Movie Critics: Impact on Oscar Award Nominations

There are roughly two weeks of campaigning left before the Oscar nominations are announced, this year rather early, on January 10, 2013.

As the critics groups begin weighing in some kudo impresarios will fret over having released films too early in the year while others will stew over not having been out sooner.

With December’s arrival, groups such as the New York Film Critics Circle, the National Board of Review and the Los Angeles Film Critics reveal their year-end honors to significant fanfare — with “Zero Dark Thirty” winning top film from the first two groups — yet these announcements are deceptive bellwethers — at least when it comes to Oscar winners.

A year ago, the three orgs each picked a different best picture. The NBR went with “Hugo,” Los Angeles with “The Descendants” and only New York with eventual Oscar champ “The Artist.” And even the Gotham set selected only one of the four Academy Award acting winners.

The previous year, the trio united behind one film — “The Social Network,” which ended up a bridesmaid to “The King’s Speech.” Over the past four years, awards from three groups in the major categories (picture, director, screenplay and acting) lined up with Oscar winners less than half the time.

On the other hand, approximately 75% of the honorees in the three groups did end up with an Oscar nomination. In that respect, they do serve as tea leaves to be read.

So a film’s awards team can be forgiven for daydreaming. Who knows what the effect of a December release would have been on “Argo” and “The Master” or a September release on “Zero Dark Thirty” and “Les Miserables?” Then reality returns, with a million different reasons why a picture had to come out when it did.

Either way, for those of us watching from the stands, it’s critical to remember that the sands are still shifting, tastes are still forming and votes remain to be won.