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DC Loves 12 Years & Gravity. Patterns Are Emerging.

Only a few of the many film critics organizations have sounded off as of now, but certain patterns are emerging: Cate Blanchett and Jared Leto and Gravity are thoroughly dominating Actress and Supporting Actor and Cinematography, respectively;  12 Years a Slave and Lupita Nyong’o are formidable in Best Picture and Supporting Actress though they don’t win every time;  Actor, Production Design, Documentary, Ensemble? Flip a coin. Or, rather, roll the dice since there are a lot of achievements splitting critical passion which should make this a robust and competitive season up until Oscar night… unless, of course, the Globes, SAG and BFCA all march in lock step later this week. If that happens, things flatten out quickly.

WAFCA (Washington DC Area Film Critics Association) is the latest organization to sound off. They're now in their 12th year of prize-giving. Their full list of winners, which follows all these patterns, is after the jump with a couple more comments thrown in.

Film: 12 Years a Slave
Director: Alfonso Cuarón (Gravity)
Actor: Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave)
Actress: Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)
Supporting Actor: Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club)
Supporting Actress: Lupita Nyong'o (12 Years a Slave)
Acting Ensemble: 12 Years a Slave
Youth Performance: Tye Sheridan (Mud)
Adapted Screenplay: John Ridley (12 Years a Slave)
Original Screenplay: Spike Jonze (Her)


12 Years a Slave is their clear champion with five prizes though we can safely assume that Gravity is the Picture runner up since it won three including Best Director. I am half assuming that this split is likely at the Oscars, too… though we’ve got a long way to go still to get there.

Animated Feature: Frozen
Documentary: Blackfish
Foreign Language Film: The Broken Circle Breakdown (Belgium)
Art Direction: Production Designer: Catherine Martin, Set Decorator: Beverley Dunn (The Great Gatsby)
Cinematography: Emmanuel Lubezki, ASC, A.M.C. (Gravity)
Best Editing: Alfonso Cuarón, Mark Sanger (Gravity)
Original Score: Hans Zimmer (12 Years a Slave)
The Joe Barber Award for Best Portrayal of Washington, DC: Lee Daniels' The Butler

I hope the current enthusiasm for Broken Circle Breakdown, now in release in the US, convinces more foreign language film distributors to release Oscar hopefuls in that category DURING the calendar year.


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Reader Comments (36)

Hear, hear for foreign language films that come out before the nominations do! No more of this Footnote and Mr Lazhar released in March/April. Between The Hunt, Wadjda, Broken Circle Breakdown, The Great Beauty, and The Past (with The Rocket and Gloria coming out in January and a few more that came out here in 2012/early 2013), we've been rather fortunate this year with contenders securing an early release.

December 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterEvan

I think they're exaggerating a little bit with Cate's performance. There. I said it.

I prefer Paulina García ten times more and I miss terribly Léa Seydoux in the supporting category.

December 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

I completely agree with the critics.. Cate Blanchett's performance in Blue Jasmine is the best Oscar nominated performance by an actress in this current young century. Its haunting.. you don't like her character, but your heart breaks for her.

December 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMike

Well Cate's performance is easily the best thing they've nominated/awarded (sorry but it's the biggest lock of the season) in that category in a looooooong time. had to go back as far as the helen mirren category to find performances that come close to the intensity and overall catharsis that pathetic character goes through. when all is said and done I do expect it to be remembered as one of the all time greats.

it's good to see such general consensus between the harsher critics and softer public regarding a performance in lead actress. that category has been giving out awards for every reason but the actual performance

December 9, 2013 | Unregistered Commenter

love,love, love all the love for Jared Leto :)

December 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDavid

love,love, love all the love for Jared Leto :)

December 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDavid

I want to see Jared Leto and Clare Daines reunited at the Globes!!!

December 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDavid

@Peggy Sue--Even though they mean so little in terms of buzz, I was so happy to see Lea Seydoux make the OFCS ballot. St. Louis too today. Unsung hero of that movie.

These DC awards look like what I think everyone was expecting to go down in the major categories, but the most fun thing about this year is that while there are trends, nothing is set in stone. None of the expected winners, even Cate, have won everywhere. EVERYONE is still in the running, at least for nominations. What a year!

December 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTB

"The Joe Barber Award for Best Portrayal of Washington, DC" Lord, this category......

I know Cate has stans but, I am pro spread the wealth on these things. The Actress category has strong performances this year. It's like when it was Meryl vs. Viola in 2011. That kind of actress year deserved better representation.

December 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCMG

TB - Thanks!

Mike - LOL

December 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

cate missed a nomination with the detroit film critics! she is DONE!

December 9, 2013 | Unregistered Commentermarcelo

@marcelo--LOL. Love it.

I'm with @CMG. Love Cate, but it's more fun for everyone if that hardware gets spread around.

