If DVD’s have started arriving in my mailbox, and talk online has already started turning to lists, it must be time to start thinking about Award Season.

I know there are many who see Award Talk as a year-long discussion, but that’s never been for me. Power to everyone who rolls like that, but for me it’s like talking about World Series favorites in May. There are just too many games to be played at that stage.

For what it’s worth, I tend to start looking at the shape of things in late September – after the fall film festivals have started happening. It makes for a picture that will still change with time, but is clearer overall to begin with.

Well…except this year. This year nobody knows anything, and anyone who tells you they do is a damned dirty liar. This is the first such year in a long time. Usually by now, a front-runner has emerged. Usually by now a heavyweight fight has seemingly been set. Heck, sometimes one film even emerges to run the table from an early date (Think THE ARTIST, SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE, NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN).

This year? No clue.

There are lots of films that are in the conversation, and I do mean lots. Of what has premiered, THE MARTIAN, ROOM, BROOKLYN, CAROL, THE DANISH GIRL, SICARIO, BRIDGE OF SPIES, STEVE JOBS, SPOTLIGHT, and even CREED could potentially make the leap to the top slot. That doesn;t even take into account a few more films yet to bow before the year is out.

How rare is it that this is the state of affairs this late in the year?


2007: NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, debuted at Cannes – took the ball at TIFF and ran

2008: SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE, debuted at Telluride/TIFF and never looked back

2009: HURT LOCKER, a long, slow, steady build beginning at TIFF the year before

2010: SOCIAL NETWORK vs KING’S SPEECH, both debuted by now

2011: THE ARTIST freight train, running full steam by now

2012: ARGO, not a frontrunner this early, but very much in the conversation

2013: 12 YEARS A SLAVE, another TIFF debut well on its way by December

2014: BIRDMAN vs BOYHOOD, both with weeks or months of exposure by now.


This year? It really feels like it’s anybody’s ballgame. Those films, and the ones that were nominated around them all seemed to be staking out their spot. This year, nothing so far seems to have scratched out early-on what those films did early-on. And if you believe that Best Picture is usually a late-breaking race, remind yourself that you have to go all the way back to 2004 to find a December movie that took it all.

Nobody knows anything…so this is going to be a lot of fun to watch unfold!

Over the last week, we have been given a smidgen of clarity with the Independent Spirit Award nominations, and the National Board of Review awards, but it’s only a smidgen.


Some early thoughts on the state of things…


    • This year there feels like there are more late contenders than usual. I’m thinking specifically of films like THE REVENANT, THE HATEFUL EIGHT, and JOY. While all of these films screen for various critics groups and awards bodies well ahead of time, most of them only started bowing in recent weeks. Might that make for a contender striking while the iron is hot? Or might that mean waiting too late to truly cash-in?
    • I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again – The NBR Best Film means precious little, and for evidence of that look no further than last year’s prize winner. The group has a knack of circling a lot of the ultimate contenders – including the eventual Oscar winner – but are seldom a true trendsetter where top dog is concerned. They’ve only aligned with Oscar’s Best Picture twice so far this century.
    • That said, you have to believe this is a bit of validation for FURY ROAD. The intention of widening the Oscar field was to include more blockbusters, though by and large that hasn’t been the case. Is the love for Mad Max a sign that a wiz!bang!pew-pew-pew! movie is poised to slip on its tuxedo? It certainly can’t hurt, right?
    • Over with the indies, you have to feel good about SPOTLIGHT, CAROL, and ROOM as artier movies poised to make the jump. Acting nominations for some of those titles seem like a good bet, but one or more might be poised to pull up a chair at the grown-ups table if they can keep up the momentum.


Full lists of the Indie Spirit and NBR Award announcements are below. More thoughts will follow when the critics circles begin to weigh-in in the weeks ahead.


National Board of Review Awards

Best Film: Mad Max: Fury Road
Best Director: Ridley Scott – The Martian
Best Actor: Matt Damon – The Martian
Best Actress: Brie Larson – Room
Best Supporting Actor: Sylvester Stallone – Creed
Best Supporting Actress: Jennifer Jason Leigh – The Hateful Eight
Best Original Screenplay: Quentin Tarantino – The Hateful Eight
Best Adapted Screenplay: Drew Goddard – The Martian
Best Animated Feature: Inside Out
Breakthrough Performance: Abraham Attah – Beasts of No Nation & Jacob Tremblay – Room
Best Directorial Debut: Jonas Carpignano – Mediterranea
Best Foreign Language Film: Son of Saul
Best Documentary: Amy
William K. Everson Film History Award: Cecilia De Mille Presley
Best Ensemble: The Big Short
Spotlight Award: Sicario, for Outstanding Collaborative Vision
NBR Freedom of Expression Award: Beasts of No Nation & Mustang

Top Films
Bridge of Spies
The Hateful Eight
Inside Out
The Martian
Straight Outta Compton

Top 5 Foreign Language Films
Goodnight Mommy
The Second Mother
The Tribe

Top 5 Documentaries
Best of Enemies
The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution
The Diplomat
Listen to Me Marlon
The Look of Silence

Top 10 Independent Films
45 Years
Cop Car
Ex Machina
It Follows
James White
Mississippi Grind
Welcome to Me
While We’re Young


Independent Spirit Award Nominations

Best Feature
Beasts of No Nation

Best Director
Sean Baker, Tangerine
Cary Joji Fukunaga, Beasts of No Nation
Todd Haynes, Carol
Charlie Kaufman & Duke Johnson, Anomalisa
Tom McCarthy, Spotlight
David Robert Mitchell, It Follows

Best Screenplay
Charlie Kaufman, Anomalisa
Donald Margulies, The End of the Tour
Phyllis Nagy, Carol
Tom McCarthy & Josh Singer, Spotlight
S. Craig Zahler, Bone Tomahawk

Best First Feature
The Diary of a Teenage Girl
James White
Manos Sucia
Songs My Brothers Taught Me

Best First Screenplay
Jesse Andrews, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
Joseph Carpignano, Mediterranea
Emma Donoghue, Room
Marielle Heller, The Diary of a Teenage Girl
John Magary, Russell Harbaugh, Myna Joseph, The Mend

Best Male Lead
Christopher Abbott, James White
Abraham Attah, Beasts of No Nation
Ben Mendelsohn, Mississippi Grind
Jason Segel, The End of the Tour
Koudous Seihon, Mediterranea

Best Female Lead
Cate Blanchett, Carol
Brie Larson, Room
Rooney Mara, Carol
Bel Powley, The Diary of A Teenage Girl
Kitana Kiki Rodriquez, Tangerine

Best Supporting Male
Kevin Corrigan, Results
Paul Dano, Love & Mercy
Idris Elba, Beasts of No Nation
Richard Jenkins, Bone Tomahawk
Michael Shannon, 99 Homes

Best Supporting Female
Robin Bartlett, H.
Marin Ireland, Glass Chin
Jennifer Jason Leigh, Anomalisa
Cynthia Nixon, James White
Mya Taylor, Tangerine

Best Documentary
Best of Enemies
Heart of Dog
The Look of Silence
The Russian Woodpecker

Best International Film
Embrace the Serpent
Son of Saul

Best Cinematography
Beasts of No Nation
It Follows
Songs My Brothers Taught Me

Best Editing
Heaven Knows What
It Follows
Manos Sucias

John Cassavetes Award (Best Feature Under $500,000)
Christmas, Again
Heaven Knows What
Out of My Hand

Robert Altman Award (Best Ensemble)

Kiehl’s Someone to Watch Award
Chloe Zhoa
Felix Thompson
Robert Machoian & Rodrigo Ojeda-Beck