We’re not going to keep reporting on the many critics circle awards that will continue to roll out as the year ends, but did want to salute the fact that the San Francisco Film Critics Circle has gone against the grain and picked "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford" for best film of the year. Not a designation we’d go with, but serious points for boldness.
I sprinted down the corridors of TIME this afternoon, eager to spread the news of the New York Film Critics Circle voting for the year’s best films. The winner, in the film, director, screenplay and supporting actor categories? The Coen brothers’ No Country for Old Men, which three different people told me they’d been meaning to see. The runner-up, with wins for best actor and cinematographer? There Will Be Blood, an audience-punishing epic that doesn’t open for another two weeks…. By the time I’d got back to my office I had realized that we critics may give these awards to the winners, but we give them for ourselves. In fact, we’re essentially passing notes to one another, admiring our connoisseurship at the risk of ignoring the vast audience that sees movies and the smaller one that reads us.
Corliss’ process goes something like this: critics awards have nothing to do with the relative popularity of certain films, but nevertheless serve as major factors in determining which films get nominated for Oscars, which is why frightfully obscure titles from filmmakers like these alleged "Coen brothers" will be mispronounced at the nomination announcements on January 22nd, chasing away most potential viewers: "Moviegoers who are TV viewers don’t want horse races; they want coronations â€” validations that somebody in Hollywood is ready to honor the movies they love." We do appreciate that Mr. Corliss is so troubled by award show ratings that he’s questioning the legitimacy of his profession, but doesn’t the ratings problem belong to the Academy, not the critics out there drawing attention to whichever film they honestly feel is the highlight of the year? Critics should and will like what they like, and we can’t imagine that even major fans of this year’s top blockbusters, which would be "Spider-Man 3," "Shrek the Third," "The Transformers," "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End" and "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," would insist they’re Oscar-worthy. As the years become more crammed with ever more releases, there are going to be more films the casual moviegoer hasn’t heard of. It doesn’t mean they’re not worthy of attention or praise.
Anyway, this year’s Rex Reed moment comes from Jeffrey Wells at Hollywood Elsewhere, who cites "an anonymous New York Film Critics Circle source" as saying:
Rex Reed made a vomiting noise the first time there was a vote for Francis Coppola’s Youth Without Youth, which prompted NYFCC chief Stephen Whitty to quip, ‘And a special award to Rex for sitting through it.’ N.Y. Press critic Armond White gave a passionate speech arguing against the proposed Lifetime Achievement Award for director Sidney Lumet (Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead) on the grounds that Lumet sucks and always has, but that’s about it. Oh, and there was a good protest vote for Best Actress with Bianca the doll (from Lars and the Real Girl) being pushed over Julie Christie.
+ 2007 SAN FRANCISCO FILM CRITICS CIRCLE AWARDS (SFFCC.org)
+ Do Film Critics Know Anything? (Time)
+ An anonymous New York Film Critics Circle source (Hollywood Elsewhere)