause a little trouble." The NYFCC awards will be handed out at a ceremony on Jan. 9, 2012.

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