New York Film Critics Jump The Gun, Unveil New November Awards Voting Date

There’s new intrigue surrounding the race to be first among critics groups in announcing film awards. In a pre-emptive move that should send shudders down the spines of the National Board of Review — normally always first to announce — and the Los Angeles Film Critics — which normally gets a one-day jump on their New York counterparts — the New York Film Critics Circle has just announced that it will vote for their choices of the year’s best films on Monday, November 28, immediately after the Thanksgiving holiday. “As the nation’s pre-eminent critic’s group, we are excited about kicking off the annual end-of-year discussion with our new early voting date,”  says new chairman John Anderson, who replaced Armond White as head of the group. (See the full release below.)

The surprise chess move puts the other groups racing for influence in the Oscar race in a tough position as they would likely have to advance their voting dates to pre-Thanksgiving to beat NYFCC to the punch — a tough task when studios and distributors probably haven’t screened all year-end contenders at that point, especially those with tight post-production schedules. It’s known that some of them rush contenders just to meet the early December voting date of the National Board of Review, so anything before the 28th could be stretching it.

New York critics were likely frustrated last year following the gang of groups crowning The Social Network best picture and thereby looking like they were following the pack. The National Board of Review chose the film first on December 2, and the LAFCC followed suit December 12, a day before NYFCC announced it as their choice December 13. In between all that, the Broadcast Film Critics Association announced their nominations.

It will be especially interesting to see what the National Board of Review does now. This is not a critics group but rather a “film society” that is placated by studios with special treatment because they are always first to announce. Even officials of this group have admitted to me in the past that the reason their choices get so much scrutiny in the entertainment media is because they are first. L.A.’s critics also like beating their East Coast rivals, but from what I hear have already planned to select their picks that weekend of December 10.

With lots of talk about the Oscars moving up a full month as early as 2013 (although I am told until they figure out how to do electronic voting, no decision is being made), today’s NYFCC move will only add to the discussion. Is it only a matter of time before one of these organizations announces their nominees on Halloween?

Here’s the NYCFF release that came out this morning:

New York, NY – October 19, 2011 — The New York Film Critics Circle announced today they will hold their annual vote for the 2011 Film Critics Circle Awards on Monday, November 28th, at The Walter Reade Theatre at Lincoln Center. The awards will be handed out at a ceremony to be held on Monday, January 9, 2012.

Says this years Chairman John Anderson, “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.”

Founded in 1935, the New York Film Critics Circle is the oldest and most prestigious in the country. The circle’s membership includes critics from daily newspapers, weekly newspapers, magazines and the Web’s most respected on-line publications. Every year the organization meets in New York to vote on awards for the calendar year’s films. The Circle’s awards are often viewed as harbingers of the Oscar nominations. The Circle’s awards are also viewed — perhaps more accurately — as a principled alternative to the Oscars, honoring aesthetic merit in a forum that is immune to commercial and political pressures.

Joining Chairman John Anderson in leading the group is this year’s Vice-Chairman, Time Out New York Senior Film Writer Joshua Rothkopf, who will assume the duties of Chairman for 2012. Additions to the group are returning voting member Amy Taubin of Film Comment and a new member, Salon film critic Andrew O’ Hehir.

  1. This article reminds me of my childhood and fighting with my brother over who was the bigger Underdog fan.

  2. Critic’s societies should be barred from announcing their choices until every eligible picture has opened in the United States – thus, until after Dec. 31.

    1. Actually, they should be barred from announcing their choices until every eligible picture has opened ON BOTH COASTS.

  3. Michael, you made THE valid point.

    There will be several (not just 1 or 2) opening in December that they simply won’t have seen. While they may not be perceived as awards contenders, it’s still prejudicial to “disqualify” those releases.

    The National Society of Film Critics has always waited until early January. Guess we now know which critics’ group is more concerned with self-serving than serving their readers.

    1. With print deadlines etc, all the big movies will be seen by the critics before they vote. But for the record the NYFCC were voting in the very latter part of December in the 70s.

  4. What’s wrong here is that the critics groups should be working around the distributors’/studios’ release schedules. The film personnel in post are already working insane hours at this time of year to meet release dates. And this practice sometimes impacts the final product — on which these critics base their reviews. Hey, children, “CHILL.” Why not just wait until Dec. 15 to announce results? It’s one thing for a film to be rushed to meets the distributor’s announced release date. But, to rush even more just because of this silly competition, and bragging rights from the critics’ orgs? No way.

  5. Translation: “We pretend to be in the entertainment business by announcing something early to get more attention then our competitors who also want to pretend they’re in the entertainment business.”

  6. Why don’t they just move to announcing the best of the year the day after the Oscar telecast of that year or, just announce the list on January 1 of the same year- just base it on the poster, the trailer or the pitch they read from the studios… it makes about as much sense and means about as much as a pile of beans. I have seen some of these critics at screenings and some of them actually fall ASLEEP during the screening and then write a review? Seriously? They are all sycophants who need to get lives.

  7. So critics are basically turning into the people that jump onto message boards simply so they can say “First!” How great for cinema.

  8. To clarify, critics groups inform studios of their voting deadlines, which are used as leverage to see screenings or, in some cases, screeners of the films in time for voting. That said, as voting dates go earlier and earlier, some films may actually not be available in final cut. And those films just won’t be available for consideration by critics groups who choose to vote before the film is ready for viewing. They’ll just see what they can see by their voting deadline–but in theory it’s the studios’ responsibility to get the films in front of critics in a timely fashion if the studios want those films to be considered for the critics’ awards. This is definitely a longstanding (now escalating) game of political chicken amongst “competing” critics’ groups and the studios.

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