December 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTB


December 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

It's not supposed to be fun though.. She clearly gave at least the second best female performance of the year (adele is still my #1)

December 9, 2013 | Unregistered Commenter

@Zé--I mean, Adele4eva but I wouldn't even want Adele to win every award out there. Different people, different localities mean different tastes. It's not just that it's fun, it's that the critic's awards are, and should be, snapshots of the year in question. They don't make or break how a film will be represented in the history books, so why should they be obligated to be yet another rote tastemaker in the awards season? They are the groups most likely to see the broadest range of films, why is it inappropriate for them to reflect that diversity of their own viewership?

December 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTB

@TB - "Different people, different localities mean different tastes." But why would a film critic in DC have a different opinion of, for example, Best Actress than a critic in NY just because of their location?

That's why I never understand the complaint about critics' groups having the same opinions. Sure, it's boring for us spectators (believe me, I'd love variety, too) but it just makes sense that when a performance like Blanchett's comes along (or Day-Lewis last year), that the majority (not all, but the majority) of critics vote accordingly, regardless of location.

December 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDJDeeJay

I love the awards this year ... so many are getting their due... one person dominating the field is so boring...

I so look forward to the Golden Globes and The Oscars...

I hope Blanchett takes the final prize... and that Streep gets some award, somewhere down the line... probably Globes are her best chance.

December 9, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterrick

After the initial response to American Hustle began to trickle out, I thought it was kind of over for Amy Adams. But she has been making notable (if somewhat sporadic) showings in these early precursors. I haven't seen the movie yet, so I can't make an informed prediction. I'll put this in the form of a loaded question. Am I crazy in thinking that Amy Adams is in that Emmanuelle Riva place of having an uphill battle to a nomination, but should she land on that list she immediately becomes the frontrunner's biggest competitor? I know she's supposedly weak in the movie (and of course I'll judge for myself), but I feel like she's a bigger threat to unseat Blanchett than people are acknowledging.

I really really like Cate Blanchett's performance in Blue Jasmine a lot. That being said, it has always felt to me like a sort of...Bening in Kids Are All Right or Julie Christie in Away from Her placeholder frontrunner. That is, a de-faceto frontrunner that's sort of occupying that slot pending a more compelling and/or Oscar-y alternative presenting itself. I never believe that either of those performances could win in those years, even when most people were saying that they were going to and I'm getting the same feeling about Blanchett in Blue Jasmine. I know it seems like it would be difficult for Adams to knock out either Dench or Streep who have been in the race longer. But American Hustle is going to crest at just the right time for Amy Adams to potentially surge, certainly ahead of Streep. Now that Streep has won her third, I'm curious about how Oscar treats her in this next act of her career since there's no urgency to reward her again so soon. Unless Adams is really bad in Hustle, I don't see how being the only non-winner in a lineup otherwise filled with former winners doesn't help her awards narrative. And I suppose that the flip side is this is that, while liking her performance a lot as stated, I don't feel like Blanchett is so unequivocal that she should be steamrolling through all of these awards.

Blanchett was robbed of a Lead Oscar in 1998 and a nomination in 2008.


She has been away from the awards circuit since 2007


She has delivered a one of a kind bravura performance

=> no spreading the wealth, please. If anyone deserves total admiration and head over heels praise, it's Cate Blanchett!

December 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterYavor

I'm suddenly flashing back to Joan Allen (I think it was Allen unless I'm misremembering) throwing some shade at Mira Sorvino's Mighty Aphrodite performance when she said something like "I think that performance is really smart." Or maybe she said "clever" or something, but the point is...I think that both words describe a type of performance (especially in a Woody Allen movie) that's enjoyable, maybe even very enjoyable. However, an Oscar is overstating the case. I definitely felt that about Mira Sorvino's "clever" performance, ditto Penelope Cruz in retrospect and I do feel that way about Cate Blanchett's performance in Blue Jasmine (albeit to a much lesser extent than the aforementioned two). I found Blanchett's approach to Jasmine really interesting, and scene to scene I was super interested in what she was doing. But I don't think that I ever really believed Jasmine as a full character, specifically the character that Woody Allen and Blanchett were trying to tell me on, if any of that makes sense. But I'm glad that her performance does seem to be genuinely exciting people passionately, even if I myself am slightly just...not quite there.

Blanchett gives a deep, very layered performance which is all the more remarkable because she has to play a lot of layers without giving any away but showing enough of them so that when the script reveals them, we realize what we were seeing earlier. At the beginning of the film, we have no idea just how fracked up she is, but even in the "happy" pre-collapse scenes, we still feel that something is slightly off, but not enough to raise red flags (other than the lady on the plane but some people fly badly so even that isn't an alarm). Its very difficult and she does it beautifully. Jasmine exists without any other character (the script) informing us of her issues or deep, deep freakyness through voice over or exposition. Its very rare. I have no problem with her being honored (would like to see Larson get a little more though, she is equally deep if in a slightly different bent), but Blanchett has earned the praise.

Its great with all these terrific performances getting notice. This really is a year when being nominated will be an honor in itself.

