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New York Film Critics Awards Predictions: Could Bradley Cooper and ‘Maestro’ Compose the First Major Win of the Oscar Season?

Oscar season begins this week in the Big Apple.

The New York Film Critics Circle will be the first major group of film journalists to unveil its winners on Nov. 30. And its selections should provide an important look at which films are viable contenders for big awards. After all, there’s been plenty of prognosticating about the movies that are generating the most heat with Oscar voters and other awards bodies. But those predictions are taking place before much hardware has actually been handed out.

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Unlike previous years, where NYFCC members might not yet have seen a late-breaking contender or two (as was the case last year with “Avatar: The Way of Water”), this time there aren’t many unknown entities to factor in. Every major December release, including “The Iron Claw” and “The Color Purple,” has screened for voters. So the NYFCC honors won’t come with an asterisk.

Read: Variety’s Awards Circuit for the latest Oscars predictions in all categories.

Of course, winning the group’s coveted best film prize doesn’t guarantee an Oscar for best picture, but it significantly boosts the likelihood of a nomination. Since the start of the expanded best picture era in 2009, only two NYFCC winners — Todd Haynes’ “Carol” (2015) and Kelly Reichardt’s “First Cow” (2020) — have failed to secure an Oscar nod for the top honor.

And keep your eye on Haynes this year. The “May December” director is one of two filmmakers in contention who have won the critics’ best film prize twice (his other victory came for 2002’s “Far From Heaven”). The other is a New York staple, Martin Scorsese, who has been honored for “Goodfellas” (1990) and “The Irishman” (2019).

Scorsese may have the homefield advantage with his crime epic “Killers of the Flower Moon,” though that film finds him examining criminality on the plains of Oklahoma instead of the mean streets of New York. “Killers” reunites him with frequent collaborators Robert De Niro and Leonardo DiCaprio, but it’s Lily Gladstone’s breakout performance as Mollie Burkhart, an Osage woman whose family is murdered for its oil rights, that has received the most acclaim. Gladstone is being promoted for a lead actress nod, though some view her role as a better fit for supporting. Could the New York critics go their own way and reward her in that category?

May December -- Natalie Portman, Charles Melton
May December -- Natalie Portman, Charles Melton

As for Haynes, he guides a stellar performance from Charles Melton, who is best known for his role in “Riverdale.” Here, he captivates audiences as Joe, a man whose relationship with his wife started when he was 12 and she was 35. Natalie Portman and Julianne Moore have the starring turns, but Melton nearly steals the movie. Melton’s main competition appears to be Ryan Gosling’s hilarious portrayal of the man-child Ken in Greta Gerwig’s billion-dollar-sensation “Barbie.” Some awards groups may dismiss his performance as too comedic, preferring to honor dark and dreary work. But not the NYFCC, which has made room for funny turns from Tiffany Haddish as the vulgar party girl in “Girls Trip” (2017) and Matthew McConaughey as the former stripper boss in “Magic Mike” (2013). It’ll be a photo finish but giving the slight edge to Melton after his Gotham win.

Certain movies gain an edge when their protagonist happens to be a renowned New Yorker, even if the Manhattanite in question is fictional (e.g., Lydia Tár). Bradley Cooper’s transformation into the famed conductor and composer Leonard Bernstein in “Maestro” is remarkable. As director, producer, writer and star, Cooper and his film are sure to feature prominently in the NYFCC lineup. I’m betting on his acting being rewarded, but I feel a best picture victory could be in its future. It would be Netflix’s third win from the org after the streamer’s back-to-back trophies for “Roma” and “The Irishman” in 2018-19.

NYFCC has consistently highlighted smaller movies and performances, such as Regina Hall in the indie comedy “Support the Girls” (2018), which bodes well for someone like Teyana Taylor, who portrays a mother raising her child after returning home from prison in the drama “A Thousand and One.” That could give the star a much-needed boost.

A classic mantra of awards season is that critics don’t vote at the Oscars. The campaigns have been underway for months, aimed at convincing pundits and the public that their movie or performer is “the one.” This week, we get a much better sense of which films have what it takes to go the distance.

The top five predictions for NYFCC are down below. Make sure to bookmark the 2023-2024 Awards Season calendar for all key dates and timelines for the season. This week’s Oscar predictions will be updated after the awards announcements on Thursday.

Best Film:

  1. “Maestro” (Netflix)

  2. “Killers of the Flower Moon” (Apple Original Films)

  3. “Barbie” (Warner Bros.)

  4. “Past Lives” (A24)

  5. “All of Us Strangers” (Searchlight Pictures)

Director:

  1. Andrew Haigh — “All of Us Strangers” (Searchlight Pictures)

  2. Trần Anh Hùng — “The Taste of Things” (IFC Films/Sapan Studio)

  3. Martin Scorsese — “Killers of the Flower Moon” (Apple Original Films/Paramount Pictures)

  4. Christopher Nolan — “Oppenheimer” (Universal Pictures)

  5. Greta Gerwig — “Barbie” (Warner Bros.)

Actor:

  1. Bradley Cooper — “Maestro” (Netflix)

  2. Andrew Scott — “All of Us Strangers” (Searchlight Pictures)

  3. Colman Domingo — “Rustin” (Netflix)

  4. Kôji Yakusho — “Perfect Days” (Neon)

  5. Zac Efron — “The Iron Claw” (A24)

Actress:

  1. Teyana Taylor — “A Thousand and One” (Focus Features)

  2. Lily Gladstone — “Killers of the Flower Moon” (Apple Original Films/Paramount Pictures)

  3. Greta Lee — “Past Lives” (A24)

  4. Sandra Hüller — “Anatomy of a Fall” (Neon)

  5. Margot Robbie — “Barbie” (Warner Bros.)

Supporting Actor:

  1. Charles Melton – “May December” (Netflix)

  2. Ryan Gosling – “Barbie” (Warner Bros.)

  3. Glenn Howerton — “BlackBerry” (IFC Films)

  4. Robert DeNiro – “Killers of the Flower Moon” (Apple Original Films/Paramount Pictures)

  5. Mark Ruffalo – “Poor Things” (Searchlight Pictures)

Supporting Actress:

  1. Da’Vine Joy Randolph — “The Holdovers” (Focus Features)

  2. Danielle Brooks – “The Color Purple” (Warner Bros.)

  3. Jodie Foster – “Nyad” (Netflix)

  4. Rachel McAdams — “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret” (Lionsgate)

  5. Rosamund Pike — “Saltburn” (Amazon Studios)

Screenplay:

  1. “Barbie” (Warner Bros.) — Greta Gerwig, Noah Baumbach

  2. “Poor Things” (Searchlight Pictures) — Tony McNamara (based on the book by Alasdair Gray)

  3. “All of Us Strangers” (Searchlight Pictures) — Andrew Haigh (based on the book by Taichi Yamada)

  4. “The Holdovers” (Focus Features) — David Hemingson

  5. “May December” (Netflix) — Samy Burch, Alex Mechanik

Animated Film:

  1. “The Boy and the Heron” (GKids) — Hayao Miyazaki (director), Toshio Suzuki (producer)

  2. “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” (Sony Pictures) — Joaquim Dos Santos, Kemp Powers, Justin K. Thompson (directors), Avi Arad, Phil Lord, Christopher Miller, Amy Pascal, Christina Steinberg (producers)

  3. “Robot Dreams” (Neon) — Pablo Berger (director, producer), Ibon Cormenzana, Ignasi Estapé, Sandra Tapia Díaz, Angel Durández (producers)

  4. “Suzume” (Crunchyroll) — Makoto Shinkai (director), Kōichirō Itō, Genki Kawamura (producers)

  5. “Elemental” (Pixar) — Peter Sohn (director), Denise Ream (producer)

Cinematography:

  1. “Oppenheimer” (Universal Pictures) — Hoyte van Hoytema

  2. “Killers of the Flower Moon” (Apple Original Films/Paramount Pictures) — Rodrigo Prieto

  3. “The Zone of Interest” (A24) — Łukasz Żal

  4. “Ferrari” (Neon) — Erik Messerschmidt

  5. “The Taste of Things” (IFC Films/Sapan Studio) — Jonathan Ricquebourg

Non-Fiction Film:

  1. “Anselm” (Janus/Sideshow) — Wim Wenders (director), Karsten Brünig (producers)

  2. “Orlando, My Political Biography” (Janus Films/Sideshow) — Paul B. Preciado (director), Yaël Fogiel, Laetitia Gonzalez (producers)

  3. “They Shot the Piano Player” (Sony Pictures Classics) — Javier Mariscal, Fernando Trueba (directors), Cristina Huete (producer)

  4. “Kokomo City” (Magnolia Pictures) — D. Smith (director, producer), Bill Butler, Harris Doran (producer)

  5. “20 Days in Mariupol” (PBS) — Mstyslav Chernov (director, producer), Derl McCrudden, Michelle Mizner, Raney Aronson-Rath (producers)

Foreign Language Film:

  1. “Tótem” (Mexico) — dir. Lila Avilés

  2. “Perfect Days” (Japan) — dir. Wim Wenders

  3. “The Taste of Things” (France) — dir. Trần Anh Hùng

  4. “Do Not Expect Too Much from the End of the World” (Romania) — dir. Radu Jude

  5. “Anatomy of a Fall” (France) — dir. Justine Triet

First Film:

  1. Celine Song — “Past Lives” (A24)

  2. Cord Jefferson — “American Fiction” (MGM)

  3. Georgia Oakley — “Blue Jean” (Altitude Films)

  4. D. Smith — “Kokomo City” (Magnolia Pictures)

  5. Michael B. Jordan — “Creed III” (MGM)

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