Oscars 2013: Which Precursor Prizes Matter?

Aside from the Oscar nominations themselves, the most important development in the Oscar race this week was, of course, the Eddie nominations, from the American Cinema Editors.

Wait, what about the Golden Globes? The Critics’ Choice Awards? The BAFTA nominations for the British Academy Awards? Aren’t they big deals?

Nope, not this year, not when it comes to their value as tools to predict who’ll win Oscars.

The Academy’s decision this year to announce its nominations on the morning of Thursday, January 10 effectively upstaged everyone else’s kudos lists this week, including the Critics Choice Awards (handed out later that evening), the BAFTA nominations (released hours earlier on Wednesday), and the Globes (given out three days later).

To be sure, these three sorta-major awards galas are full of interesting information, barometers as to what the thinking might be in Hollywood as far as which Oscar movies currently have trending buzz and which don’t. But they came too late to influence the nominations themselves and can now influence Academy voters only insofar as their lists overlap.

For instance, it was a shocker to see “Argo” dominate both the Critics’ Choice and the Globes, with Best Picture (or Best Picture — Drama) and Best Director prizes (for Ben Affleck) at both ceremonies. Surely, this means a hidden groundswell of support for Affleck’s spy thriller, previously thought to be an also-ran to Oscar favorites “Lincoln” and “Zero Dark Thirty.” Doesn’t it?

Well, maybe — among journalists who cover Hollywood. That’s who votes for the Critics’ Choice and Globe awards. Clearly, journalists like the narrative behind “Argo” (that is, Ben Affleck’s gradual comeback to respectability and profitability after years spent as an industry punching bag), perhaps even more than they like the ones behind “ZDT” (Is Kathryn Bigelow endorsing torture? Ugh!) and “Lincoln” (Steven Spielberg and Daniel Day-Lewis both ace it again? Yawn.)

But Journalists don’t vote for the Oscars. Industry insiders do. What counts it the votes of their peers, and Affleck’s peers didn’t even nominate him for an Oscar, though “Argo” is up for Best Picture. So the trophies Affleck picked up for “Argo” this week mean bupkes.

On the other hand, the Critics’ Choice and Globe prizes for Quentin Tarantino’s script for “Django Unchained” do suggest he’s the frontrunner for the Best Original Screenplay Oscar. (He was nominated for a BAFTA prize, too.) And “Life of Pi” composer Mychael Danna’s mild upset win for Best Original Score at the Globes over “Lincoln” composer John Williams (who won the Critics’ Choice award) suggests that both men are the ones to beat at the Academy Awards. (Both got BAFTA nominations too, as did “Argo” composer Alexandre Desplat, who’s been up for every prize this year.)

Otherwise, the Critics’ Choice, Golden Globes, and BAFTAs merely served to confirm what observers already knew: that there’s strong support for “Les Miserables” and “Silver Linings Playbook,” that “Amour” will probably win Best Foreign Language Film (and maybe some other prizes as well), and that Adele will probably win Best Song for her theme from “Skyfall.” (She won at both the Critics’ Choice and Globe ceremonies.)

Still, the voices that matter aren’t those of movie critics, foreign journalists, or the Brits. It’s the voices of Hollywood rank-and-filers. Which is why this column paid attention to the various guild nominations last week. And why it’s taking note of the nominations this week by working editors.

The ACE’s Eddie Awards, announced Friday, named 10 movies, twice those in the Academy’s Best Editing Category. All five of the Oscar nominees — “Argo,” “Life of Pi,” “Lincoln,” “Silver Linings Playbook,” and “ZDT” — were cited here as well, along with “Skyfall,” “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” “Les Miz,” “Moonrise Kingdom,” and “Ted.” So, unfortunately, that doesn’t give us a clue as to who’ll win the Best Editing Oscar, but it does suggest that the members of the Academy who are editors will throw their support behind these 10 films in whatever categories they’re nominated in.

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