So, anyone who’s been reading the news coming out of the various (and seemingly ever-growing!) critics organizations’ year-end awards this week should be getting the impression that the Best Picture Oscar pretty much belongs to The Hurt Locker at this point, right? Wrong!
If one looks at other instances in recent history when the vast majority of the film-critics orgs all fell in line behind one title, that title has more often than not lost the big award. This year, The Hurt Locker has (so far) won Best Picture from the New York Film Critics Circle (NYFCC), the Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA), the Boston Society of Film Critics (BSFC), and the San Francisco Film Critics Circle (SFFCC). So let’s see what happened the last couple of times these critics orgs all agreed:
In 2005, the NYFCC, the LAFCA, the BSFC, and the SFFCC all gave their awards to Brokeback Mountain. In a move that left well-meaning people of taste everywhere reeling, the Academy gave the award to Crash.
In 2004, all these organizations also gave their big award to Sideways. The Oscar went to Million Dollar Baby.
In 1997, all these awards (save the San Francisco group’s, which didn’t exist at the time) went to L.A. Confidential. Titanic won the Oscar.
It’s an imperfect science, however, since one of the country’s biggest critics organizations, the National Society of Film Critics, has yet to give out its award (and has been known to make some maverick-y choices, like when they gave Best Picture to Waltz with Bashir last year). And to be fair, Up in the Air has also snagged a couple of Best Film awards. But the point remains that critical wildfires rarely translate into Best Picture Oscars. In fact, we can only think of one title that swept all the critics awards and the Best Picture Oscar: 1993’s Schindler’s List … which, let’s face it, nobody was willing to vote against.