The New York Film Critics Circle went with "American Hustle" after being gridlocked over whether to choose that film as 2013's Best Picture or "12 Years a Slave." "12 Years" came back around with the first wave of regional critics notices, taking Best Picture from the Boston Society of Film Critics and winning huge with the online Beantown crowd, among others. The Los Angeles Film Critics Association answered their east coast brethren by completely ignoring "Hustle" and finding its own unsettled gridlock between "Gravity" and "Her" for the year's top honor, ending in a tie.
The chatter that has arisen in the wake of this initial precursor wave could have been predicted: it's anyone's game.
At this point last year, "Zero Dark Thirty" was dominating the critics groups' superlative lists. Mid-month, that tide eventually shifted to "Argo," but those were the two and nothing else ever seemed to be dominant. Here we are at the start and four different films have been crowned the year's best by the most respected organizations. Two of them we knew would be in the thick of it, the other two needed the boost of early kudos to insinuate themselves into the race. We're truly off to the races.