It took more than five hours Monday for the New York Film Critics Circle (NYFCC) to decide its winners in 12 categories, according to J. Hoberman, a member of the prestigious group who reported on the behind-the-scenes deliberations to decide the year’s best in film. He writes, “The meeting, chaired by Joshua Rothkopf of Time Out New York, was amiable but consensus proved elusive. No film won on the first ballot and several took as many as four.”
Some initial frontrunners fell by the wayside as the result of quirks in the organization’s voting procedures. For instance, Benh Zeitlin‘s “Beasts of the Southern Wild” was the frontrunner for Best First Film, but failed to receive the necessary votes on the first two ballots, leading to a surprise loss on the third ballot to an unlikely contender: the AIDS documentary “How to Survive a Plague.”
As New York Post critic Lou Lumenick, also a voting member, explains in his report: “A last-minute rule change during the five-hour awards meeting led to ‘How to Survive a Plague’ becoming the first documentary to receive the group’s prize for first film, a honor previously limited to fictional films.”
Similarly, Rachel Weisz emerged as the Best Actress winner for “The Deep Blue Sea” only after a contentious battle over other candidates. Hoberman explains: “This race was by far the most polarized; only three of the 16 ballots cast for [Jennifer Lawrence] or [Jessica Chastain] cited both actresses. Weisz was clearly a consensus ‘second’ choice.”
Perhaps more surprising, given the overall success of “Lincoln” — it won Actor (Daniel Day Lewis), Supporting Actress (Sally Field) and Screenplay — was the complete snub of its director, Steven Spielberg. He “failed to get a single first ballot vote, [and thus] was never in contention,” Hoberman reports.
Best Director was awarded instead to Kathryn Bigelow for “Zero Dark Thirty,” which also won Best Picture. Paul Thomas Anderson was the runner-up for “The Master,” and Ben Affleck finished, Hoberman states, a “distant third” for “Argo.”
Despite the time-consuming selection process and the sometimes divided opinions of NYFCC’s members, chairman Rothkopf says, “We’re proud to offer up an especially distinctive slate of choices this year, reflective of the singular tastes of our membership. There were definitely some squeaker votes. I’m very happy with our results.”