The New York Film Critics Circle announced on Wednesday that it will move its year-end vote for the best films of 2011 from mid-December to Nov. 28, making it the first critics' group to announce its winners.
The move puts the NYFCC award ahead of the National Board of Review, which in recent years has been the first established group to declare its award-winners.
The NYFCC awards will be handed out on Jan. 9 in New York City.
In changing its date, the NYFCC raises a question: Will the members of the self-described "pre-eminent critic's group" even be able to see all the year's notable films before they vote?
Specifically, will they see Steven Spielberg's "War Horse" and Stephen Daldry's "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close," two year-end releases that figure to be in the awards picture but which have yet to be finished?
Other late arrivals could be David Fincher's "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" and the Margaret Thatcher biopic "The Iron Lady."
Though reps for the films declined to discuss screening plans, the likelihood is that screenings will take place but DVD screeners won't be sent out — and that NYFCC members may be in for a full-court press to make sure they get to the earliest screenings.
Typically, the final deadline for studios to screen their final contenders is early December, when the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. has its cutoff date for Golden Globes consideration. (This year's HFPA deadline is Dec. 7.)
In the press release announcing the move, NYFCC chairman John Anderson said the group is "excited about kicking off the annual end-of-year discussion." (In truth, that discussion actually began around the time of the Toronto Film Festival).
Anderson's predecessor, the famously contrarian Armond White, had a distinctly different attitude: When asked by TheWrap whether the group wanted their awards to influence the Oscars, he dismissed the idea out of hand.
"We don't care about the Oscars," he said after the NYFCC awards were announced in 2009. "What other organizations do mean nothing to us."
Clearly, White's attitude is no longer prevalent at the NYFCC, which to all appearances made the new move specifically to influence other groups.
In the release, Anderson called the NYFCC award "a principled alternative to the Oscars." In this case, the governing principle seems to be the ability to shout "First!"
Of course, the National Board of Review, a group whose dubious importance is based mostly on its position on the calendar, could always move up its own announcement.
If you think this jockeying for position could get messy, just wait until the Academy moves the Oscars to January.