January 4, 2014

OSCARLAND: The National Society of Film Critics Dances To Its Own Beat


The National Society of Film Critics is the only major group that withholds its honors until after year-end, and for the most part its choices today were as idiosyncratic as its scheduling.  With the exception of Best Actress to Cate Blanchett and Foreign Film to Blue Is The Warmest Color, the awards were off the beaten path.  There was just one prize to American Hustle, and nothing at all for 12 Years A Slave, Gravity, The Wolf of Wall Street, Her or Dallas Buyers Club.  Instead, the group went all-in to make it a very big day for the Coen Brothers.

The winners (note:  the Society announces its runners-up in each category, listed below in declining order of votes):

Picture:  INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS (Runners-Up:  American Hustle, 12 Years A Slave, Her)

Director:  Joel & Ethan Coen, INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS (Runners-Up:  Alfonso Cuaron, Steve McQueen)

Screenplay:  Richard Linklater, Ethan Hawke & Julie Delpy, BEFORE MIDNIGHT (Runners-Up:  Inside Llewyn Davis, American Hustle)

Actor:  Oscar Isaac, INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS (Runners-Up:  Chiwetel Ejiofor, Robert Redford)

Actress:  Cate Blanchett, BLUE JASMINE (Runners-Up:  Adele Exarchopolous, Julie Delpy)

Supporting Actor:  James Franco, SPRING BREAKERS (Runners-Up:  Jared Leto, Barkhad Abdi)

Supporting Actress:  Jennifer Lawrence, AMERICAN HUSTLE (Runners-Up:  Lupita Nyong’o, Sally Hawkins, Lea Seydoux)

Cinematography, Bruno Delbonnel, INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS (Runners-Up:  Gravity, Nebraska)

Foreign Film:  BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR (Runners-Up:  A Touch of Sin, The Great Beauty)

Nonfiction:  TIE:  THE ACT OF KILLING and AT BERKELEY (Runner-Up:  Leviathan)

Film Still Awaiting US Distribution:  TIE:  STRAY DOGS and HIDE YOUR SMILING FACES

Will these awards help any of the recipients on the bigger stage?  Well, certainly it can’t hurt, and the timing is especially good for Llewyn Davis, which was snubbed this week by both the Producers Guild and the Writers Guild.  But to the extent members of the Society hoped to sway Oscar ballots (and few of them probably did–that James Franco award is like a middle finger toward the Academy), its choices were probably too unanimously off-beat.  One win to a little-honored film or performer can be helpful, but when a group’s entire line-up is odd, it’s too easy to dismiss its choices en masse.

Next up:  the extremely important nominees of the Directors Guild, a historically key precursor to the Oscars.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."