The Los Angeles Film Critics go to bat for ‘Boyhood’

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Of the big five critics groups, the Los Angeles Film Critics Association are by far my favorite. Maybe it’s because their collective tastes more often than not line up with my own. Perhaps it’s because they continue to make bold choices and propel relative underdogs. Or maybe it’s because they’re the group that has handed their Best Film prize out to films like Her, Gravity, Wall-E, Brazil and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial—all science fiction films.

I’ve listed my thoughts on all the winners (and runners-up) by category below. Since the awards were being announced live via Twitter, all my thoughts are knee-jerk reactions based on when each category winner was announced.

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Best Editing
Winner: Sandra Adair (Boyhood)
Runners-up: The Grand Budapest Hotel

A fine winner! Adair had the unenviable task of creating a fluid, seamless piece of work from footage shot over a 12-year period. It isn’t easy work but she made it look that way. Happy to see Barney Pilling being recognized for his superb execution of Wes Anderson’s Russian nesting dolls style plot of The Grand Budapest Hotel. I really hope this movie picks up more steam this year with awards groups. It’s about time for Anderson.

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Best Supporting Actor
Winner: J.K. Simmons (Whiplash)
Runners-up: Edward Norton (Birdman)

These two are going to be the two men battling it out for the Oscar. And sorry to the bearer of bad news, dear Edward, but J.K. is going to be the man raising that statuette on that Sunday in February.

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Best Production Design
Winner: The Grand Budapest Hotel
Runners-up: Snowpiercer 

Agreed! This is the year’s best production design. And I’m glad the Angelinos are recognizing it as such. Wes Anderson’s films may not be everyone’s cup of tea but even his biggest detractors can agree that the production design of his films is immaculate. Good to see the under-seen Snowpiercer recognized as well.

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Best Music Score
Winner: (tie) Jonny Greenwood (Inherent Vice) and Mica Levi (Under the Skin)

Wow! Talk about inspired! I have yet to catch Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest but Mica Levi’s work on Under the Skin is incredible. It’s a brooding, unnerving score that burrows into your memory, long after you’ve watched the film.

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Best Animation
Winner: The Tale of Princess Kaguya
Runners-up: The LEGO Movie
I’ve requested a copy of The Tale of Princess Kaguya from the GKIDS people over a week ago but haven’t received an answer as yet. I’ve heard nothing but raves from friends and colleagues in the industry. This is a big win for a tiny movie. The LEGO Movie takes the runners-up prize. We’ll see it winning a lot of things from now to February.

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Best Supporting Actress
Winner: Agata Kulesza (Ida)
Runners-up: Rene Russo (Nightcrawler)

A quintessential LAFCA pick: Bold, surprising and flat-out inspired. As I noted on my New York Film Critics Circle article, Ida is on my watch list this week, and this win, coupled with all the high recommendations from friends, only raises its profile on my screener pile. As for Russo… I wasn’t enamored with her performance in Nightcrawler the way I was with Gyllenhaal’s but it’s another strong choice by this group.

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Douglas Edwards Experimental/Independent Film/Video Award: Walter Reuben (The David Whiting Story)

It’s always nice to see another Reuben get rewarded by a critics group.
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Best Cinematography
Winner: Emmanuel Lubezki (Birdman)
Runners-up: Dick Pope (Mr. Turner)

Chivo is a grandmaster among DPs and this is one of his magnum opuses. And in a career spanning a multitude of masterworks, that’s saying something. I think he’s winning the Oscar, making it back-to-back wins for him (he won last year for Gravity). If he doesn’t, he’ll likely lose to someone like Roger Deakins (Unbroken).

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Best Documentary
Winner: Citizenfour
Runners-up: Life Itself

By this point, I think Citizenfour has this category in the bag come Oscar time. It’s won nearly every critics award handed out so far, only missing out with the National Board of Review—who went with LAFCA’s runners-up, Life Itself. Both films have also made the Academy’s Documentary shortlist of 15, and my thinking is that it’s between these two for the Oscar. It would be nice to see some fresher choices from critics groups but this is the problem of collective voting—consensus always trumps eccentric.

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Best Actress
Winner: Patricia Arquette (Boyhood)
Runners-up: Julianne Moore (Still Alice)

Woah! I know there has been some debates among fellow critics and journalists on whether Arquette should be classified as a Supporting or Leading performer in Boyhood. So far, the majority of critics have gone with the later (IFC Films is pushing her in Supporting) but this is a massive statement by the LAFCA. More importantly, it shows how much Arquette’s performance is loved by critics groups this year. Moore, the veteran and sentimental choice of all this season, was named Runners-up.

