Tom O’Neil predicts who’ll win New York Film Critics’ Awards

In just a moment, I promise, I will give you my predictions for who’ll win the New York Film Critics’ Circle Awards today, but first let me explain why they are impossible to predict.

Blame the circle’s kooky balloting system that often encourages members to vote against movies rather than for them. As the balloting process unfolds, members square off into rival armies that clash, retreat, regroup, then ultimately pick a compromise choice. “Milk” won Best Picture of 2009, for example, only when warriors for “Rachel Getting Married,” “Happy-Go-Lucky” and “Slumdog Millionaire” surrendered. No critics entering the 2002 voting conclave planned to pick the quirky “Mulholland Drive,” but it emerged as the default choice when they couldn’t decide among “In the Bedroom,” “Gosford Park” and “Shrek” after many frustrating ballot battles.

What about the current derby? “This is a particularly interesting year because you have obvious critical faves like ‘12 Years a Slave,'” says our Gold Derby pundit Edward Douglas (Comingsoon), who belongs to the rival New York Critics Online awards group. Referring to circle members, he says, “They’ll all have seen ‘Wolf of Wall Street’ and ‘American Hustle‘ more recently which may be more prevalent in their minds, plus there’s no denying the cinematic achievement of ‘Gravity.’ I think ’12 Years’ will get some love but director and actor will go to someone else, probably Cuaron or Scorsese for director, and either Redford or McConaughey for actor. I’m not convinced they’d go with Sandra Bullock for actress but maybe someone less expected like the girl from ‘Blue is the Warmest Color.’ Either way, I wouldn’t expect the NYFCC to go with anything too warm or cuddly.”

I agree with Ed – this is a race between “12 Years a Slave,” “The Wolf of Wall Street” and “Gravity.” If the vote was held a month ago, “Slave” would rule easily and I believe it still has a good shot, but I think voters will probably be swayed by the film they saw last. “Wolf” was screened for them yesterday. I think they’ll also vote for Marty Scorsese because, hell, let’s recall he’s a New Yorker. He’s part of their tribe. Usually, voters choose the same film for Best Picture and Director, but sometimes they split the baby. If so again, then Alfonso Cuaron will snag the helmer’s laurels.

If voters form a solid “Wolf” pack, then Leo DiCaprio has this in the bag, but I have a hunch they’ll opt for Matthew McConaughey (“Dallas Buyers’ Club”). They love him. Voters even gave him their supporting-actor trophy last year for “Bernie” and “Magic Mike.” But beware of Chiwetel Ejiofor (“12 Years a Slave“).

Usually, the East Coast film critics pick movie royals like Meryl Streep and Annette Bening and let the West Coasters in the Los Angeles Film Critics Association embrace the obscure art-house babe of the day. If that repeats, then Sandra Bullock (“Gravity”) or Cate Blanchett (“Blue Jasmine”) triumphs in Manhattan. But every now and then the Gothamites get snooty. If so, then it will be Adele Exarchopoulos (“Blue is the Warmest Color”). My prediction: they opt for the hot lesbian sex flick. It was the steamy lesbo action in “Mulholland Drive” that probably propelled it to a surprise victory as Best Picture of 2002.

Tough call. Michael Fassbender (“12 Years a Slave”) vs. Jared Leto (“Dallas Buyers’ Club”) vs. Jonah Hill (“Wolf of Wall Street”). Size matters. So victory goes to Fassbender.

Lupita Hyongo (“12 Years a Slave”) will prevail, fending off serious threats from Scarlett Johansson (“Her”) and Oprah Winfrey (“The Butler”).

See my full prediction rankings here. See my predix side by side with other experts here.

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