Thanks to Sam . . .
More ultra-secret exclusive low-down on what happened inside the hallowed halls of the New York Film Critics Circle this morning. And much of it is actually pretty hilarious.
Marvel At...what Rex Reed thinks of this year's winner!
Observe...how one Andrew Sarris bathroom break almost threw the entire Oscar race into freefall!
Contemplate...the lengths to which film nerds will go to make sure the other side doesn't win.
Here are three anecdotes from an inside source for your chuckling enjoyment:
ANECDOTE 1: Best Picture wound up being the most contentious category. Most winners are decided on the second or third ballot; a handful require four. In this case, however, the fourth ballot was a tie between UNITED 93 and THE QUEEN, thus necessitating a rare fifth and tiebreaking ballot.
(First the room voted on whether or not to simply announce a tie in the category; almost nobody wanted to.) Of the 22 critics who were physically present (proxy votes having dropped out after ballot #2), 12 went for UNITED 93, giving it the squeakiest victory since Daniel Day-Lewis beat out Jack Nicholson in '02. Lisa Schwarzbaum suggested that since even this 12-10 vote was a virtual tie, we really ought to award Best Picture to both films. Nobody really agreed (but no vote was taken).
A brief silence. Then, the voice of Rex Reed.
"So that's it."
"The best film of 2006."
"According to the New York Film Critics Circle."
"Is UNITED 93."
Long, uncomfortable pause, plus some tittering.
"A film that no one in America wanted to see."
Leah Rozen: "And how did you vote, Rex?"
ANECDOTE 2: Actually, even closer was the vote for Best Animated Film, which wound up going to HAPPY FEET on what amounts to a technical foul. Miller's penguin-fest beat out A SCANNER DARKLY by a mere two points, but no sooner had this result been announced than Andrew Sarris, who has taken a bathroom break a few minutes earlier, revealed that (1) he had neglected to submit his ballot for this round of voting, and (2) he would have cast his top vote for the Linklater, giving it the victory.
The bylaws don't cover this particular scenario, so far as I know. There was a fair amount of debate about whether or not Sarris' vote should be counted, and also whether this would entail doing the whole ballot over again. Ultimately, the decision was left to Marshall Fine, in his role as this year's chairman. Fine ruled that Sarris should be able to vote as he'd intended, and that his ballot would simply be added to the totals. Sarris confirmed that he was giving A SCANNER DARKLY three points. When asked what his second choice was, he answered FLUSHED AWAY, which wasn't in the running. When pressed for a third choice (worth one point), however, he came up blank. "I just wanted to vote for A SCANNER DARKLY," he said.
Various statisticians pointed out that (a) if he didn't name a third film, his vote for the Linklater would only count for two points instead of three, making it a tie that would require another round of voting, and (b) if he were to name HAPPY FEET as his third choice, that too would result in a tie. Sarris, who seemed a tad befuddled, simply reiterated his preference for SCANNER, at which point Owen Gleiberman complained that he felt Sarris was casting a vote for the sole purpose of altering the winner. Others made noises of assent, and Fine changed his ruling (with Sarris' blessing), saying the original point totals would stand and HAPPY FEET would receive the prize.
ANECDOTE 3: Not really an anecdote, but ARMY OF SHADOWS basically won Foreign Film thanks to a recurring fourth-ballot phenomenon that tends to occur when two rival camps actively dislike the other's favorite. On the fourth ballot, you can only vote for the five top vote-getters on ballot #3, which in this case were THE DEATH OF MR. LAZARESCU, VOLVER, ARMY OF SHADOWS, PAN'S LABYRINTH and I think the last one was DAYS OF GLORY. Anyway, the category was a death-match between LAZARESCU, which led on ballots two and three, and VOLVER -- presumably you can see how these two films' partisans might not have a whole lot in common.
What often happens once we reach ballot #4 is that everyone names their champion first (for three points), and then gives second place (two points) to whatever film they consider least threatening. And then what happens is that a film that nobody loves gets every second-place vote in the room and winds up the surprise winner. That's exactly what happened with ARMY OF SHADOWS, which did have a few ardent supporters, but which could never have won if not for the pitched battle between Almodovar and Puiu.