Before we find out which films are going to receive Oscar nominations this year, we must first see which films the critics have been heralding as the best of 2013. Several film critics associations released their award winners over the weekend, which resulted in recognition for films that are considered to be front-runners, as well as smaller films that have been critically-acclaimed but have not received as much attention as some of their counterparts. Perhaps most interestingly, these minor associations have been spreading out their accolades amongst a wide variety of films, which could mean that there won't be one film sweeping up the awards come Oscar night.
We took a look at several of the major awards categories to see if we could predict the Oscar nominations and winners based on the films that won awards from the Boston Society of Film Critics, the Washington DC Film Critics Association, the L.A. Film Critics Association and the New York Film Critics online.
Best FilmThree different critics associations — Boston Society of Film Critics, Washington D.C. Film Critics Association, and New York Film Critics Online — awarded the top prize to 12 Years A Slave, which has long been considered to be the front-runner for Best Picture at the Oscars. It's received critical acclaim as well as proven itself to have a great deal of audience appeal, and has managed to bridge the gap between the two audiences well, and earned high praise from both parties. The film's multiple wins seem to have solidified its status as the Oscar race's front-runner, as the combination of critical awards and the strong, visceral reaction that it has inspired in moviegoers means that it is not only a lock for a nomination, but is the expected winner as well. Meanwhile, the L.A. Film Critics Association went in a different direction, and awarded Best Film to both Gravity and Her. Gravity was considered a major Oscar contender when it first arrived in theaters, as its combination of strong performances and massive box office success made it the focus of a great deal of awards speculation. However, it has not been able to translate that buzz into any award wins. It's very likely to receive a nomination for Best Picture, as well as a Best Actress nod for Sandra Bullock, but it doesn't seem likely cause an upset on Oscar night. Her, meanwhile, was also awarded the top prize by the National Board of Review, and these awards have solidified the film's chances at being recognized by the Academy. Like Gravity, though, its high probability of a nomination doesn't seem likely to result in a surprise win.
Best Actor 12 Years' star Chiwetel Ejiofor was awarded Best Actor by critics in Boston, D.C., and New York, which is unsurprising since, like his film, he has been considered the frontrunner for months now. However, the Best Actor race at the Oscars is a bit harder to predict than Best Picture. Ejiofor is a lock for a nomination, but the sheer amount of critically acclaimed performances in recent films make it hard to estimate the likelihood of him taking home the award. He's still likely perceived as the one to beat come Oscar night, but there's a chance that he could be edged out by L.A. Film Critics Association winner Bruce Dern. Although Dern's film, Nebraska, hasn't received the kind of press attention that 12 Years a Slave has, Dern's performance has topped many critics' lists, and it seems highly likely that he will receive an Oscar nomination for his work. Dern could even manage to pull an upset on Oscar night, as there's a chance that the Academy might want to recognize his long, highly acclaimed career.
Best ActressIn a category that is crowded with major contenders, most of whom are previous Oscar winners, the only one who seems to be a lock is Cate Blanchett, whose performance in Blue Jasmine was awarded by all four critics associations. Blanchett's performance has received rave reviews, and she appears to be the one to beat on Oscar night. The only actress who seems likely to upset Blanchett is Adèle Exarchopoulos, star of Blue is the Warmest Color. Exarchopoulos actually tied for the L.A. critics' prize, and the amount of buzz that the film and her performance have received mean that only she and Blanchett are the definite contenders for the award this year. Unless they both manage to be upset by Emma Thompson or Meryl Streep, it seems as if this year, the Academy will mostly be deciding between awarding a promising newcomer or a previous winner.
Best Director The directing awards this weekend were split between Alfonso Cuaron for Gravity, who received three awards, and Steve McQueen, who was the favorite of the Boston Film Critics Association. Both of them are considered to be the major contenders for the Oscar this year, but its still hard to predict which one will take the award home. It's likely that Best Director would be the only major award that Gravity will walk away with, and the film's technical developments and incredible performances mean that Cuaron is deserving of the prize. However, the universal appeal and acclaim of 12 Years a Slave could swing in McQueen's favor, plus, it would be a historical moment, as a win would make McQueen the first African American man to win Best Director. Of course, there's also a chance that underdog Spike Jonze could upset them both, as his film Her has been quietly winning critics' awards. Jonze was the L.A. Film Critics runner up, and he seems highly likely to earn an Oscar nomination, which solidifies him as a possible contender.
Best Screenplay Her was the big winner for this category, winning awards from the New York and D.C. contingents. The Boston and L.A. favorites, Enough Said by Nicole Holofcener and Before Midnight by Julie Delpy and Richard Linklater, respectively, represent that this category, more than the others, is wide open when it comes to possible nominations. Enough Said and Before Midnight were both considered to be major contenders when they hit theaters over the summer, but until now have been unable to translate that into any awards recognition. Meanwhile, Jonze has proven himself to be a significant presence in the screenplay race, and it's likely that he will receive nomination come Oscar time. However, with no real front-runner so far, it's hard to predict who will go home the winner. It's anyone's game at this point.
