National Society of Film Critics Awards: What they do (and don’t) mean for the Oscars

The National Society of Film Critics (NSFC) announced its choices of the best work in film in 2018 on January 5 and. . .does it matter?

For the winners and even the runners-up, the NSFC awards are significant acknowledgments of achievement. Unlike most critics groups, the NSFC has historically lathered its praise on international films regardless of their chances for Oscar consideration.

The fact that its members wait until the year is over before weighing in with awards is also to their credit. All the other major groups convene as soon as they’ve seen the last movie being promoted by its distributor, usually right around the first of December, weeks before some of the contenders have been released.

SEE 2019 National Society of Film Critics Awards: ‘The Rider’ is Best Picture, Alfonso Cuaron wins for directing and lensing ‘Roma’

Guaranteed, none of the critics who pushed Chloe Zhao’s minimalist Western “The Rider” into the No. 1 spot for best picture over Alfonso Cuaron’s “Roma” believed his or her vote would affect the Academy Awards, and “Roma,” which it beat by a mere four points, doesn’t need the help.

But it got it, anyway. Cuarón won awards for both his direction and his cinematography while “Roma” was named best foreign language film.

The two awards that could be most helpful to Oscar lobbyists were those for Ethan Hawke as best actor for “First Reformed,” and Regina King, best supporting actress for “If Beale Street Could Talk.” Their outstanding performances as a faith-fatigued priest and a Harlem mother trying to prove her daughter’s imprisoned boyfriend’s innocence were left off the essential Screen Actors Guild ballots.

SEE 2019 National Society of Film Critics Awards: Complete list of winners led by ‘The Rider,’ Olivia Colman, Ethan Hawke

Hawke has been dominant among critics, named best actor by the groups in New York and Los Angeles, among others, but was not nominated for a high-profile Golden Globe.

King is also the critics’ choice across the country, having won for supporting actress with the L.A. and New York groups, and she will be at the Globes Sunday night as a nominee for both “If Beale Street Could Talk” and the TV series “Seven Seconds.”

A win in one or both Globe categories would be a huge boost for King, but the lack of a SAG nomination hurts. No one without a SAG nomination for supporting actress has won the Oscar since Marcia Gay Harden for “Pollock.” (Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this post omitted this fact.)

No one has won an Oscar for lead actor without a SAG nomination, either. (Benicio del Toro won the lead actor SAG Award in 2001 for “Traffic” but the supporting actor Academy Award.)

The fact that the Oscar favorites including Lady Gaga, Glenn Close, Bradley Cooper and Christian Bale failed to get a mention from the National Society is meaningless. They have already flipped the most important levers and their odds are unchanged.

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