The New York Film Critics’ Circle announced the winners of their 84th annual kudos on Thursday (Nov. 29). These Gotham-based reviewers are the first critics group to weigh in with their picks for the top pic with their Los Angeles counterparts (LAFCA) due to chime in on Sunday. The last time that the NYFCC previewed the Best Picture winner at the Academy Awards was in 2012 with “The Artist.” Last year, the New York crowd was wowed by “Lady Bird” and snubbed the two big Oscar winners: “The Shape of Water” and “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.”
The 4o-plus members of the NYFCC meet in Manhattan and cast their votes in a complicated system that can result in multiple ballots for each race. Not surprisingly, this can result in a marathon session that lasts all day, with an extended break for lunch.
“Roma” was named Best Picture while Alfonso Cuaron won both Best Director and Best Cinematography for this labor of love. He also wrote and co-edited this intimate film inspired by his childhood in Mexico. Five years ago, he helmed “Gravity,” which tied with “Her” for Best Picture with the Gotham group. Both of those numbered among the eight nominees that lost Best Picture at the Oscars to “12 Years a Slave.” (Note: The original version of this post mistakenly referred to Cuaron as winner of the Best Director award from the NYFCC for “Gravity.”)
Writer/director Paul Schrader won the Best Screenplay award for “First Reformed.” This multi-hyphenate is likely to reap the first Oscar bid of his long career for this original story. He won the screenplay prize at the Gotham Awards and is nominated at the Spirits for both his direction and writing.
Last year, the NYFCC singled out “Girls Trip” scene-stealer Tiffany Haddish for the Best Supporting Actress award. This year, the group awarded one of her co-stars from that film, Regina Hall, with the Best Actress award for the warm-hearted comedy “Support the Girls.” She is the first black winner of this award. Hall contended at the Gothams and is in the running at the Spirit Awards for this stand-out performance.
Four days after winning with the Gotham Awards, hometown favorite Ethan Hawke was named Best Actor by the NYFCC for his bravura performance as a minister enduring a crisis of faith in “First Reformed.”
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Regina King won Best Supporting Actress for her heartbreaking turn in Barry Jenkins‘s “If Beale Street Could Talk.” This three-time Emmy champ is in the lead to win her first Oscar for this riveting performance as a mother determined to prove her daughter’s husband innocent of a crime.
Richard E. Grant was named Best Supporting Actor for his scene-stealing turn in “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” He has already reaped an Indie Spirit bid and is a strong Oscar contender, ranking just behind frontrunner Mahershala Ali (“Green Book”).
“Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” was named Best Animated Feature over, among others, Oscar frontrunner “Incredibles 2.” Last year Pixar picked up this prize for “Coco” and went on to win the equivalent Academy Award. This was the only Oscar category that the NYFCC foresaw.
“Minding the Gap,” Bing Liu‘s heartfelt look at live in the Rust Belt, won Best Documentary Feature. It has reaped bids with many of the precursor prizes for the Oscars including the Critic’s Choice, Cinema Eye Honors and IDA. Last year’s winner with the NYFCC was “Faces Places,” Agnes Varda‘s entertaining travelogue in which she and JR visit French villages and towns. It was snubbed by the documentary branch of the academy just weeks after Varda received an honorary Oscar.
Pawel Pawlikowski’s “Cold War” won Best Foreign Language Film. Four years ago, this Polish writer/director picked up this same prize for “Ida,” which went on to win the equivalent Oscar.
The winner of the first competitive award, Best First Feature, is Bo Burnham‘s coming-of-age tale “Eighth Grade.”Burnham and his leading lady, Elsie Fisher, won breakthrough awards at the Gothams on Monday. The film is up for four Indie Spirit awards, including Best Picture. Last year Jordan Peele won this prize from the NYFCC for “Get Out,” which went to contend in four categories at the Oscars with Peele winning Best Original Screenplay.
Special awards will go to: David Schwartz, who is stepping down as Chief Film Curator at Museum of the Moving Image after 33 years; and Kino Classics for the box set “Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers.”
The NYFCC is so determined to be one of the first groups to weigh in with its picks for the best of the year that the date of its decision-making keeps getting advanced; last year it was one day later on Nov. 30. But how much influence does it have on the last group to be heard from — the motion picture academy which will reveal the winners of the Oscars 88 days from now on Feb 24, 2019?
Be sure to make your Oscar nomination predictions so that Hollywood studio executives can see how their films are faring in our Academy Awards odds. Don’t be afraid to jump in now since you can keep changing your predictions until just before nominees are announced on January 22.