Wednesday, December 06, 2006

And so it begins...

Awards season has been in full swing, maybe not for quite a month but close to it. As a voting member of the Central Ohio Film Critics Association and Online Film Critics Society, I've seen screeners pile up outside my door and endured what seems like a neverending screening schedule of awards hopefuls.

Today the first list of winners appeared courtesy of the National Board of Review. Awards season should be a simple matter of critics honoring what they believe to be the best, but to a certain extent it has been perverted into an Oscar prognostication game. In part that's what I think the NBR is trying to do, although since their only claim to fame is being first out of the gate, I can't say I take their winners all that seriously.

That doesn't mean the winners aren't deserving--some are--or that their choices have to line up with my preferences. Not at all. I find it a little fishy that all of the films Fox Searchlight has promoted with awards screeners earned mentions in one category or another, but just because they've worked hard to sell voters on their films doesn't mean there's anything wrong with that. (The studio has two other titles that I expect will arrive in my mail once they are closer to theatrical release.)

The most glaring omission from the Best Films list is DREAMGIRLS. I've seen the perceived Oscar frontrunner, but I'm not making a judgment call on whether it should or shouldn't be there. (With embargo rules these days, I'm not sure if I can say what I think of the film, so I'll withhold comment. I would be stunned if the Academy doesn't go for it, though.) I'm just saying that its absence is notable, not that it means the film's prospects are damaged.

Entertainment writers pore over these awards as though they're trying to divine fortunes from tea leaves. But what difference should the NBR's list make in regard to the Academy Awards? For that matter, what impact should any of them have? The critical bodies and AMPAS don't overlap, so why is it taken for granted that what the critics of the nation honor will affect the Academy Award nominations?

Voting on year-end awards is fun to do, although it's a lot more effort than you'd think. (Yeah, I know. Boo hoo.) I know I'm not nominating or voting with any agenda in mind other than bringing to attention the work I found to be the year's best. If the films are well-known, so be it. If they're obscure, that's fine too, although chances are not enough people will agree with me to matter.

I can hear the avalanche of lists on the way. If you don't like what the NBR has announced, don't worry. Something completely different will probably turn up soon.

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