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It's ZDT for the NBR

And things were looking so super extra competitive this year! Just a few days ago Les Miz, Argo, Lincoln, and Zero Dark Thirty all seemed to be on somewhat equal footing and to a lesser extent Beasts of the Southern Wild, Silver Linings Playbook, and Life of Pi had all received enough warmish embraces from critics, audiences and  Oscared corners of the showbiz culture that we could look forward to a real competition once the Oscar nominations were announced on January 10th. But with the one-two-zero-dark punch of the New York Film Critics Circle and the National Board of Review, the Oscar race suddenly looks a bit less like a clusterfuck and a ltitle more like a done deal. Zero Dark Thirty, Kathryn Bigelow's engrossing account of the hunt for Osama Bin Laden, is suddenly apparently way out front.The NBR generally attempts to spread the wealth but not so this year since they gave ZDT three of their top prizes (Pic, Director, Actress)

Will enough critics groups and precursors disagree or is this just one of those years that seemed competitive and then suddenly wasn't... like, oh, so many years in the past!

Winners and discussion after the jump


  • Best Film:  ZERO DARK THIRTY
  • Best Director: Kathryn Bigelow, ZERO DARK THIRTY
  • Best Actor: Bradley Cooper, SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK
  • Best Actress: Jessica Chastain, ZERO DARK THIRTY
  • Best Supporting Actor: Leonardo DiCaprio, DJANGO UNCHAINED
  • Best Supporting Actress: Ann Dowd, COMPLIANCE
  • Best Original Screenplay: Rian Johnson, LOOPER
  • Best Adapted Screenplay: David O. Russell, SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK
  • Best Animated Feature: WRECK-IT RALPH
  • Special Achievement in Filmmaking: Ben Affleck, ARGO
  • Breakthrough Actor: Tom Holland, THE IMPOSSIBLE
  • Breakthrough Actress: Quvenzhané Wallis,  BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD
  • Best Directorial Debut: Benh Zeitlin, BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD
  • Best Foreign Language Film:  AMOUR
  • Best Documentary: SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN
  • William K. Everson Film History Award: 50 YEARS OF BOND FILMS
  • Best Ensemble: LES MISÉRABLES
  • NBR Freedom of Expression Award: CENTRAL PARK FIVE and PROMISED LAND

The most delightful consequence of Zero Dark Thirty's sudden lead is seeing Jessica Chastain vault forward ahead of Jennifer Lawrence in the Best Actress race. Lawrence does amusing but hardly statue worthy work in Silver Linings Playbook so she always seemed like an odd frontrunner apart from the 'crown the new movie princess!' factor. Bradley Cooper is stronger in the film -- or at least has a fuller character to play -- so it's nice to see him winning this recognition since it'll be tough for him to find a window into the stacked Best Actor race.

My favorite notice here is for Ann Dowd in Compliance. Though she's really a lead, I knew early on -- and told her team as much -- that supporting would be the way to win her attention. It seems to be working. The most surprising win has to be the best Original Screenplay for Looper.

For the first time I'm amused by the title of their "SPOTLIGHT" award which is really just an excuse to get someone else to attend their awards dinner here in NYC.  It's amusing because John Goodman's most vocal detractors this year would surely say the problem is the spotlight... that he's egregiously stealing scenes in films that don't necessarily benefit from such showy focus-pulling.

In addition to their actual awards they also offer up alphabetical top this and top that lists.


  • ARGO

That's only nine but Zero Dark Thirty completes their top ten. Surely the biggest head scratcher would be the inclusion of Promised Land (as they didn't need to give a low profile film two prizes to get them to the awards dinner (since they already won the Freedom of Expression prize). But kudos for the recognition of the tender well played Perks of Being a Wallflower which isn't a film that's been really shaking the Oscar Buzz tree.

Lincoln's sole placement here in "top films" is interesting though not particular telling since there's no telling what the NBR will do each year.

