Sorry the National Society of Film Critics doesn’t fit inside your box

01.04.15 3 years ago 39 Comments

En route to Palm Springs yesterday afternoon, I saw the news that the National Society of Film Critics had gone against the flow, where most would have expected a “Boyhood” win, and named Jean-Luc Godard's “Goodbye to Language” the year's best film. What I wasn't fully aware of until this morning was the wave of displeasure it apparently spurred.

First, some thoughts on the organization's history. They often settle on something perfectly reasonable if not inspired, and sometimes that falls outside the sphere of major Best Picture contenders. “Inside Llewyn Davis,” “Amour,” “Melancholia,” “Waltz with Bashir,” “Pan's Labyrinth,” “American Splendor,” “Mulholland Drive,” “Yi Yi: A One and a Two” – that's just a brief, selective history. And I'm forever in love with their “Out of Sight” choice in 1998.

Only five films have won all three major critics group awards (NSFC, LAFCA and NYFCC): “The Social Network,” “The Hurt Locker,” “L.A. Confidential,” “Schindler's List” and “Goodfellas.” Maybe there's some annoyance that “Boyhood” didn't join that club this year, and apparently it would have had it not been for a silly rule stipulating that proxy votes don't count in the final round of voting (a vote should be a vote and this is a national organization, so what absurdity). That's a fair thing to criticize.

However…

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Here's the thing. “Goodbye to Language” is a pretty critically acclaimed film. Not only is it solidly among the best of the year on Mr. Poland's own collective of top 10 lists, but it came in at #2 on Sight and Sound's annual list of the year's best. So it seems to me fair enough that if they weren't going to pick “Boyhood,” and they weren't going to breathe wind into the sails of some other awards season staple, “Goodbye to Language” is as good a choice as there is. It's not some completely esoteric, WTF choice.

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What does that mean, “irrelevant?” To whom or what should they be “relevant?” Would an anointed Oscar contender have been more palatable?

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Who's being elitist here?

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Except that last part, at least given the empirical data, is not exactly true: We'd like to congratulate Godard on his first-ever National Society of Film Critics award for Best Film. In the organization's 50-year history, he's made a lot of films (and farted a lot of times), but never won this prize until yesterday. (“Every Man for Himself” came in third place in 1980 and “Week End” came in second place in 1968. Those farts weren't apparently strong enough.) He's also never won a Best Film prize from the New York Film Critics Circle or the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, by the way.

And re: “Botswana,” see above. This is a critically acclaimed film that has already won hardware. Moreover, the win is actually perfectly in keeping with the NSFC's identity to anyone who pays close enough attention to this stuff. This fellow, who some of you may know, gets it:

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I was going to troll through Twitter and dig up further examples but these were the first ones that popped up and I could pretty much guess at what the rest would be. I have no dog in this hunt. I haven't actually seen “Goodbye to Language,” but I have been enthusiastically planning to catch the film next week ahead of its one-week engagement at Santa Monica's Aero Theatre. Even more so now. But more importantly, in that quick glance through Twitter, it was heartening to see the amount of people who were seeking the film out, looking into where and when it was playing.

Isn't that supposed to be the gig?

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