2013 Los Angeles Film Critics Association winners
Well, the esteemed men and women of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association were certainly in an indecisive mood today: in the course of today's voting, which took over four hours to complete, no fewer than three categories ended in ties. Chief among them, of course, was Best Picture, where Alfonso Cuaron's space epic "Gravity" was named alongside Spike Jonze's more intimate technological drama "Her." Both were clear favorites throughout: "Gravity" took three other awards, for Best Director, Cinematography and Editing, while "Her" won the day's first award (for Production Design) and was a close ruinner-up for Director, Screenplay and Music.
In the acting categories, Best Actress ended in a tie for the second year running, as Adele Exarchopoulos and Oscar frontrunner Cate Blanchett shared the prize; Best Supporting Actor, meanwhile, went to both Jared Leto and zany wild-card choice James Franco for "Spring Breakers." Bruce Dern and Lupita Nyong'o (scoring the only win here for "12 Years a Slave") were also selected; check out my running commentary below.
Best Production Design: K.K. Barrett, "Her"
Runner-up: Jess Gonchor, "Inside Llewyn Davis"
I had a feeling "Her" would find favor in this category with this crowd, and not just because it's a unique vision of Los Angeles. I've long loved Barrett's work as a designer, and this is a real triumph of sleek, color-rich, quirk-infused minimalism -- the kind of futurism I can actually imagine us all living in not too far from now. Will it register with the Academy? They prefer their sci-fi with more bells and whistles; many might regard this as contemporary work, and we know how rarely that registers with them. A deserved runner-up citation, too, for Jess Gonchor's evocatively weathered early-1960s New York, in which the paint practically flakes off the screen. This one seems an easier Academy play to me. Anyway, good start, LAFCA.
Best Supporting Actress: Lupita Nyong'o, "12 Years a Slave"
Runner-up: June Squibb, "Nebraska"
And so the "12 Years a Slave" newcomer -- who, in my opinion, is still the one to beat for the Oscar -- takes her first big win of the season. (With due respect to the Boston online film critics, who picked her as part of their "Slave" sweep.) Nyong'o also lost the NYFCC vote by a single point to Jennifer Lawrence last week, so it's all going pretty well for her. Virtually simultaneously with this announcement, Squibb won the Boston Society of Film Critics Award, so she's as much a force to be reckoned with as her potty-mouthed character. LAFCA insider Glenn Whipp reports that Sally Hawkins was also in the mix for "Blue Jasmine," by the way.
Best Film Editing: Alfonso Cuaron and Mark Sanger, "Gravity"
Runner-up: Shane Carruth and David Lowery, "Upstream Color"
I like that LAFCA is more comprehensive than most other major critics 'groups when it comes to technical categories. I also like that they give runner-up citations, since they couldn't ask for a more chalk-and-cheese split in this category. "Gravity" is obviously a beast in the editing department, and probably already has the Oscar wrapped up for director Alfonso Cuaron (who would join James Cameron in the ranks of filmmakers to win for editing their own work) and Mark Sanger. At the opposite end of the scale, "Upstream Color" is an intricate, minutely detailed rhythmic feat, and I'm pleased to see the critics standing up for it. You know the Academy won't, after all.
Best Cinematography: Emmanuel Lubezki, "Gravity"
Runner-up: Bruno Delbonnel, "Inside Llewyn Davis"
Glenn Whipp reports that this was a close race, with "Nebraska" also in the frame. Apparently, this one was fiercely debated within the group, as one faction was uncomfortable with rewarding Lubezki for cinematography that is so seamlessly integrated with the film's visual effects -- a conversation I've found myself having recently with other colleagues who are uncertain as to where the line should be drawn. For my part, I think we simply have to accept that different films achieve their images by very different means these days, and you can hardly deny the expertise of Lubezki's achievement here. (There was apparently also talk of rewarding him jointly for "Gravity" and his exquisite traditional work on "To the Wonder," but I guess it didn't take.) Meanwhile, NYFCC winner Delbonnel clocks another mention.
Best Supporting Actor: (tie) James Franco, "Spring Breakers"; Jared Leto, "Dallas Buyers Club"
Well, we can always count on the LA critics to throw us a curveball or two, and this was apparently an unbreakable tie. (As it would be -- "Spring Breakers" fans are hardcore.) Leto (who won the NYFCC award last week) seems to have dominated the voting early on, before the Franco contingent got all up in everyone's gold-toothed grill. I'm not fully a convert, but this win tickles me: Franco's Alien is a genuine, gonzo star turn that has inspired a fierce following, and will be talked about for years to come -- if critics' groups can't be counted on the lend a hand to the odd (in this case very odd) dark horse, then what's the point? (Even the Spirit voters passed on Franco, so this may be one of his few moments of glory this season.)
Well, this is delightful. General consensus has it that 2013 has not been a banner year for studio animation, and now LAFCA -- which, lest we forget, once gave their Best PIcture award to Pixar movie -- has underlined that notion by going all in for the arthouse efforts. And while early wins from the NYFCC and the NBR made it seem that Miyazaki's beautifully visualized swansong would be the default highbrow option, LAFCA has given a big boost to "Ernest and Celestine," the whimsical, heart-melting French effort that I've been championing since Cannes last year. It also did well in the Annie Awards -- alongside "Frozen," it was the only film to take nominations for Best Feature, Directing and Writing -- and has secured a Sundance premiere for its English-language dub. Don't underestimate it.