Kathryn Bigelow’s very fine thriller “Zero Dark Thirty” picked up yet another award this morning– from a group really no one’s going to care about too much, the Boston Online Critics. Okay, every city has a critics group and some have several. So far “Zero Dark Thirty” was chosen by both by the New York Film Critics Circle and the New York-oriented (except for their board member who’s a sex therapist in Los Angeles) National Board of Review. The way the critics’ groups roll is sort of a domino effect. If New York thinks “ZD30” is the best, then other cities will likely follow suit. But isn’t this what happened to “The Social Network” two years ago? And did “The Social Network” win the Oscar? Uh, no.
The biggest mistake Oscar prognosticators make is to follow the path of these awards. They’re terrific and no one is saying they’re undeserving. But the Academy is a different animal. They are mostly actors, and then creative people who work in the business. They vote with their hearts. That’s why “The King’s Speech” won. It also beat “The Social Network” at the Screen Actor’s Guild for Best Ensemble. And when that happened, the game was over.
So which film will beat “Zero Dark Thirty”? There’s no consensus yet. But the best ensembles are “Les Miserables, “Lincoln,” “Argo,” “Silver Linings Playbook,” and “Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.” Runners up would be “The Master” and “Quartet.” “ZD30” runs on two levels– Jessica Chastain, Jason Clarke, and Jennifer Ehle; then the guys, with Joel Edgerton, who kill bin Laden from Seal Team Six.
“ZD30” is less about teams than about individuals– specifically the woman who Bigelow and Mark Boal discovered in their reporting and then turned into Jessica Chastain. Unlike “The Hurt Locker,” “ZD30” is not so much an ensemble but a star piece.
Think of the family in “Silver Linings” who have each other’s backs; the group of legislators in “Lincoln”; the team in “Argo” who make the fake film; the rebels of “Les Miz” who march to victory. Which one gives you a lump in the throat at the end of the movie? That’s the one that will win.
Meantime, I just voted my ballot for the Critics Choice Awards. They’re due tomorrow night, December 9th. I’ve listened to 20 score samples. Jonny Greenwood’s for “The Master” was one that really stood out. Also, I really loved Jennifer Ehle in “Zd30.” There are tons of great entries for every section. If you in BFCA email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I can hum the “Argo” music to you!