December 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterHenry

TPKIA -- i don't know where this "weak in the movie" thing came from for Adams... but that's why you should never trust the one or two people who see a movie earlies with the truth of that movie. Adams is excellent in the movie. It seems really strange that anyone would claim otherwise (in that it doesn't seem like a performance that would generate divisive response)

i think her problem is that she's not more demonstrably special than the other people in the movie. It's one of those movies where the cast is just having such a good time and really all very memorable in their roles

December 9, 2013 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

New Yorkers have different experiences from people who live in LA, the culture is different, critically and socially, and same goes whether you're from Detroit or London or Paris. Taste is subjective after all. That's why it's nice to see critics honor the diversity of experience and opinion that comes with being a community oriented around films, rather than pretending there's some objective best performance or film in any year. And it's especially nice to see this in a year with so many great options to choose from.

Even taking Cate Blanchett as an example--there's some consensus around her as best performance by an actress this year, and I think she's great in the film, but she wouldn't make my top 5. Am I wrong to have been more moved by five other performances? Does it make her performance somehow lesser to acknowledge my own personal taste? I don't think so. So I'm happy to see awards spread, even when it's to things I don't quite get (ahem, June Squibb).

December 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTB

This isn't specifically directed at the DC critics, it's directed at all the organizations, large and small, that have been announcing winners and nominees, but I just want to cry out to the heavens:


Seriously. I wasn't really a fan of hers before Frances Ha (although I thought she was great in Greenberg), but hers is easily my favorite leading performance by an actress this year. Honestly, I'd probably hand her an Oscar for the "who are you making eyes at" scene alone, but It loved the whole thing. And I don't believe I've seen her name come up once, anywhere. Insanity!

December 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSteve

Steve, I agree. And I STILL think Blanchett is deserving of the Oscar... but I would really love to see Frances Ha win something, somewhere. If not Gerwig, it would be nice to see it cited for screenplay or editing (where it did get in at the Spirits, at least).

December 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

@Steve, @Suzanne--I'm with you! Greta Gerwig is without a doubt one of the most award worthy performances this year. Baffling that she hasn't shown up more! Absolutely in my top 5.

@NathanielR--And just like that I'm back to teaser trailer levels of hyped for American Hustle...#TeamAmy

December 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTB

re: DJDeeJay

For you, what's the pleasure of critics groups? I'm curious myself about my own response to them.

December 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterArkaan

I agree that Best Picture and Director will go to two different films - yet again.

I am predicting 12YAS will win 4 oscars -including Best Picture and Gravity to do a Life of Pi and win 4 - maybe 5 - including Best Director.

Good to see Cate Blanchett looking like getting another Oscar. The Australian film industry needs something to boost their spirits after a very mediocre year.

December 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBette Streep

What do folks make of the AFI Ten Best list? The Butler, A:OC, and Blue Jasmine did not make the list, but not sure it would have any bearing on acting nominations.

December 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPam

I know the Oscars shouldn't work this way, but Adams has two more Oscar noms than she deserves. So no matter how great she is in AH, I hope she's not nommed because she doesn't deserve to be called five-time nominee! I mean, that's how many Jennifer Jones, Anne Bancroft and Shirley MacLaine have! Amy ain't in their league.

December 9, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

@brookesboy--Now now, let's not get hasty. Amy Adams could hardly impugn the honor of a position already held by Jennifer Jones of all people. ;)

December 10, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTB

American Hustle is one of my three favorite Amy Adams performances, the other two being Junebug and Enchanted. She and Bale are less flashy than Cooper and Lawrence, but they're doing the heavy lifting.

December 10, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

Sorry, TB, but Adams could never overcome her miscasting, while Jennifer did with stunning results.

December 10, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

@Arkaan - I'm not sure I understand your question. Like I said, I love it when there's a variety of winners. It makes for a more unpredictable, competitive race. But I just don't believe that, somehow because of location, critics in one city are all going to vote for someone different than critics in a different city. Sure, it happens, but to expect it to happen consistently is unrealistic, I think.

December 10, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDJDeeJay

DjDeeJay I totally get the difference in critics opinions. You have a lot of difference between the lifestyles of certain cities. New Yorkers live and speak much faster than West Coasters to the point that you often have to slow down just so the LA LA landers can keep up with the conversation. It would only go to fact that certain films would appeal to east coast critics and others to west coast critics and yet other films to all those in between. There are also the political bents of the different publications the critics work for. And unfortunately, how much ad money is spent by the producers in those publications.

I find it boring when they all fall in lock step because they are afraid to seem out of the mainstream.

December 10, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterHenry

Henry - Sure, I can see how that might be true to a certain extent (like Inside Llewyn Davis playing better in the east or Her in the west) and you make some interesting points (marketing budgets per city, the pub's politics, etc.) but those differences only go so far. I guess I just believe that the universal emotional appeal of cinema transcends superficial differences and that mankind's commonalities are more powerful than our differences. :)

December 10, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDJDeeJay

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