Top 5 Foreign Language Films
(In Alphabetical Order)

  •  BARBARA (Germany - Michael's Review)
  • NO (Chile - Nathaniel's Review)
  • WAR WITCH (Canada)

Though they only include 9 films in their "top ten" since Zero Dark completes it, weirdly their "top 5" foreign films is a full five titles so it's actually a top six since AMOUR was considered the very best. All of these films but for The Kid With the Bike are in the Oscar submission list for Best Foreign Film this year.

Top 5 Documentaries
(In Alphabetical Order)


Only "Only the Young" is not in the running for Oscar's best Documentary nomination.

Top 10 Independent Films
(In Alphabetical Order) 


I recently screened End of Watch which I had missed during its release and I'm thrilled to see it pick up anything since it was roughly thrice as good as I imagined it could be. I wish I had championed it during its theatrical run. Also very happy to see Hello I Must Be Going pick up a citation since Melanie Lynskey is wonderful in the leading role -- a role that really ought to convince Hollywood to stop cramping her to tiny roles.

What's your big takeaway from this year's NBR awards?

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Reader Comments (36)

Anne Hathaway is currently singing the intro song from Beauty and the Beast to keep from crying. Her husband is scared.

December 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterHayden W

Things may change yet again once SAG and The Globes announce...apparently Les Miz is much more popular with Guild members as well.

December 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBia

"and told her team as much" - That reads like you were advocating category fraud... But that can't be right... Right?

December 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMike in Canada

I'm SO excited for Ann Dowd. I loved her in that movie (the movie left me so angry), but she found the perfect amount of empathy in the character to really draw me in. Please tell me she's now headed towards an Oscar Nod!

December 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEli

Mike -- it was my evil shadow side talking. I am deeply ashamed.

December 5, 2012 | Unregistered Commenternathanielr

I would hold off calling it for Zero Dark Thirty just yet. I suspect it may be too dark and challenging. It's got much tougher competition than Hurt Locker.

Recall that Hurt Locker didn't have to go up against feel good safe choices like Lincoln and Les Mis. It's main competition was Precious and Avatar and Basterds none of which are in the typical Academy comfort zone. The most uplifting choice that year was Up in the Air, which was never really in the race.

December 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMichael C.

...and are they really going to award another war film by the same director just 2 years later. Seems doubtful.

I didn't think much of SLP, but I'm happy for the yummy Cooper for the nod. And John Goodman is a fellow St. Louisian, so I'll always root for him.

I really need to see this Beasts movie, don't I?

December 5, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterforever1267

Can Bigelow really make history at the oscars again? I still even think a nomination seems like it'll come as a surprise for me

December 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBVR

I have never even heard of Compliance, but will keep my eyes open for it...

I loveJennifer Lawrence, but to me she was just the supporting actress... if they are going for Robert DeNiro is supporting, then that is her place also. Cooper ( whom I loved in the film )
Is the protagonist... all other characters revolve around him ... this is VERY clear... I am hoping Chastain delivers.. I think she is an excellent actress.

December 5, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterrick

Critics, I'm begging you: PLEASE do not keep awarding Zero Dark Thirty this season. This has been such a GREAT year for film, and there is a truly deep field from which to choose your Best Film of the Year. Picking the same film over and over really does a disservice to the great work done throughout the entire year. Not to say that ZDT isn't totally worthy (I haven't seen it so I can't say), just that there WERE other great films made this year. Steamrollers are no fun for anyone - it even gets boring for the driver after a while.

December 5, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterdenny

If the Best Director nominees turn out to be Affleck-Bigelow-Hooper-Lee-Spielberg, it will be the first time since 1984 that four of the five nominees were previous Best Director winners.

December 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJ.P.

I hope Ann Dowd is this years Jacki Weaver and i also never bought the Lawrence frontrunner status,Hathaway is lagging now and as for Goodman he stuck out in Flight in the worst way a bit like Fiona Shaw in The Black Dahlia.

