Today, the Broadcast Film Critics Association voted to add an 11th film, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, to their Critics Choice Awards Best Picture lineup. Apparently there was an ‘uproar’ from its members that it wasn’t in their original lineup (or in any category, for that matter). Why, you ask? Because the film didn’t screen for critics until after the BFCA announced their nominations. One of the (many) problems to arise from this decision is that more than a few high profile BFCA members remarked that they had no knowledge of a ‘select committee’ and that ballots were simply sent out to all members. According to Variety co-awards editor Kristopher Tapley, BFCA president Joey Berlin said, there was “an unprecedented cry out” from members to include the film It also begs the question ‘Why is it only getting a Best Picture nomination?’ Surely, had the film been seen in the group’s proper voting period that it would have gotten nominations in multiple tech categories like Production Design, Costume Design, Original Score and Visual Effects for starters. It should be noted that this isn’t even the first time they’ve done this; they did back in 2000 for Cast Away. Remember when the group gave Me and Orson Welles a 100 but then only nominated Christian McKay?
The BFCA has long been seen as employing questionable intentions, trying to align themselves as Oscar predictors rather than an awards body voting on actual personal preference. But they’ve still been a cut above things like The International Press Academy (Golden Satellites), The Hollywood Film Awards or The People’s Choice Awards. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association, who puts on the Golden Globes, have a long history of being easily bribed (yearly trips to Mexico from Sony, those Sharon Stone watches, a private Cher concert, that time Leonardo DiCaprio bought televisions for all members so they’d vote for Tobey Maguire in Brothers) and insistent on getting big stars to their party by nominating shit like The Tourist. They have made a real effort in the last few years to correct that and have done a pretty good job of it. They snubbed Johnny Depp in Black Mass this year and Angelina Jolie last year for Unbroken and Maleficent when they certainly didn’t need to. But even the Golden Globes wouldn’t stoop this low.
I recently got into a Twitter argument (I know, I know) with a BFCA member named Jenny Peters (@jennpeters) who was very proud of the fact that the BFCA is the ‘best Oscar barometer!’ and I asked about her ballot. Of course she got immediately defensive and tried to turn the conversation around to saying that I was arguing that I (and AW) was a better predictor. “You’re missing the point,” I said, I’m not talking about my Oscar predicting, I’m asking you about the fact that your group nuzzles up to Academy favorites rather than reflects personal predictions. This conversation went around and around, she called me a douche and there wasn’t much more to be had of it. But it speaks to the fact that when backed into a corner, the average BFCA member doesn’t have much of a leg to stand on when it comes to its Oscar-friendly nominations. One only needs to look at the group’s actual ratings of their films and compare them to their actual top 10 (er, 11). Where is Inside Out? Creed? Straight Outta Compton? All had higher scores than a handful of films that made it in. Now, it must be said that there are plenty of people in this organization that are upstanding and respectable, I know many of them and call them friends. But after today, they’re outliers in a group that wants nothing more than to have a Golden Globes-style party. They’ve even combined their film and television awards for the first time this year, even after already having a television ceremony only a few months ago.
At this point you might be asking yourselves, “Why do you care so much about something so silly, you Oscar nerd?” and yeah, it’s a valid question. I’ve been pretty passionate about awards of all kinds since I was a kid. The Oscars, the Emmys, Miss Universe (like any young queen would) and have always had such a great fondness for the fun of it. Things like what the BFCA did chips away at legitimacy and exposes the façade, like pulling back the curtain to expose the Wizard. I know these things aren’t always the truth, hell, the Oscars are probably an even bigger joke. But is it too much to ask to at least try and not be quite so transparent?
But really, this is just the latest in a series of embarrassing things about this group. These are the same people who interviewed Marion Cotillard on their red carpet and thought she was Zooey Deschanel. This is the same group whose recent ceremony host and member, Sam Rubin, interviewed Samuel L. Jackson on live television and thought he was Laurence Fishburne. They’ve added genre categories like Comedy, Action and Sci-Fi simply to add to their star bank. In doing so they didn’t even air the Screenplay categories on air in 2013 and literally took the award out of Tony Kushner’s hand in order to give it to an actor. So what does this mean for this awards body going forward? As long as celebrities keep attending it gives these awards merit. Obviously it’s not as simple as a studio or an actor saying, “I’m boycotting this mess.” These are an integral component to the pageantry of awards season; it’s part of the momentum. Even the bullshit Hollywood Awards, a bought and paid for PR-driven farce, gets attention. After that 2013 BFCA ceremony, nominee Sally Field was a beacon of hope, publicly dissing the awards body. Maybe she needed to stand on a table a la Norma Rae because it didn’t seem to change much.
So when does Hollywood say no to them? Will they ever? Or, will the BFCA take the drubbing they’re getting for this amateur-hour move and try and right themselves the way the Hollywood Foreign Press has? I suppose there can always be hope but they have a long way to go to achieve legitimacy after today. One shining light – Eric Melin of Scene-Stealers.com – resigned from the group because of it. Gotta start somewhere.