Too often, consensus pushes only a few gathering snowballs forward, leaving many deserving possibilities behind. This wide-open year, though, the New York critics looked back to earlier releases and delivered some welcome surprises.
Rather than go with presumed Oscar frontrunners Julianne Moore (“Still Alice”) and Michael Keaton (“Birdman”), the critics gave best actress to “The Immigrant” and “Two Days, One Night” star Marion Cotillard, who has unaccountably been overlooked by the Oscars since she won For “La Vie en Rose,” and best actor to Timothy Spall (“Mr. Turner”), who had won at Cannes but seemed to be lagging in this years awards derby. They also skipped “Birdman” cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki and “Unbroken” D.P. Roger Deakins in favor of Darius Khondji for The Weinstein Co.’s neglected child “The Immigrant” (TWC). And their consensus vote for best screenplay went to to Wes Anderson’s March release “The Grand Budapest Hotel” (Fox Searchlight).
Three expected awards did go to Oscar leader of the pack “Boyhood” (IFC) for best feature and its director, Richard Linklater, as well as supporting actress Patricia Arquette. And the critics also went with frontrunner supporting actor JK Simmons (“Whiplash,” Sony Pictures Classics), best documentary Laura Poitras’ “Citizenfour” (TWC-Radius), and best foreign language film Oscar entry “Ida” (Music Box), which beat out Cannes contenders “Wild Tales,” “Force Majeure,” “Leviathan,” “Two Days, One Night,” and “Mommy.”
Well-written Warner Bros. animated comedy “The Lego Movie” topped DreamWorks’ “How to Train Your Dragon 2,” Disney’s “Big Hero 6,” Laika’s “The Boxtrolls” and Studio Ghibli’s “The Tale of Princess Kaguya.”
This year, too, the Indie Spirit nominations went satisfyingly rogue. The NYFCC penchant for voting early to have more influence on the Oscar race belies their insistence that they are bent on rewarding the best films of the year.
Let’s hope more critics groups use their soap box to tout more than the usual suspects.