Monday, December 5, 2011

Oscar 2012: Washington, DC Area Film Critics Awards

In continuing coverage of this year’s Academy Awards and the pre-Oscar critics choice awards, here are the winners for the Washington DC Area Film Critics (WAFCA) prizes, announced today:

Best Film: The Artist
Best Director: Martin Scorsese, Hugo
Best Actor: George Clooney, The Descendants
Best Actress: Michelle Williams, My Week with Marilyn
Best Supporting Actor: Albert Brooks, Drive
Best Supporting Actress: Octavia Spencer, The Help
Best Cast: Bridesmaids (!!)
Best Adapted Screenplay: The Descendants
Best Original Screenplay: 50/50
Best Foreign Film: The Skin I Live In
Best Documentary: Cave of Forgotten Dreams
Best Animation: Rango
Best Cinematography: The Tree of Life
Best Production Design: Hugo
Best Music: The Artist

In reading the tea leaves, here are some observations:

Another winner! The Artist snags another Best Film prize
As with the prizes from the New York Film Critics Circle and the National Board of Review, the status quo remains for The Artist and Hugo to gear up for across-the-board nominations including Best Picture and Director for both. Clooney, The Descendants and Brooks are shoring up support for nominations in their respective categories, with Descendants also looking at Best Picture. Emmanuel Lubezki’s work on The Tree of Life, even if the film is divisive, looks more like the film to beat for Best Cinematography as the season wears on. 

There are four notable winners here who should get a leg up from this latest round of awards-giving. Click after the jump for a brief analysis.

Michelle Williams’s name has been thrown into the conversation for Best Actress alongside Meryl Streep, Glenn Close and Tilda Swinton, amongst others, but needed a win to make a stronger case. This can no doubt help her, and Williams has already snuck in as a “surprise” nominee before, for last year’s shattering Blue Valentine. I can’t see much reason for her to not get in at this point.

Octavia Spencer shared in a Best Cast prize at the National Board of Review, even if it meant that her cast mate, the prolific Jessica Chastain, was the one who collected Best Supporting Actress at the NYFCC. Look for Spencer to get into this race and go toe-to-toe with her co-star.

A few months ago, the well-received 50/50 was not considered a major contender due to its status as an indie film that may be forgotten by Oscar time. Along with its citation from the National Board, it just cemented its status as a film to be considered in the mix. 

The biggest surprise of all was the Best Cast prize here. It didn’t go to the much-ballyhooed ensembles of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Coriolanus, The Descendants or even The Help, which could receive as many as three major actor nominations come Oscar time. The WAFCA instead went with the raucous comedy Bridesmaids, indicating that there may be previously-undetected support for the film. While it is a bit of stretch to see the talented multi-hyphenate Kristen Wiig in Best Actress, it’s no longer out of the question for recent Emmy winner Melissa McCarthy to get thrown into the mix for Best Supporting Actress, and the film to potentially land a citation in Best Original Screenplay. Wouldn’t it be wild if Bridesmaids lands a Best Picture nominee? It’s looking more and more like one of the likely nominees at the Golden Globes, at the very least. And right now, the thought of Wilson Phillips showing up at the red carpet at the Kodak Theater is very, very appealing...

A win here for The Skin I Live In hasn’t helped the Spanish film’s chances for Oscar, because in order for it to get nominated for Best Foreign Language Film, it must be officially submitted by the country itself. This year, the Spaniards have opted not to go with Almodovar’s work, so you can remove that from your office pool. That being said, it is eligible for almost all other categories but, given the film’s lack of enthusiasm and somewhat mixed critical notices, it likely won’t produce much when the nominations are revealed. 

For more of this group's history on the Oscars, I recommend you read this fascinating analysis over at Awards Circuit.