The Los Angeles Film Critics Association have spoken and the favorite of the day was…..a tie! Three of them, to be exact. An unprecedented amount of tie votes in major categories came from the group in heated, close battles and runoffs.
Unlike NYFCC, LAFCA uses a 3-2-1 voting system. The two with the most points from round one go to a runoff and a winner is decided in that round. If that runoff is a tie, then it’s a tie. Also different is the use of a simple hand-raising for votes, starting with a different person for each category. Argument, debate and feather-ruffling is encouraged and often happens, with passionate contingents pushing their favorites but sometimes finding perceived frontrunners falling behind. If you followed Glenn Whipp’s twitter play-by-play (and you should have) you’d see it all as it was happening.
The votes saw the most support going to Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity and Spike Jonze’s Her, with the Coen Brothers’ Inside Llewyn Davis and Alexander Payne’s Nebraska putting up serious fights. In the end Cuarón (mostly) won out, snagging director and editing wins and tying Jonze for Best Picture. Latecomers and Oscar hopefuls The Wolf of Wall Street and American Hustle didn’t feature for a moment here.
Two other ties fell in the laps of two of the acting categories; first for Supporting Actor where recent NYFCC winner Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club) triumphed but so did what will likely be the best/coolest win of the season in James Franco’s win for his ferociously funny turn in Spring Breakers as a gold-toothed pimp. Looks like A24’s campaign really worked. Despite Leto’s early lead in the first round of voting, the Franco-philes came out in full force for an unbreakable tie in the runoff round.
Best Production Design
Winner: K.K. Barrett, Her
Runner-up: Jess Gonchor, Inside Llewyn Davis
An interesting win for Her, presenting a barely in the future Los Angeles but a coup for minimalist presentation that works on a conceptual level and not a bang you over the head grotesquery of production design that will likely be the Oscar winner in this category. I would have preferred Inside Llewyn Davis to win here. Working in such perfect unity with Delbonnel’s washed out cinematography; the look and feel of the film is like an old Polaroid picture you’d find in a shoebox in your parent’s closet.
Best Supporting Actress
Winner: Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave
Runner-up: June Squibb, Nebraska
After losing this category to Jennifer Lawrence last week at NYFCC (by a single point!), LAFCA gives Nyong’o her first win of the season and, shockingly, the only win for 12 Years a Slave from the group. Although the film seemed to be in the running in many categories (Glenn Whipp mentioned it was going to be a major player early in the day before voting began), its awards run has been almost non-existent for a film at the top of the critics’ ratings. Sally Hawkins was an early factor in this race but Nyong’o pulled out a close win against Nebraska’s June Squibb.
Best Film Editing
Winner: Alfonso Cuarón and Mark Sanger, Gravity
Runner-up: Shane Carruth and David Lowery, Upstream Color
A great win for a film with so few actual edits and I applaud the LAFCA for recognizing that Best Editing doesn’t have to mean Most Editing. Runner-up Upstream Color, the languid, fluid independent feature was an inspired choice.
Winner: Emmanuel Lubezki, Gravity
Runner-up: Bruno Delbonnel, Inside Llewyn Davis
Another fiercely fought won with Nebraska being in the running here and early talk that the group would reward Lubeski jointly with his work on To the Wonder. The debate of Lubeski’s work being too tied into the film’s visual effects came up but that argument wasn’t strong enough to keep him from winning.
Best Supporting Actor
Winner: James Franco, Spring Breakers and Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club (tie)
Jared Leto continues his surprising awards run (remember when it was Matthew McConaughey we were all talking about?) but James Franco’s tie in this category is going to send ripples through future critics’ awards season, mark my words. Good job, LA.
Best Animated Feature
Winner: Ernest and Célestine
Runner-up: The Wind Rises
A surprise win here, and a wonderful surprise to boot. While many have pegged The Wind Rises to dominate the critics’ awards for animation, and it did win at NYFCC and NBR last week, there is a crack, an opening for other films to get recognition. Over at the NYFCC vote last week rumblings of anti-The Wind Rises talk came to the surface via the idea that Miyazaki’s swan song is a white-washing of history.
