How critics are beginning to overshadow the Oscars

As the time approaches for this year’s awards season, the focus has shifted to that body that determines the most prestigious awards outside the Oscars: the Critics Choice Movie Awards.

The annual event is traditionally a cheerleader for box office hits and releases from smaller, indie studios. Past winners include “Black Panther,” “The Shape of Water,” “Moonlight,” “The Social Network,” “Birdman,” “The Proposal,” “American Beauty,” “La La Land,” “Birdman” and “The King’s Speech.”

This year’s first batch of nominees — 14 total, including “Black Panther” and “Get Out” — bodes well for the action in theaters and elsewhere. In fact, as the Globes did with “Black Panther,” the awards-season offshoot may prove to be a watershed moment for film.

But the battle between the Critics Choice Movie Awards and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which has presided over the Golden Globes for more than 80 years, has led to a new status for a key event in the Hollywood awards calendar: the Directors Guild of America Awards. This year, for the first time, the Critics Choice Awards and the DGA are facing off in their annual ceremony. The DGA doesn’t acknowledge the Critics Choice Movie Awards, but its event almost always rivals it for the year’s top honors.

While the Producer’s Guild of America earlier this month selected “A Star Is Born” as this year’s winner for best movie, the DGA’s panel of chairpersons — their full names don’t get out — named Alfonso Cuaron as best director for “Roma.” That victory ensured Cuaron would not compete against “Black Panther” director Ryan Coogler at the Golden Globes. But that doesn’t change the fact that this will be the first time in almost 30 years the DGA is accepting films from both groups.

“This is a first, and I think all of us at the DGA are honored by this honor and recognize that our collective success is thanks to the many filmmakers who walk among us every day, making great art in all of its facets,” DGA president Thomas Schlamme said in a statement.

“It has been a unique experience watching all the groundbreaking work that the DGA’s 10,000 members have given to the industry in the past year,” added Schlamme, who’s a one-time nominee and four-time winner as a director for “The West Wing.” “I thank them all for their hard work and innovative spirit.”

The DGA always recognizes women, though the group’s nominating committee is distributed fairly evenly between men and women. In an attempt to redress what might have been a more representative field, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences made strides toward gender parity for this year’s Oscars, and promised to address diversity in the professional ranks of its leadership.

Meanwhile, the Critics Choice Movie Awards and the Academy’s awards ceremony will take place at different times this year. The DGA awards will be held Sunday, Jan. 6. The People’s Choice Awards will occur later in the month, on Wednesday, Jan. 16. The Oscar ceremony, a ceremony that is often held before the DGA ceremony, will be held Feb. 24.

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