'Tis the season of giving, and critics groups have been doing plenty of that in the past week. Who has benefited most from all these glad tidings? Oscar Watch, which comes to you every Monday, runs down the list, checking it twice ...
Having won best picture from the Los Angeles Film Critics Assn. and the New York Film Critics Circle, rivals are working overtime to float a reason why "Boyhood" won't win the Oscar for best picture. The most popular counter runs along these lines: "Yeah, well, 'The Social Network' won every critics prize too, and we know how that went with the academy."
This ignores the obvious, key difference between the movies: "Boyhood" is an emotional movie that hits people where they live, while "The Social Network," like all of David Fincher's films, came across as chilly, involving and perceptive. Nobody cried at the end of "The Social Network." Nobody picked up the phone and called their mom. "Boyhood" owns the critics and an emotional wallop. There's no way it loses best picture.
'Grand Budapest Hotel'
For months now, we have been beating the 'Budapest' drum, saying that if a movie is a commercial hit (the biggest in filmmaker Wes Anderson's career) and critically acclaimed, why wouldn't the academy nominate it for best picture? Now that "Budapest" is vacuuming up prizes (it even won a Grammy nomination) -- and figures to do quite well at the Globes on Thursday -- the March release is sure to be square in the minds of academy voters. Which, really, is all it should take. You loved it then, people! Reward it now! Easy!
At this point, the Weinstein Co.'s biggest awards movie has been "The Immigrant," the James Gray historical melodrama that opened in three theaters in May before expanding to 150 screens and an eventual, disappointing $2 million box office total.
Gray and Weinstein have a history. (Did the premiere party finger sandwiches have big cold cuts and small bread? Nigel Tufnel needs to know!) So it wasn't a complete shock when the Weinstein Co. failed to send DVD screeners of "The Immigrant" to critics groups, concentrating their efforts instead on "The Imitation Game" and "St. Vincent." Critics have responded by giving Cotillard one award after another, a gesture that has the two-pronged effect of rewarding a performance and poking Weinstein in the eye.
Meanwhile, Cotillard has another movie, "Two Days, One Night" from Belgian filmmakers Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne, arriving on Christmas. Will the academy take notice of either performance? Well, safe to say that DVD screeners of "Two Days" are moving to the top of the pile in many voters' households. It's not a stretch to think this past Oscar winner could land a lead actress nomination based on her superb, immersive work in the Dardennes' movie.
Christopher Nolan's intentionally inaudible space drama has come up empty with critics groups, including L.A., a band that has bestowed its best picture prize on such movies as "Gravity" and "Wall-E." Look for the shrugging to continue in the weeks ahead.
'The Tale of Princess Kaguya'
In a year with two fantastic studio entries -- "The Lego Movie" and "Big Hero 6," the animated feature Oscar might be won by the exquisite tear-jerker “Princess Kaguya,” widely regarded as one of Studio Ghibli’s landmark achievements. The movie won prizes from the Los Angeles and Boston critics groups Sunday, getting the vote from many members over the (almost) equally loved "The Lego Movie." If enough academy members watch the film -- always the trick in this category -- it could pull off an Oscar night surprise. It's a flat-out masterpiece.