Oscar Eye: Is The Artist A Best Picture Frontrunner After Yesterday's Awards?

By Katey Rich 2011-11-30 06:34:04discussion comments
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Oscar Eye: Is The Artist A Best Picture Frontrunner After Yesterday's Awards? image
If you were around for the glut of congratulatory announcements yesterday morning, you may have noticed that awards season has kicked off full force. Following Monday's Gotham Independent Film Awards-- where Tree of Life and Beginners tied for the top prize-- the New York Film Critics Circle announced their winners for the year, and the Independent Spirit Awards announced their nominees as well. All three groups represent tastes that are a little less mainstream, and sometimes decidedly more oddball, than what the Oscars will go for, but their picks are at least some kind of guideline as we navigate through the rest of the awards season. But what, exactly, do they even mean?

The biggest meme to emerge yesterday was centered around The Artist, which took the top prize from the critics and was nominated for a slew of Independent Film Awards, including Best Picture and Director. The silent film about old Hollywood directed by and starring Frenchmen seems like an odd choice for an awards powerhouse, but it's also a light-as-air crowdpleaser that hits pretty much all the same emotional notes as the Oscars themselves, reminding you of the joys of old movies while presenting you a new favorite as well. By winning with the New York critics, The Artist indicated a support among critics that didn't seem quite as strong before. It still seems unlikely that we'll see a critical steamroller like last year's The Social Network, which picked up seemingly every critic's prize in existence, but The Artist can be expected to win at least a few more and secure its status as an awards favorite-- though not necessarily an absolute frontrunner for Best Picture. There's plenty more competition out there still.

The French film wasn't the only one to benefit across the board yesterday, though. After picking up its Gotham award Tree of Life also got honors for its two actors, Brad Pitt and Jessica Chastain, from the New York critics; even though it was left out of the Indie Spirits entirely (likely because it cost too much), it's still well-positioned to come back strong months after its May release. And Beginners also picked up momentum following its Gothams win, snagging the top two Indie Spirits nominations and landing right alongside heftier fare like Drive and Take Shelter in that Best Feature category. And let's give a moment to congratulate 50/50, which seems to have virtually no Oscar chances but landed three Indie Spirit nominations, including Best Feature.

The awards will start coming fast and furious soon, with the National Board of Review announcing tomorrow and several other critic's groups to follow. Tomorrow I'll have a more complete Oscar Eye roundup, including the return of the charts, but it's unlikely the NBR announcement will change the newfound momentum for The Artist, Tree of Life and Beginners. If Oscar season is a track race, all three just got a little bit of wind at their backs.
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