Winner: T Bone Burnett, Inside Llewyn Davis
Runner-up: Arcade Fire and Owen Pallett, Her
A nail-biter of a race with Inside Llewyn Davis winning by a single point (22 to 21) against Arcade Fire’s music for Her. The Oscars should really consider bringing back Adapted Score/Song Score to their awards because a film like this is exactly the kind that used to and should win.
Douglas E. Edwards Independent/Experimental Film/Video Award
Charlotte Pryce, Cabinet of Wonders
Charlotte Pryce is a filmmaker as well as a teacher of experimental film. She uses 16mm chrome stock, reversal color which she hand processes and optically reprints.
Winner: Stories We Tell
Runner-up: The Act of Killing
Like 12 Years a Slave, The Act of Killing is the documentary that most thought would sweep the critics’ awards. But, it is actress/director Sarah Polley’s deeply personal search for her biological father that has won her awards from NYFCC, NBR, Boston and the European Film Award.
Winner: Alfonso Cuarón, Gravity
Runner-up: Spike Jonze, Her
Another category which saw a power struggle between Gravity and Her that also had support for Steve McQueen and for Paolo Sorrentino for his work on The Great Beauty.
Bruce Dern, Nebraska
Runn-up: Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave
We knew Alexander Payne would be represented somewhere (his last three films have won Best Picture here) and now Dern can add to his Cannes and NBR win this accolade from LAFCA. Winning by just a single point against Chiwetel Ejiofor (another bridesmaid placement for 12 Years a Slave) with seriously close competition from Matthew McConaughey and Robert Redford to the point where Glenn Whipp called it “unprecedented.”
Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke and Richard Linklater, Before Midnight
Runner-up: Spike Jonze, Her
This would have seemed like an easy win for Her considering how strong its showing was with LAFCA but maybe this was the pre-emptive strike/win for Delpy to keep her out of the Best Actress race.
Winner: Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine and Adèle Exarchopoulos, Blue is the Warmest Color (tie)
The second year in a row with a tie in this category for LAFCA, even mirroring last year with an English language and a French language winner (Jennifer Lawrence and Emmanuelle Riva won last year). Exarchopoulos winning here keeps the LAFCA tradition of at least one foreign language film performance being recognized by the group since 2004. But will it be enough (or too much?) for her to break into Oscar’s top 5? Brie Larson, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Greta Gerwig were in the early runoff here but didn’t have the support of the ladies in Blue.
Winner: Gravity and Her (tie)
Gravity gets its first Best Picture win of the season and puts itself ahead of 12 Years a Slave, its perceived competitor for the Best Picture Oscar. In an extraordarily close race the votes broke down like this: initial vote – Her 42, Gravity 41, Nebraska 39, 12 Years a Slave 38. The run-off vote ended up with 19 for Her and 19 for Gravity with two abstentions from 12 Years a Slave supporters. Previous Best Picture ties For LAFCA happened in 1975 with Dog Day Afternoon and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and in 1976 with Network and Rocky.
Best Foreign Language Film
Blue is the Warmest Color
Runner-up: The Great Beauty
By putting Foreign Language Film at the end, it gives the LAFCA a chance to omit the category if a foreign film wins Best Picture. It did not and the choice of Blue is the Warmest Color was a no-brainer. Although support for Sorrentino’s The Great Beauty was stronger than expected.
New Generation Award: Megan Ellison
Since exploding onto the scene last year with Zero Dark Thirty and The Master (each of which grabbed a handful of wins and runners-up from LAFCA) and 10 Oscar nominations for 2010’s True Grit, Ellison has proven herself in a very short time to be a producing force to be reckoned with. Watch out, Harvey Weinstein, there’s a new kid in town and she’s here to play.
Legacy of Cinema Award
Presented to the Criterion Collection.
Special Citation Award
The creative team of 12 Years a Slave received a special citation, presumably to help heal the wound of not doing as well as expected here.