HitFix

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

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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