The Broadcast Film Critics Association (I am a member), the largest group of critics in the nation and traditionally a reliable bellwether for Oscar nominations, have announced their list of contenders for the 19th annual Critics Choice Movie Awards in a whopping 28 categories offering 13 nominations each to Sony’s American Hustle and Fox Searchlight’s 12 Years A Slave, two films that have already figured heavily in the season’s early awards contests and look to be frontrunners now for some major Oscar love. Gravity, another strong contender favored to score big with the Academy, was right on their tail with 10 nominations. In fact the CCMA’s will be airing live on the evening of January 16th, the same day the Academy will be announcing its nominations. The same thing happened last year, and what started as a bummer at the Academy announcement in the morning for Argo’s Ben Affleck — who was shockingly passed over for an Oscar nod as Best Director — ended in triumph just a few hours later when he, and his movie, won BIG from the Broadcast Critics, beginning a strong end run for Affleck that ended with Argo’s Best Picture victory at the Oscars. Both 12 Years and Hustle owe many of their noms to their large cast of actors who cleaned up, with 12 Years’ Chiwetel Ejiofor, Lupita Nyong’o, Michael Fassbender and the ensemble scoring nods and Hustle’s Christian Bale (also named in the comedy category), Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Amy Adams (in comedy) and its ensemble grabbing mentions. For Gravity it was mostly a technical triumph, but star Sandra Bullock is up for Best Actress and again for Best Actress in an action movie (she also has a comedy nom for The Heat).
Hustle appeared to be on a roll over the weekend by scoring the year’s best limited opening with an estimated $115,000 per screen boding well for its wide expansion next weekend. Meanwhile it also took a couple of awards from the San Francisco Film Critics for Lawrence and Original Screenplay. 12 Years took Best Picture, Actor and Adapted Screenplay while Gravity won for directing and several below the line honors. The majority of precursor awards and noms do seem to be lining up heavily behind these three films — so far at least. (more…)