‘Zero Dark Thirty’ comes out of hiding with best picture win as NYFCC stirs things up

If the New York Film Critics Circle believed they might cause a commotion with a number of their 2012 selections, they certainly succeeded in rattling the awards season boat.  The NYFCC, like their Los Angeles counterparts, have rarely gone with the collective wisdom unless it”s the best picture or best director category.  This year? They made sure Steven Spielberg”s “Lincoln” remained a centerpiece in the best picture race with honors for best actor (a very deserving Daniel Day-Lewis), best screenplay (cultural touchstone Tony Kushner) and, um, best supporting actress (Sally Field).  Where they really stirred things up was by giving the season”s first major kudos to “Zero Dark Thirty” and pretty much anointing best actress and best supporting actors out of left field.

In something of a surprise, director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal”s fact based depiction of the hunt for Osama Bin Laden won best picture, best director and best cinematography honors.  “ZDT” is one of the late comers to the end of year awards party and Sony Pictures and Annapura Pictures are no doubt thrilled to have major critical support for a film their peers would tell you will be very hard to market.  More importantly for its long term prospects, the NYFCC best picture win also makes “Dark Thirty” a surefire Oscar nominee. There have only been two instances over the past 10 years when the NYFCC have not honored an eventual Academy Award nominee for best picture: “Far From Heaven” in 2002 and “United 93” in 2006 (and if there had been the option of 10 nominees for those years both would have made it).  Of course, it”s worth noting the New Yorkers have only agreed with the Academy”s eventual pest picture winner three times out of the past five seasons. However, one of those three times was for Bigelow”s previous film, “The Hurt Locker.”  Still, many of their other choices raised eyebrows among cinephiles across the globe.

Awarding Rachel Weisz best actress for “The Deep Blue Sea” is a nice recognition for the former Oscar winner, but is her turn in the league of Emmanuelle Riva”s work in “Amour” or Marion Cotillard’s in “Rust and Bone”?  We think not.

Sally Field has been lauded by numerous critics for playing Mary Todd Lincoln in “Lincoln,” but is it a better performance than Anne Hathaway”s iconic turn in “Les Miserables”?  Or, even Amy Adams” career best in “The Master”?  As much as we respect Ms. Field and her previous accomplishments, it”s almost silly to put them in the same league.

Many are also rolling their eyes at Matthew McConaughey taking best supporting actor for “Magic Mike” and “Bernie,” especially when “The Paperboy” isn”t part of the mix. McConaughey has had a phenomenal year (and may top himself in 2013), but again, how do you ignore Philip Seymour Hoffman arguably career best performance in “The Master”?  Is throwing McConaughey”s charismatic work a bone worth dismissing Hoffman”s cinematic achievement?  

It”s worth noting the NYFCC hardly spread the wealth this year.  All of The Weinstein Company”s players, “The Master,” “Silver Linings Playbook” and “Django Unchained,” were shut out.   Fox Searchlight”s “Beasts of the Southern Wild” also came away empty handed (even best first feature instead when to “How To Survive A Plague”) and, as expected, Ben Affleck”s “Argo” had little sway with the NY critics.  Even “Les Miserables” didn”t fare well with the organization. That was somewhat surprising considering the seemingly glowing reception the movie musical has had with New Yorkers so far.

More in line with expectations was New York-centric best documentary winner “The Central Park Five”, foreign film winner “Amour” (likely an Oscar lock at this point) and best animated feature “Frankenweenie.”

The question now is how will LAFCA respond to “Dark Thirty”s” NYFCC wins?  Many of the West Coasters insist they never consider what their East Coast peers have done in determining their own year-end honors, but will this be their chance to give native son Paul Thomas Anderson some well-deserved love?  Or, could they embrace “Beasts” or even “Silver Linings Playbook”?  Of course, the last time Bigelow took NYFCC best picture and best director honors was three years ago for “The Hurt Locker.”  Who did LAFCA honor that year?  Bigelow and “The Hurt Locker” in the exact same categories.

The story continues on Wednesday when the National Board of Review announces their year-end honorees.

What did you think of this year’s nominees?  Is “Zero Dark Thirty” a legitimate best picture contender? Share your thoughts below.