December 5, 2012 | Unregistered Commentermark

JP-and since Affleck already has an Oscar, it will be the first time in eons since they've had five winners in a category-I can't think of a time, in any category, that that's happened in recent memory.

I still think this is Hathaway's race to be had, but if Hunt or Adams manage to win LAFCA, you can imagine that Hathaway will be on literally every talk show known to man.

December 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJohn T

I can see a huge upset coming in Best Actress, because this issue with Lawrence's character is the same some people have been saying about Chastain's: she doesn't have motivations behind her obsession, a personal life, depth, et cetera.

Without having seen the movie, from what I've been reading, it's not best actress material either.
But WHO could upset?

December 5, 2012 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

The Best Supporting Actor category will be a bloodbath.

December 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterStu

@Cal: In a perfect world, Riva would have the Oscar in a heartbeat (although I'm not dispelling the fact that there's some really strong work from actresses out there. Riva just blew me away though)

December 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBVR

A) Isn't Quartet a 2013 film now? NBR's been hoodwinked.

B) I like to think that the race isn't over yet. These are just critics groups after all, and it's the guilds that really pull the strings as we know.

C) I see your point about John Goodman's detractors and really felt that his character in Flight really messed with the tone and message of that film. However, I can't fault him in the least-- he's just too fun, Baby Girl.

December 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEvan

Stu-I hope so. I could see DiCaprio or Jones still stampeding though. I'm so sick and tired of the stampedes in the acting races, and I want some love-spreading in at least one category. Bring on Supporting Actress 2007!

December 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJohn T

Nathaniel, correct me if I'm wrong, but, was it you who wrote that Lawrence delivered an impeccable comic turn to emerge as the #1 drama actress of her generation...only to write today that Lawrence's work in SLP was merely "amusing" but not statue worthy?. You have changed your mind (perhaps it was the opinion of another writer on the site??) If so, I respectfully disagree.....Lawrence was more than just "amusing" in the role and is more than deserving not just a nod but a win. An argument could be made that Chastain does little more than look pensive and occassionally grit her teeth. I believe Lawrence acted circles around Cooper, actually and that there are some out there who refuse to reward Lawrence simply because she is only 22....that's not right.

December 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterM4

cal: Emmanuelle Riva? Leslie Mann? Winstead?

December 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

Totally with you on Jennifer Lawrence. Really liked her in Silver Linings Playbook, but as fun and likeable as her part is, it's an underwritten role dramatically. Bradley Cooper was the standout for me too. Very happy to see his name up there. He earned it. That said, I disagree with you on this season being all locked up. From what it's looking like right now, I'd be willing to bet this year is very similar to 2010. The race looked all stitched up for The Social Network too until the guilds hit. I'm thinking that there will be major breaks between the guilds and the critics awards, but it's the guilds that make up the vast majority of the voting body. And guilds tend to go for crowdpleasers like Les Mis or box office like Argo and Lincoln over small arty movies like Zero Dark Thirty. I'll be flat out shocked if it wins Best Picture. I could however see Kathryn Bigelow picking up her second statue if the movie loses. Similarly I think the SAGs will be the deciders of the acting races, and knowing them, they'll break for Daniel Day Lewis and Anne Hathaway in a landslide. That said, Anne Hathaway is probably crying, cutting her hair with nail clippers and watching the white noise channels right now.

December 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTB

Lawrence was less than amusing, actually. This was not even her strongest performance of 2012, to be honest.

December 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

Keep the Lights On. Please. Any category!

December 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPatryk

@Volvagia None of them is a 30-40 overdue and respected actress in a full and great role in a dramatic movie. The ideal winner would be Weisz, but she is a former winner and nobody saw her movie, which was a late winter release.

The closest we have is still Chastain. We only need to see if people will be moved by her part and think it was a challenging part.

