American Hustle
Credit: Francois Duhamel

The thing to remember about critics groups handing out movie awards this time of year is it’s all about advocacy.

The beneficiary today: American Hustle.

The grifter dramedy collected Best Picture from the New York Film Critics Circle today, and most people will be looking at the prizes as a gauge of what’s likely to end up in the Oscar race this year. Intended or not, that’s what the annual onslaught of awards have evolved into: Academy Award straw polls.

Every major city has a collection of critics who get together and weigh in on their favorite works of the year. Each has very different tastes from the Academy but the power they wield is the ability to get people — voters, and fans alike — to perk up and pay attention to a film that may be worthy of consideration.

As of this moment, the group is still voting on its awards and announcing them one at a time. This year, they’ve chosen Steve McQueen as best director for 12 Years a Slave, and are still deciding on an overall best picture winner.

Robert Redford was named best actor for All Is Lost, a helpful thing to him just as he was beginning to fade in this season’s toughest category. Cate Blanchett, a surefire nominee in the somewhat weaker best actress field, won for Blue Jasmine.

For supporting actor, the NYFCC went with Jared Leto’s heartbreaking performance as a prostitute dying from AIDS in Dallas Buyers Club — which is also the likely Oscar frontrunner, and could use all the attention it can get to motivate audiences to seek out the film. Jennifer Lawrence got a boost as the group’s supporting actress winner for her savage, frustrated, 1970s-era housewife in American Hustle, a role that is fast making her the frontrunner in her field, one year after winning the leading actress Oscar for Silver Linings Playbook.

American Hustle also claimed best screenplay, beating out likely contenders Her, 12 Years a Slave, Enough Said, and Blue Jasmine.

Hayao Miyazaki’s The Wind Rises collected best animated film, beating out goliaths in that field like Frozen, Monsters University, and The Croods.

Last year, the NYFCC chose Zero Dark Thirty as its Best Picture winner and Kathryn Bigelow won for directing that movie. Tony Kushner claimed best screenplay for Lincoln and Rachel Weiszwon lead actress for The Deep Blue Sea, while supporting honors went to Sally Field for Lincoln and Matthew McConaughey for Bernie and Magic Mike. Daniel Day-Lewis won best actor for Lincoln. Only one of those (guess who) went on to win the Oscar, and about half of them weren’t nominated at all.

Here’s what the NYFCC has selected for its 2013 awards (List will be updated as more winners are announced):

BEST PICTURE: American Hustle

LEAD ACTOR: Robert Redford, All Is Lost

LEAD ACTRESS: Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine

SUPPORTING ACTOR: Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club

SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle

DIRECTOR: Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave

FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM: Blue Is the Warmest Color (France)


SCREENPLAY: Eric Singer and David O. Russell, American Hustle

CINEMATOGRAPHY: Bruno Delbonnel, Inside Llewyn Davis

FIRST FILM: Fruitvale Station


SPECIAL AWARD: documentary filmmaker Frederick Wiseman

For more Oscar news: