Oh, you beautiful, foolish idealists. The National Society of Film Critics, the last major critics group to weigh in on the year’s movies, has named Pan’s Labyrinth (pictured) the best movie of 2006. Now, the NSFC is one critics group that deserves your respect — its members are some of the best print-based movie critics in America — but their insistence on recognizing films that are actually, you know, good instead of what conventional wisdom likes or what actually has a chance at the Oscars means their choices are almost always irrelevant to the process. If their list gets more American moviegoers to see Guillermo del Toro’s excellent but very grim Spanish-language fantasy, then more power to the NSFC, but I fear that the only folks on their list who have a chance at wider recognition are heads of state Forest Whitaker and Helen Mirren. (Also Meryl Streep, whom the NSFC have quixotically placed in the Supporting category for Prada.)
In other important Oscar news, late release Arthur and the Invisibles has been disqualified from the animation category for not being animated enough. (A movie has to be more than 75 percent toon to qualify.) That reduces the pool of eligible movies from 16 to 15, at which point arcane Oscar rules kick in that allow Academy voters to nominate just three animated movies instead of five. So the Best Animated Feature race is suddenly that much tighter. When in doubt, I say, bet on the penguins.