December 5, 2012 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

During the last two weeks didn't we hear people screaming Oscar everytime a new movie open (Lincoln, Life of Pi, Les Miz, ZDT) and before that Argo and even before that SLP. I guess because ZDT was the latest to open compare to others it remains fresh in the mind of voters (when Django Unchained was screened, most votes had been cast or mind had been made so it missed the wondow just by a bit), so it is in its benefit that it open at the right time. Totally agree with denny that this year is filled with lots of good movies so critics please choose wisely. Plus, I can't seem to see Life of Pi missed the Top 10, will this hurt its Oscar chance?

December 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPJ

J.P.--Affleck is not a previous Best Director winner (or even nominee, for that matter). He won Best Original Screenplay, so if you wanted to broaden it to just previous winners in any category, then you'd be right.

And also, I don't think Looper winning Best Original Screenplay is nearly as surprising as their choice of Buried in this category two years ago.

December 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEdwin

cal: I was just tossing stuff out there. I agree Chastain is the safest bet right now unless critics organizations reveal major fracturing, but I'd bet the fifth slot is between three or (arguably) four people right now. Those people are Mirren, Mann, Weisz and, arguably, Winstead. Streisand looks to be playing too broad (even the Something's Gotta Give trailer revealed natural moments), Quartet is an early 2013 drop now, Knightley is undone by the Academy having no noticeable taste for Tolstoy, Wallis is too young and Cotillard has her heat sucked away by Riva, due to the likelihood that low amounts of the Academy's actors are Foreign Language Tolerant.

December 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

M4 -- i may have written something like that as a hypothetical like "by most reports the #1 dramatic actress of her generation has delivered an impeccable..." or somesuch. I only just recently saw the movie (i was the last person on earth to see it -- it happens with at least one big oscar movie a year ;) ) and I did not like it and i preferred the other cast members. I think Lawerence gave a good movie star turn (girls got charisma by the yard) but a nothing in terms of an acting achievement. I think she's better in The Hunger Games frankly. And neither of them compare at all to her work in Winter's Bone.

Evan -- i believe it's still a qualifying release.

December 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNathaniel R

Quartet is showing in LA and still has the limited Dec 28 release :)

Happy for Bradley

Happy for Zero Dark 30

Happy for Quartet being given some sort of attention

Wondering, as I always have, what will happen to the Riva/Cotillard/Wallis mystery at the Oscars since none of the 3 won BA either at NYFCC or NBR.

December 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterYavor

I think that the wealth will be spread around with awards to different films and actors as the season goes on. But Zero Dark Thirty needed this kind of solid support at the beginning just to remain in the conversation. Even the Film Experience had Bigelow listed as #6 on the predicted Directors list. Now she probably moves up into the top 5 in most predictions.

So these 2 critics groups have served a good purpose, allowing one of the most individual films of the year to stay in the running, a political thriller with a female lead, directed by a woman.

December 5, 2012 | Unregistered Commenteradri

me thinks it's all wide open now, except for best pix.

December 5, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterbrandz

@Nathaniel, Technically speaking Generation Y: is from 1980-1994. So, I wouldn't peg her as the #1 dramatic actress of her generation, when you have Michelle Williams, Hathaway etc.

Now you can say of the 90s born actresses.

December 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMelissa

Melissa -- semantics. yes that's what i meant. I didn't mean the 30ish actresses but those in their early 20s.

December 6, 2012 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Don't call it for "Zero Dark Thirty" just yet. It can't win SAG for instance (surely, unless it becomes a cause celebre, I guess) and I reckon the guilds are gonna stump for "Les Mis" and "Lincoln" big time. etc etc.

December 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn

Glenn -- why would SAG be out of reach? Like Lincoln and Argo it's got a ton of character actors in it doing their thang.

December 6, 2012 | Unregistered Commenternathanielr

(Late response that no one will ever see:)

Edwin: I said 4 out of 5. Affleck is that odd man out. Bigelow (The Hurt Locker), Hooper (The King's Speech), Lee (Brokeback Mountain), Spielberg (Schindler's List, Saving Private Ryan).

December 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJ.P.

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