Best Foreign FilmDespite Blue Is the Warmest Color being considered the far-and-away favorite to win the Oscar, some significant competition has recently emerged in the form of The Great Beauty, Wadjida, and The Broken Circle Breakdown. All three won awards over the weekend — Wadjida was the favorite of Boston critics, The Broken Circle Breakdown was loved by DC critics, and The Great Beauty took home the top prize at the European Film Awards — which seems to solidify the Oscar race for Best Foreign Picture. And while Blue is still considered a lock to take home the award, it could have been hurt by much of the negative press that has followed it since Cannes, which might allow one of those three films to sneak in and cause an upset. If any of them do pull it off, it will likely be The Great Beauty, which was the LA critics' runner up, and will only be helped by its major win at the European Film Awards.
Check out the full list of winners, below.
THE WASHINGTON, D.C. FILM CRITICS ASSOCIATION WINNERS 2013
Best Film12 Years a SlaveBest DirectorAlfonso Cuarón (Gravity)Best ActorChiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave)Best ActressCate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)Best Supporting ActorJared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club)Best Supporting ActressLupita Nyong'o (12 Years a Slave)Best Acting Ensemble12 Years a SlaveBest Youth PerformanceTye Sheridan (Mud)Best Adapted ScreenplayJohn Ridley (12 Years a Slave)Best Original ScreenplaySpike Jonze (Her)Best Animated FeatureFrozenBest DocumentaryBlackfishBest Foreign Language FilmThe Broken Circle BreakdownBest Art DirectionProduction Designer Catherine Martin, Set Decorator Beverley Dunn (The Great Gatsby)Best CinematographyEmmanuel Lubezki, ASC, A.M.C. (Gravity)Best EditingAlfonso Cuarón, Mark Sanger (Gravity)Best Original ScoreHans Zimmer (12 Years a Slave)The Joe Barber Award for Best Portrayal of Washington, DCLee Daniels' The Butler
BOSTON SOCIETY OF FILM CRITICS WINNERS 2013
Best Picture12 Years a Slave
Best Actor Chiwetel Ejiofor for 12 Years a Slave
Best Actress Cate Blanchett for Blue Jasmine
Best Supporting Actor James Gandolfini for Enough Said
Best Supporting Actress June Squibb for Nebraska
Best Director Steve McQueen for 12 Years a Slave
Best ScreenplayNicole Holofcener for Enough Said
Best CinematographyEmmanuel Lubezki for Gravity
Best Documentary The Act of Killing
Best Foreign-Language FilmWadjida
Best Animated Film The Wind Rises
Best Film Editing (awarded in memory of Karen Schmeer) Daniel P. Hanley and Mike HillforRush
Best New Filmmaker (awarded in memory of David Brudnoy) Ryan Coogler for Fruitvale Station
Best Ensemble CastNebraska
Best Use of Music in a FilmInside Llewyn Davis
L.A. FILM CRITICS ASSOCIATION WINNERS 2013
BEST FOREIGN-LANGUAGE FILM:Blue Is the Warmest ColorRunner-up: The Great Beauty
BEST PICTURE (tie):Gravity and Her
BEST ACTRESS (tie):Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine and Adèle Exarchopoulos, Blue Is the Warmest Color
BEST SCREENPLAY:Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke, Before MidnightRunner-up: Spike Jonze, Her
BEST ACTOR:Bruce Dern, NebraskaRunner-up: Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave
BEST DIRECTOR:Alfonso Cuarón, GravityRunner-up: Spike Jonze, Her
BEST DOCUMENTARY:Stories We TellRunner-up: The Act of Killing
Douglas Edwards Independent/Experimental Film/Video Award:Cabinets Of Wonder: Films and a Performance by Charlotte Pryce
BEST MUSIC SCORE:T Bone Burnett, Inside Llewyn DavisArcade Fire and Owen Pallett, Her
BEST ANIMATION, Ernest & CelestineRunner-up: The Wind Rises
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR (tie):James Franco, Spring Breakers, and Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club
BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY:Emmanuel Lubezki, Gravity Runner-up, Bruno Delbonnel, Inside Llewyn Davis
BEST EDITING:Alfonso Cuarón and Mark Sanger, GravityRunner-up: Shane Carruth and David Lowery, Upstream Color
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS:Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a SlaveRunner-up: June Squibb, Nebraska
BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN:K.K. Barrett, HERRunner-up: Jess Gonchor, Inside Llewyn DavisNEW GENERATION Prize:Megan Ellison
LEGACY OF CINEMA:The Criterion Collection
SPECIAL CITATION:12 Years a Slave
NEW YORK FILM CRITICS ONLINE WINNERS 2013
Best Picture12 Years a Slave
Ensemble CastAmerican Hustle
Best DirectorAlfonso Cuaron, Gravity
Best ScreenplaySpike Jonze, Her
Best ActressCate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
Best ActorChiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave
Best Supporting ActressLupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave
Best Supporting ActorJared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club
DocumentaryThe Act of Killing
Animated FeatureThe Wind Rises
Foreign LanguageBlue is the Warmest Color
Breakthrough PerformanceAdèle Exarchopoulos, Blue is the Warmest Color
CinematographyEmmanuel Lubezki, Gravity
Use of MusicT Bone Bunett, Inside Llewyn Davis
Debut DirectorRyan Coogler, Fruitvale Station