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'American Hustle' Wins New York Film Critics Circle's Best Picture, But It Was a Close One

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by Sam Adams
December 3, 2013 10:28 PM
12 Comments
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American Hustle emerged triumphant at the New York Film Critics Circle today, taking awards for Best Picture, Screenplay and Supporting Actress for Jennifer Lawrence. But according to NYFCC member David Edelstein, the vote was a close one. As he told his colleague Jesse David Fox at Vulture:

[T]he final vote for Best Picture resulted in a rare tie-breaker. NYFCC by-laws prevent the actual numbers from being released, but Edelstein said there was a strong American Hustle camp and a strong 12 Years a Slave camp (reflected in McQueen's best director win), and that the vote was remarkably close, with some members expressing "visible dismay" when the final number was tallied. (For his part, Edelstein was "dismayed at the ease with which Cate Blanchett’s phony baloney performance [in Blue Jasmine] was recognized.”) 

Usually coming out of the gate in first place (not counting the nebulous National Board of Review), the NYFCC tends to set the table for the critics awards that follow, making every one of their winners a must-see. Apart from Lawrence in American Hustle -- an award that Fox slyly notes may be attributed more to Lawrence's white-hot likability on the talk-show circuit -- there are no major surprises here, but if there were any doubt that Hustle was in the hunt, that's over now. 

(Update: Edelstein reached out on Facebook to dispute Fox's implication: "The line about Jennifer Lawrence winning for being "likable" on the talk show circuit is complete nonsense. Say what you will about the NYFCC --and if you're me, you can say plenty -- the members take their responsibilities seriously. And chief among those responsibilities is to recognize great work in any genre and by A-listers, B-listers, or Non-Letter-listers.")

The New York Post's Lou Lumenick posted his own ballot-by-ballot account of the voting procedure to Twitlonger, including the Circle's rules that the proxy ballots of critic not present drop out if a winner is not declared on the first vote, and that, once the balloting shifts to a weighted system where each critic votes for three films, the winner must not only get the most points but must also appear on a majority of ballots. According to an anonymous account relayed to Hollywood Elsewhere, "30 or 31" members were present, with the rest voting by proxy; Lumenick says 30, with 7 proxies. The National Society of Film Critics, which I belong to, uses a similar system, and I can say from experience that both rules can have an enormous impact on the eventual winners. (The Circle at least drops the latter requirement in later rounds; the NSFC keeps voting, and voting, until it's met.)

In particular, Lumenick says that by the fifth ballot for Best Picture, a number of members had left; with only 26 of the NYFCC's 38 members remaining, American Hustle prevailed over 12 Years a Slave, 14-12. A win is a win, and there's no reason the close vote should taint that, but it certainly indicates 12 Years has plenty of life left in it.

Update: Here's what J. Hoberman says will likely be his final ballot for the NYFCC, as he's shifting to covering home video for the New York Times in January. Since every category went to at least a second ballot, Hoberman's proxy would not have factored in any of the eventual winners, but apart from The Wind Rises, it seems he didn't vote for them anyway.

The New York Film Critics Circle Awards for 2013

Best Picture: American Hustle

Best Director: Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave

Best Actor: Robert Redford, All Is Lost

Best Actress: Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine

Best Supporting Actress: Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle

Best Supporting Actor: Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club

Best Foreign-Language Film: Blue Is the Warmest Color

Best Animated Film: The Wind Rises

Best Screenplay: American Hustle

Special Award: Frederick Wiseman

Best Cinematography: Bruno Delbonnel, Inside Llewyn Davis

Best First Film: Fruitvale Station

Best Nonfiction Film: Stories We Tell

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More: From the Wire, Best of 2013

12 Comments

  • dude | December 21, 2013 9:03 PMReply

    American Hustle was awful. Was the director trying to do a Pulp Fiction? Meh, not so much.

    All the extraneous junk like the nail polish and the ice fishing story were annoying distractions. Seeing Louis CK made me think I was watching Parks and Rec.

    Bradley Cooper, over acting, and Jennifer Lawrence, not acting, were awful. Jennifer Lawrence smoking was disgusting.

    It's hard to believe so many people liked this movie.

  • GLENN | December 4, 2013 12:05 PMReply

    Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle ? For real?
    LUPITA DESERVE ALL THE AWARDS ....
    JL - IS OVERRATED ACTRESS, I START TO HATE HER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Mohammed | December 4, 2013 10:12 AMReply

    NYFCC obviously likes their sideboobs. Cause that's the only reason I can think of for American Hustle winning over 12 Years A Slave in major categories.

  • Daniel Delago | December 4, 2013 6:51 AMReply

    I cannot recall a year where so many dark-horse contenders like 'American Hustle' will be unveiled at movie theaters in the month of December. This film will shake up the award season to its core. Just you wait... 'American Hustle' will get Oscar nods in three major categories: Best Actress (Amy Adams), Best Supporting Actress (Jennifer Lawrence) and Best Picture. I don't need the New York Film Critics to tell me this since I've been following Jennifer Lawrence's career since 'Winter's Bone.' You can check out my reviews on Twitter @Film_Shark. Let the Oscar race begin!

  • Common Sense | December 3, 2013 10:47 PMReply

    ????????Best Cinematography: Bruno Delbonnel, Inside Llewyn Davis??????

    DID ANYONE AT NYFCC WATCH GRAVITY!!!!!

    I don't care if it was digitally designed, it was AMAZING.

  • Truth | December 3, 2013 10:40 PMReply

    Blue Is the Warmest Color is such a pile of shit, it's not even the best French film of the year.

  • David Edelstein | December 3, 2013 5:46 PMReply

    I take offense (mild offense )at the idea that this is about Lawrence's "likability" on the talk-show circuit. She is brilliant in the film--and huzzah to recognition for comic performances in a sea of misery.

  • Des Brown | December 3, 2013 4:39 PMReply

    Big surprise win for AMERICAN HUSTLE (interestingly, nothing for GRAVITY - not even cinematography). 12 YEARS A SLAVE might not sweep all before it as expected, though I was very pleased by McQueen's directing award/

  • shelly | December 3, 2013 4:18 PMReply

    Jennifer Lawrence's win is not about her likability. She owns that film. She is the reason to see American Hustle

  • STERN | December 4, 2013 3:52 AM

    I would say the same about Bradley Cooper. Dude gets awards for likeability.

  • Sam Adams | December 3, 2013 4:25 PM

    Well, that's a totally baseless and easily disproven accusation, but don't let that stop you.

  • shelly | December 3, 2013 4:19 PM

    And whoever posted this would never say that or repeat it if it was about a man.

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