What do the New York Film Critics Circle Awards tell us about the Oscars?

The New York Film Critics Circle have had their say, handing out three awards for “Zero Dark Thirty” and three for “Lincoln.” Here’s what we’ve learned about the Oscars from this first batch of precursor prizes. 

BEST PICTURE: “Zero Dark Thirty
“Zero Dark Thirty” is now a surefire Best Picture nominee, especially with the expanded field. Since the Circle was formed in 1935, only eight of their top picks have not been nominated for Best Picture: “Day for Night” (1973), “Amarcord” (1974), “The Player” (1992), “Leaving Las Vegas” (1995), “Topsy-Turvy” (1999), “Mulholland Drive” (2001), “Far from Heaven” (2002), and “United 93” (2006). 

Thirty-one of the NYFCC Best Picture winners repeated at the Oscars: “The Life of Emile Zola” (1937), “Going My Way” (1944), “The Lost Weekend” (1945), “The Best Years of Our Lives” (1946), “Gentleman’s Agreement” (1947), “All the King’s Men” (1949), “All About Eve” (1950), “From Here to Eternity” (1953), “On the Waterfront” (1954), “Marty” (1955), “Around the World in 80 Days” (1956), “The Bridge on the River Kwai” (1957), “Ben-Hur” (1959), “The Apartment” (1960), “West Side Story” (1961), “Tom Jones” (1963), “My Fair Lady” (1964), “A Man for All Seasons” (1966), “In the Heat of the Night” (1967), “Annie Hall” (1977), “The Deer Hunter” (1978), “Kramer vs. Kramer” (1979), “Ordinary People” (1980), “Gandhi” (1982), “Terms of Endearment” (1983), “The Silence of the Lambs” (1991), “Schindler’s List” (1993), “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” (2003), “No Country for Old Men” (2007), “The Hurt Locker” (2009), and “The Artist” (2011).

Does this stat make “Zero Dark Thirty” the new frontrunner? This win certainly helps boost its chances.

BEST DIRECTOR: Kathryn Bigelow, “Zero Dark Thirty”
Unlike in 2009, this NYFCC win doesn’t make Bigelow the Oscar front-runner, but it does confirm her as a likely Best Director nominee. 

BEST ACTOR: Daniel Day-Lewis, “Lincoln
Day-Lewis is on track to become the first three-time Best Actor champ at the Oscars. Of course, there’s still a chance that some critics groups may award Joaquin Phoenix for “The Master,” whether he likes it or not.

Day-Lewis’ chief competition for the Oscar could be Hugh Jackman in “Les Miserables.” While Jackman isn’t likely to win critics awards, he is a threat at SAG and BFCA. The two won’t compete against each other at the Golden Globes, so look for Day-Lewis to take that award as well.

BEST ACTRESS: Rachel Weisz, “The Deep Blue Sea
The biggest surprise of the day came in this category. After Jennifer Lawrence (“Silver Linings Playbook”) and Jessica Chastain (“Zero Dark Thirty”) tied on third ballot, the group opted for this out-of-left-field choice. This early award certainly puts the 2005 Best Supporting Actress Oscar winner for “The Constant Gardener” (2005) into the mix, but other groups will have to follow suit in order to make her a real contender.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Matthew McConaughey, “Bernie,” “Magic Mike
McConaughey had a stellar year so look for his name to keep popping up in the weeks to come. But beware: past Supporting Actor contenders such as Albert Brooks in “Drive” and Bill Murray in “Rushmore” dominated the critics awards but came up short on Oscar nomination day.

Field is now the chief competition for Anne Hathaway (“Les Miserables”). As often happens in this category, one contender (Hathaway) could win at the Golden Globes, SAG, and BFCA, while the other (Field) could collect the lion’s share of critics awards.

BEST SCREENPLAY: Tony Kushner, “Lincoln”
The Tony and Emmy champ (“Angels in America”) takes the lead in the Adapted Screenplay race. However, because the NYFCC only gives one award for Screenplay, we don’t know anything new about the Original Screenplay race.

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY: Greig Fraiser, “Zero Dark Thirty”
The NYFCC champ usually reaps an Oscar bid if not the win. 

As expected, Michael Haneke’s Cannes champ took the Foreign Language film prize. Will Oscar voters also go for its grim realism over the heartwarming “The Intouchables”?

BEST ANIMATED FILM: “Frankenweenie
No award for Pixar this year, as NYFCC went with Tim Burton’s film instead. The Animated Feature race has a new frontrunner.

BEST DOCUMENTARY: “The Central Park Five”
This film did not make the semi-finalist list at the Oscars; however “How to Survive a Plague,” which won Best First Feature, did make the cut with the Documentary Branch.  

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