Boyhood, Richard Linklater's award-season heavyweight that looks most likely to win Best Picture at the Academy Awards come February, has been beaten in one of the final major awards hand-outs before the Globes and Oscars. The National Society of Film Critics decided to award its Best Picture gong to Jean-Luc Godard's Goodbye to Language, catching many commentators by surprise.

BoyhoodBoyhood is the clear favorite to win Best Picture at the Oscars

In fairness, Linklater's movie almost snatched the award, needing one more ballot in the first round of voting to secure it. In the end, it was beaten by Godard's movie 25-24.

Goodbye to Language, a 3-D critique of contemporary society, premiered at Cannes earlier this year and will open in Los Angeles later this month.

The National Board of Review's voting system has unsurprisingly come in for criticism after the result. The rules state that the winning movie must not only have the most votes, but must appear on a plurality of ballots. If that doesn't happen, the vote moves to a second round where all proxy votes are discarded and only members present can determine the winner. Essentially that means only members who live in or around New York have a vote.

More: Richard Linklater's next movie will link Boyhood and Dazed & Confused

"If we go to a second round [or more], the dynamic can shift radically - although it should be noted that it most often does not," said member Sam Adams, who was present at the vote. "Almost all the categories went more than one round this year, and the results are still about what you'd expect."

Goodbye to Language, which received a round of applause mid screening at Cannes, focuses on a stray dog who wanders from town to country observing a married woman and a single man as they meet, love, argue and fight. 

"The sheer assaultive power of Goodbye to Language makes it Godard's most vibrant and exciting film for some time and, you might say, his most terroristic," said Jonathan Romney of Film Comment Magazine.

More: Boyhood and Birdman among AFI's Top Films of 2014