Tomorrow, the New York Film Critics Circle announces its 2011 winners, a day later than originally planned in order to see as many of this year's contenders as possible, although not Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. They've never rewarded one of Stephen Daldry's films before though, so this might not matter.
As the NYFCC normally announce midway through December, when awards season has been under way for two or three weeks, we normally have a better idea of how their choices might pan out. They don't tend to be as alternative as, say, NSFC; they're not as mainstream as BFCA on the other hand. After the jump, how I think it MIGHT go tomorrow...
alt: The Tree of Life
Then again, it could be The Artist. Considering how popular Alexander Payne's last film, Sideways, was with the critics' groups, The Descendants is a pretty safe bet. The Tree of Life feels right though, like it's the sort of thing they'd definitely pick, and The Descendants is probably more likely to pick up steam from other groups anyway. Still, I think The Descendants has rather more heat at the minute, so I'll stick with it.
Alexander Payne (The Descendants)
alt: Steve McQueen (Shame)
There are plenty of reasons to choose Shame: the critics (largely) love it, it's set in New York and if no-one bothers to predict it for something thanks to its NC-17, it doesn't have a hope. And if it's going to win anything this year, it'll be some major critics awards. But even with the critics, it's more likely that the Best Picture winner also takes Best Director. And if you're wondering why I haven't chosen Terrence Malick as my alternative, so am I.
Jean Dujardin (The Artist)
alt: Michael Fassbender (Shame)
I'm still holding out on Shame. I so hope the heat on Michael Fassbender doesn't die down. And yes, there are safer choices, like George Clooney or Brad Pitt, but I've gone safe for Best Picture and Director, so I'm allowed to take a few risks. But Jean Dujardin is not a risk, and The Artist is bound to turn up somewhere, I think...
Elizabeth Olsen (Martha Marcy May Marlene)
alt: Michelle Williams (My Week with Marilyn)
I don't have a clue with this one. It could go any way. Glenn Close probably deserves it, but I don't know if the film will be popular enough. Have they even seen Meryl Streep yet? Or Rooney Mara? Charlize Theron? This is such a strong category this year. I have a hunch with Elizabeth Olsen here though, and everyone's been talking about Michelle Williams these past couple of weeks.
Best Supporting Actor
Kenneth Branagh (My Week with Marilyn)
alt: Robert Forster (The Descendants)
I can definitely see Robert Forster making the cut this year. With the popularity of The Descendants, it seems so likely. But with the heat on My Week with Marilyn at the moment, and all the positive write-ups for Branagh, he's looking very strong. Christopher Plummer is probably still the favourite for the Oscar, but that's because he's 81.
Best Supporting Actress
Janet McTeer (Albert Nobbs)
alt: Vanessa Redgrave (Coriolanus)
As the reviews begin to come in for Coriolanus, it's looking like Redgrave will be too big to ignore this year, although as soon as you say that, you tend to find out that yes, anyone can be ignored in the Oscar race. Is it contradictory to suggest that Glenn Close might lose out because the critical response to the film has been a little tepid, but then predict Janet McTeer? I don't care - this is another hunch. It's only not Redgrave because I'm not sure if the film has been screened for them, although it surely has. Also, it could easily be Berenice Bejo, or Carey Mulligan.
Nat Faxon, Alexander Payne and Jim Rash (The Descendants)
alt: Steve McQueen and Abi Morgan (Shame)
It feels like copping out not picking Shame for the win in any category, but it could very easily be forgotten entirely. It also feels a little dangerous picking The Descendants for three big wins, considering that five out of its six least favourable reviews on Metacritic come from NYFCC members. So while these choices may not seem risky at a glance, I'll be lucky indeed to get them all right.
Emmanuel Lubezki (The Tree of Life)
alt: Robert Richardson (Hugo)
It'd be lovely to see either of these films do well, and goodness knows Lubezki deserves this. Until a little later in the season, though, tech categories are tough to predict. I'd also love to see Manuel Alberto Claro for Melancholia take this. And I don't know if Wuthering Heights is eligible, but Robbie Ryan would be a fab choice too. Also look out for Janusz Kaminski for War Horse and (of course) Sean Bobbitt for Shame
Best Animated Feature
The Adventures of Tintin
NYFCC love them some indie animated films, but there aren't so many of these this year. In fact, it's been a slightly shit year for animation. I don't know if Tintin will sweep the animated categories this year, but it probably deserves to. At the moment, Rango looks to be its only serious competitor.
Into the Abyss
alt: The Interrupters
This will likely be another year in which the critics' groups show AMPAS just what to do with a documentary category. Rest assured The Undefeated will be roundly defeated here.
Best Foreign Language Film
alt: A Separation
The Artist is only missing here because I'm not sure if it qualifies here. It is a foreign film, but it is not in a foreign language, so I wonder whether or not it's eligible. It doesn't much need to be, though - it'll pick up plenty of other awards in bigger categories elsewhere, and maybe even here. It could also be 13 Assassins, I think. That's the sort of film the critics groups would award, I think; as is Le Havre. I just hope they don't pick The Skin I Live In because it was awful.
Best First Feature
Martha Marcy May Marlene
Not a lot of debuts this year. I think Martha Marcy May Marlene will storm this category this year, throughout the critics' groups. There's also Another Earth (which is kind of a debut) and In the Land of Blood and Honey - so yeah, it'll probably be Martha.
Overall, no, I don't have a clue, because it's tough to predict what a group which usually follows a pattern (at least roughly) is going to do when it is the one trying to set a pattern. They're more likely to vote with their hearts rather than their heads, the NYFCC voters, as they too have little idea of how the season will shape up, and thus are less likely to have an agenda. Last year they followed suit withThe Social Network, although I can't accuse them of being sheep with that choice, and also attempted to jumpstart The Kids Are All Right's chances, which was pretty unsuccessful. In short, their choices are probably going to be the most unique choices they've made in some time.