Critics’ Choice Movie Awards nominations crystallize the Oscar season so far

The Broadcast Film Critics Association's (BFCA*) annual announcement of nominees is particularly informative for one key reason: it's a broad assessment of the year from a vast voting body. The only two such events prior to the end of the year tend to be this and the Screen Actors Guild's nominations announcement, each setting the early stage in terms of what seems to be appealing across a wide spectrum. Other guilds then add to that equation in January.

So where did the BFCA's chips end up this season?

For starters, in what has become a trend for critics groups that provide a nominations stage, Alejandro González Iñárritu's “Birdman” led overall with 13 mentions. And in what has also become a trend with critical precursors, Wes Anderson's “Grand Budapest Hotel” (11) and Richard Linklater's “Boyhood” (8) were right up there, too, making starkly clear what the critical darlings are this season.

Within that, there are some interesting notes. Both the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA), which throws the annual Golden Globe Awards, and the BFCA, which hands out baubles at the annual Critics' Choice Movie Awards ceremony, have incredibly respectable nominee lineups this year. I'm personally starting to see that more as a reflection of quirkier-than-usual “awards movie” choices this year than anything else. Nevertheless, it almost looks…classy.

The BFCA's Best Picture list is virtually identical to the AFI's top 10 list, with “Gone Girl,” “The Grand Budapest Hotel” and “The Theory of Everything” subbed in for “American Sniper,” Foxcatcher” and “Into the Woods.” That means, yes, “Nightcrawler” is in there, which is really interesting to me. The film also picked up a Best Original Screenplay nomination. It's a media movie, so it's not shocking that it's continued to do well with critics groups, but still, very cool.

However, the lack of “Foxcatcher” is sort of disturbing. Steve Carell didn't even crack a six-deep Best Actor lineup. Is that a sign that it's going to be tough to sell that film to a large group of people? Its only two nominations were for Best Supporting Actor (Mark Ruffalo) and Best Hair & Makeup.

The Best Director lineup is the HFPA's, with Angelina Jolie tacked on for six. (Is this a sign that “Unbroken” plays better wider?) Best Actress is the HFPA's drama and SAG lineups with critics' fave Marion Cotillard in “Two Days, One Night” tacked on. (Can she break out of only critical recognition?) The Best Supporting Actor list is the SAG and HFPA grouping with Josh Brolin in “Inherent Vice” (Ditto?), while the Best Supporting Actress sextet is the HFPA list plus Tilda Swinton in “Snowpiercer.” (Ditto again?) Oh, yeah, lots of sixes again, typically the result of ties.

You're not likely to look across these nominees and find anything too surprising, though. I like seeing certain things, like Robert Yeoman's handsome photography from “The Grand Budapest Hotel” in there, or the meticulous production design of “Inherent Vice,” or the editing of “Whiplash,” or the “Birdman” score (which was deemed ineligible by the Academy's music branch, by the way). But nothing really sticks out, and honestly, it never does. That is, again, part of the informative nature of them: they start to reveal consensus.