Not that this is something to be particularly proud of, but the Broadcast Film Critics Association has done its annual duty of distilling the Oscar race to what we think it is now (now, NOW!). There's nothing of passionate note in its overall picks, nothing of unique flavor. But as I have explained in the past, that's the result of a vaster group than these other, smaller 20- and 30-member critics groups. A bigger spread tends to yield consensus and, well, boring choices across the board.

The Academy can sometimes offer more refined selections throughout its many categories, focused on the work of peers, knowledgeable in it, even. But here you'll find what seems like auto-pilot selections, some of them even traceable to various publicity campaigns around this or that contender (nice work in the Best Song category, "Act of Valor" pushers). I don't claim them, though I certainly voted in them (full disclosure: I am a member). I don't see my identity here. Indeed, I don't see much of an identity at all.

It's been building to this place, though (and some would argue it's been here a while -- I have defended). I have respect for what the BFCA brass have been trying to do -- build a principled alternative to the Golden Globes -- but the addition of a slew of categories this time around, awarding acting achievements per genre, reads more as an attempt to out-guest list the Globes than innocently recognizing "often overlooked performances." It feels like an excuse to just fill out the red carpet with more stars. Jake Gyllenhaal gets to walk for his admittedly stellar performance, but only because somehow "End of Watch" is an "action film."

I hate to sound this cynical but that's my instinct. And I'm probably pissing off a few people by writing this, but I won't be the only one reeling at the absurdity of this bloat. I'm not sure anyone anywhere needs 28 categories, particularly from a group full of people who aren't exactly the best lot to discern good from bad in a number of these areas. No disrespect to my colleagues. Many of us just shouldn't be asked to qualify certain things, I feel.

Anyway, that bitching and moaning aside, it was Steven Spielberg's "Lincoln" that led the charge with 13 nominations, a record-breaking haul with the BFCA, besting the 12-nod tally run up by "Black Swan" in 2010. It landed a nomination in every conceivable category. Pity it wasn't a comedy. Or an action film. Or a sci-fi/horror film. Or better yet, a comedy/action/sci-fi/horror film.

Not too far behind was Tom Hooper's "Les Misérables" with 11 and David O. Russell's "Silver Linings Playbook" (which did get the benefit of comedy category placement) with 10.

Looking over the nominees, I'd say the Best Picture list is a decent one and, again, fairly indicative of where we are in the Oscar hunt. The Best Actor and Best Actress categories boiled it down to the six anticipated contenders in each field (ditto the original screenplay field), while the supporting categories interestingly spoke up for Javier Bardem and Judi Dench in "Skyfall" (which itself netted seven nominations).

I was a bit irritated that Jared Gillman didn't manage to join his "Moonrise Kingdom" co-star Kara Hayward in the Best Young Actor/Actress field. And clearly most BFCA members didn't bother tracking down the GKIDS titles as the animated feature category is stuffed with studio product.

The Best Director field really plants the flag, though. Most would agree at this point that, if there were five Oscar nominees for Best Picture (as it was in saner times), they would be "Argo," "Les Misérables," "Lincoln," "Silver Linings Playbook" and "Zero Dark Thirty," with "Life of Pi" as a potential spoiler. And so it goes, the director nominees are Ben Affleck, Tom Hooper, Steven Spielberg, David O. Russell, Kathryn Bigelow and Ang Lee.

Don't color outside the lines or anything, guys.

Finally, the group has instituted a new fan-voted award, making the Critics' Choice Movie Awards the ultimate, terrifying Frankenstein of the Golden Globes, the Satellites, the MTV Movie Awards and the People's Choice awards. The category is favorite film franchise and the nominees include Batman, Harry Potter, Indiana Jones, James Bond/007, Lord of the Rings, Spider-Man, Star Trek, Star Wars, Toy Story and Twilight.

And that about says it all, doesn't it? Voting begins today at The Official Critics' Choice Movie Awards Site.

The 18th annual Critics' Choice Movie Awards will be televised live on The CW, January 10, 2013 at 8pm ET/PT. Unless, you know, Mayans. (fingers crossed)

Check out the full list of nominees on the next page, and as always, keep track of all this insanity as it unfolds via The Circuit.

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