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The Reeler Blog

NYC Critics Put "Circle" in Circle Jerk

"Didn't you already vote, Rex?" Inside the inner sanctum of the NY Film Critics Circle
By S.T. VanAirsdale

Writing about New York film critics' annual year-end self-love likely only encourages them, but seeing as this is a NYC film site, no minutiae from the day's sluggish news trickle is too banal to consider. (The alternative: Four out of five principals blew us off at Monday night's There Will Be Blood premiere; I guess it's a scoop that Paul Dano joked Daniel Day-Lewis looks sexy on the poster, but I digress.) Chief among the orgiasts reflecting from bed after Monday's NY Film Critics Circle vote is Richard Corliss, who readily admits this isn't as delicious a tryst to watch as it is to join:

[Critics] give prizes to whom they damn well please. No problem with that; it's their gig, and obviously they should pick their favorites. (The choices are fine with me: No Country For Old Men, Persepolis and No End in Sight are all on my 10 best.) But these laurels factor into publicity campaigns for the Oscars and Golden Globes; often they are the campaigns. It's the way we critics contribute to the art-industrial complex. Our prizes certainly help determine which films get nominated, setting in motion the next round of ballyhoo before the final prizes are handed out. So almost all the nominees will be from worthy obscurities that can't draw much of an audience in the theater or, when the awards shows are aired, on TV. ... Moviegoers who are TV viewers don't want horse races; they want coronations -- validations that somebody in Hollywood is ready to honor the movies they love.

Ooh! Masturbatory and condescending -- a truly veteran move from the cagey Corliss, who shouldn't have had to wait 40 years to audition for a reviewing spot in The New Yorker.

At least the remaining burst of NYFCC wrap-ups fake no apologies to their publications' readers; if Corliss' headline furrows its brow and asks, "Do Film Critics Know Anything?", then NY Post recapper Lou Lumenick has the most populist reply of all:

At least we managed to head off I'm Not There, which might have pulled off a win a few years ago, when the Village Voice's members tended to dominate the proceedings. I do regret that erstwhile stripper Diablo Cody will not be joining us for the awards on Jan. 6. She sure had my vote.

For straight-talking Daily News critic Jack Mathews, knowledge is beside the point -- unless you're talking about winning strategy for inside baseball:

I dropped out of the New York Film Critics Circle a few years back because I thought its awards voting process was corrupt. Many of its winners are compromise candidates that score third or fourth on the first ballot and, after several more politically-motivated ballots, come in first.

In fact, as many critics vote AGAINST movies as vote for them. Let’s say that Joe Wright’s Atonement is leading after the first ballot but doesn’t have the majority of votes needed to win outright. On the second ballot, those critics who may have had Atonement second or third will leave it off, depriving it of points in order to strengthen their No. 1 choice. When it gets to a point where a critic doesn’t like either of the leading vote getters, he or she will pick the lesser of two evils, vote for it at No. 1 and leave the other off the ballot. And, of course, various cliques get together and throw their weight behind or in front of movies gaining steam.

And then, according to Tom O'Neil, Armond White and Rex Reed go all Defiant Ones on the proceedings:

Last year's voting session was marred by a hissy fit from New York Observer critic Rex Reed over United 93 winning best pic, but "Rex was fairly pleased with the results today," one member reports. "Rex got pissy about a few little things, but nothing major."

There was one major outburst during the meeting: a loud protest from one member [Armond, natch] over the suggestion to give Sidney Lumet an honorary prize. The member made it clear that he didn't feel that Lumet's film, Before the Devil Knows You're Dead," was worthy. However, circle members overwhelming [sic] overruled him and voted to give fellow New Yorker Lumet a Lifetime Achievement Award anyway.

Whew!I don't know about you, but I'm in the mood for a cigarette.

Posted at December 11, 2007 11:45 AM

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