Is the New York Film Critics Circle petty new date really about LA vs. NY?

This pundit certainly isn’t one to fuel a fire for no reason, but the eyebrow raising move this morning by the usually classy New York Film Critics Circle deserves some closer scrutiny.

In moving the announcement of their end of year awards up two weeks to Nov. 28, the NYCC obviously bypassed the National Board of Review in terms of being the first “critic’s group” out of the gate.  Of course, no one really considers the NAB a real critic’s group, but they’ve been around enough – like the HFPA – that they have legitimacy to the public.  However, if you look at previous calendars, you’ll find a much more obvious competitor they are beating to the punch: The Los Angeles Film Critic’s Association (LAFCA).  For the past few years, LAFCA has announced their year-end awards the Saturday or Sunday before NYFCC, effectively beating them to the punch (as if they cared).  And, in fact, many observers believe the West Coast cinephiles picks have influenced how NYFCC have made some of their selections.  The groups rarely match up in their top picture selections with “The Social Network,” “The Hurt Locker,” “Sideways” and “Brokeback Mountain” being notable exceptions over the past decade.  Usually, NYFCC goes in a different direction to make their own mark on the season (“No Country for Old Men” instead of “There Will Be Blood” for instance).  Not that they would ever admit to that, of course.

That being said, John Anderson’s quote in the group’s press release was a bit telling.  The co-chair of the org. noted, “As the nations pre-eminent critic”s group, we are excited about kicking off the annual end-of-year discussion with our new early voting date. On the basis of the films we have seen thus far, we are looking forward to another passionate debate amongst our members.”

As Seth Meyers and Amy Poehler used to say on “SNL”, “Really NYFCC? Really?”  You’re the nation’s most pre-eminent critic’s group — in your opinion — but you feel you need to be before everyone else?  If you’re so pre-eminent, shouldn’t your opinion matter whenever it is announced?  That’s almost an elementary school mentality of needing to be first in line at the water fountain.  Is your organization that insecure in your standing that you have to announce in November?  Even the HFPA don’t have that sort of ego.  They’re even willing to have their nominees revealed after the SAG Awards this year. 

On a side note, we think the org’s ego in proclaiming themselves the “pre-eminent” critic’s group might have more to do with decades long reputation than their actual membership.  This prognosticator would easily go toe-to-toe with anyone in a debate that LAFCA’s critics are just as prestigious and revered as NYFCC.  As a native of New York, I clearly understand East Coast bias (I grew up hating the Lakers and Dodgers – still do), but I’m level headed enough to look at both organizations and see little disparity in quality (Average age? A different matter entirely).  Perhaps thats also becomes some of the membership are in both groups?  (That would be Joe Morgenstern, Peter Rainer and Richard Schickel for those playing at home).  Odd, but perhaps that’s a topic for another day.  It clearly ain’t easy being a critic these days.

In any event, this game of musical chairs won’t mirror the equally embarrassing presidential primary date rodeo going on this January. Word is LAFCA has no intention of moving off their expected weekend date of Nov. 10 or 11 (although technically that isn’t official yet).  And that’s a relief.  Critics are supposed to be the classy ones during awards season.

Onward and upward.

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