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Best Screenplay
Winner: The Grand Budapest Hotel
Runners-up: Birdman

Another vote for the Grand Budapest! Wes Anderson’s screenplay is, in my mind at least, his film’s most accomplished feat, and I’m overjoyed to see that both, the New Yorkers and the Angelinos, agree with me. The five writers credited on Birdman take the runners-up honors.

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New Generation Award: Ava Duvernay (Selma)

I see Selma on Monday but it’s nice to see a female director getting singled out for this award. Duvernay is going to be a major presence on the awards circuit this season and it seems like the LAFCA wanted to give her a boost here perhaps because they couldn’t find a place to reward her achievements elsewhere.

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Best Foreign Language Film
Winner: Ida (Poland)
Runners-up: Winter Sleep (Turkey)

After the Best Supporting Actress win earlier in the afternoon, this win seemed inevitable, and here it is. Like The Grand Budapest Hotel in Screenplay, Ida also won the Best Foreign Language Film prize by the NYFCC. Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s Palm D’Or winning Winter Sleep, a film that won’t be opening here in South Florida until next year, won the Runners-up prize.

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Best Director
Winner: Richard Linklater (Boyhood)
Runners-up: Wes Anderson (The Grand Budapest Hotel)

Major, major love for The Grand Budapest Hotel from this group! Now you know why I like them so much. Anyway, Richard Linklater is a wholly deserving winner here. I can’t deny his award. Boyhood is a one-of-a-kind achievement. It’s a beautiful film and I’m pulling for him for the Oscar, provided they don’t fuck it up by snubbing him. A year after making my favorite film of 2013 (Before Midnight), is Linklater on track to top my Top 10 list again? Watch this space…

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Best Actor
Winner: Tom Hardy (Locke)
Runners-up: Michael Keaton (Birdman)

Wow! Really? I like Hardy and I quite like his work in Locke but the film (and his performance) are supremely overrated. Then again, that’s just me. This film has its legion of fans (as evidenced by this award). With all the love for Wes Anderson’s film, I had suspected they’d go for Ralph Fiennes’ sublime performance. But alas, that was not to be. Birdman himself, Michael Keaton, was named Runners-up. Alejandro González Iñárritu’s film has picked up three runners-up notices (Actor, Supporting Actor, Screenplay) along with its Cinematography win so far. Can it pull off a surprise Best Film win from under Boyhood or The Grand Budapest Hotel? We’ll see.

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Best Film
Winner: Boyhood
Runners-up: The Grand Budapest Hotel

As I suspected, Richard Linklater’s Boyhood is the LAFCA’s winner for 2014, and Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel is their runners-up. It’s a handsome pair of winners, if I may say so. I’m hoping my group, the Florida Film Critics Circle, votes thinks outside the box like this group did, at least for a couple of categories, when we vote at the end of next week. Tallying up the results, at the end of the day… Boyhood won four awards while the Anderson film won two, and was named runners-up in three other categories. Birdman took one, plus three other runners-up prizes—A terrific showing for all three.

With its win today with the LAFCA, Boyhood becomes only the ninth film in critics awards history to win both, the LAFCA and the NYFCC. The previous films to accomplish this rare feat have been The Social Network and The Hurt Locker in back to back years in 2010 and 2009 respectively, Sideways in 2004, Saving Private Ryan in 1998 and L.A. Confidential in 1997, Leaving Las Vegas in 1995, Schindler’s List in 1993 and Terms of Endearment in 1983.

That brings up the big question: Is Boyhood our Oscar frontrunner? I’m not so sure. Winning with the critics is one thing. Winning with the industry and guild groups is a completely different matter. From that aforementioned list of seven films, only Terms of Endearment, Schindler’s List and The Hurt Locker ended up winning Best Picture at the Oscars. The Social Network famously saw its campaign fizzle to The King’s Speech after sweeping critics groups. Sideways, with its comedy trappings, was never considered a serious Best Picture threat, Saving Private Ryan lost to Shakespeare in Love in a famous upset, and L.A. Confidential ended up playing second fiddle to the Titanic train in 1997. The industry stage is where the big studio money comes into play. It’s where Harvey Weinstein begins to flex his award muscles. Can IFC Films—a tiny, tiny unit with limited funds—compete? We’ll see. But for now, this is nice.

SOURCE: Los Angeles Film Critics Association

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