The Los Angeles Film Critics Association: Phoenix Rising

9 Dec
Emmanuelle Riva

If France’s Emmanuelle Riva earns an Oscar nod for the acclaimed Amour, she could at age 85 very well become the Academy’s oldest winner in a competitive category. Jessica Tandy was 80 when she won Best Actress for 1989’s Driving Miss Daisy, yet Christopher Plummer was 82 when he won Best Supporting Actor for The Beginners earlier this year. Btw: Riva’s impressive filmography includes the 1961 classic Hiroshima Mon Amour from director Alan Resnais. Interesting coincidence on those titles.  Meanwhile, Jennifer Lawrence, who shares this year’s LAFCA prize for Best Actress, could emerge as one of the youngest ever winners in category, just behind Marlee Matlin, who was 21 when she was recognized for 1986’s Children of a Lesser God, and about the same age as the very first Best Actress honoree Janet Gaynor, who conquered the competition by starring in  three celebrated films: Seventh Heaven, Street Angel, and Sunrise…kind of like Lawrence with her two films only different.

The Los Angeles Film Critics Association has weighed in on the year’s best, and the result is, not so much for Zero Dark Thirty, and a publicity boost for Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master.  Oh sure, top honors went to Austrian director Michael Haneke’s Amour, but Anderson’s film won the most awards overall, including Best Director, Best Actor (Joaquin Phoenix), Best Supporting Actress (Amy Adams), and Best Art Direction, not to mention “runner-up” status in three more categories: Best Picture, Best Cinematography, and Best Original Score.  I’m happy for Phoenix though I wish John Hawkes (The Sessions) were getting more of the love at this point. Oh, and good for Amy Adams, who does wonders with a sketchily written role, and that includes performing a bit of business with Philip Seymour Hoffman that has to be seen to be believed. If Adams scores an Oscar nod, it will be round four–after Junebug (2005), Doubt (2008), and The Fighter (2010).

Here are the Los Angeles Film Critics Association winners in most categories:

  • Best Picture – Amour
  • Best Actress – TIE: Jennifer Lawrence (The Hunger Games AND Silver Linings Playbook) and Emmanuelle Riva (Amour)
  • Best Actor – Joaquin Phoenix (The Master)
  • Best Director – Paul Thomas Anderson (The Master)
  • Best Supporting Actress – Amy Adams (The Master)
  • Best Supporting Actor –  Dwight Henry (Beasts of the Southern Wild)
  • Best Screenplay – Chris Terrio (Argo)
  • Best Cinematography – Roger Deakins (Skyfall)
  • Best Editing – Dylan Tichenor and William Goldenberg (Zero Dark Thirty)
  • Best Production Design – Jack Fisk and David Crank (The Master)
  • Best Original Score – Dan Romer and Benh Zeitlin (Beasts of the Southern Wild)
  • Best Documentary – The Gatekeepers
  • Best Foreign Language Film –Holy Motors
  • Best Animated Feature – Frankenweenie
  • New Generation Award – Benh Zeitlin (Beasts of the Southern Wild)

I think the LA group has made some interesting choices. I fully support the selection of Roger Deakins as Best Cinematographer.  Skyfall, the latest entry in the 50 year old James Bond/007 franchise, and a bona fide global blockbuster, is the most visually sumptuous movie of the year–at least for my money. Sorry, Mihai Malaimare Jr (The Master). Indeed, it was the trailer’s stunning visuals, not hunky Daniel Craig nor Adele’s walloping title tune that caught my attention, prompting me to make the movie a priority once it was released. Now, how any of this figures in the Oscar race is anyone’s guess; after all,  Deakins has already been nominated nine times without a single win even though he is a two time champ among his peers in the American Society of Cinematographers: The Shawshank Redemption (1994) and The Man Who Wasn’t There. He lost the former to John Toll (Legends of the Fall) and the latter to Andrew Lesnie (The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring). He was a double nominee for 2007’s Best Picture winner No Country for Old Men AND The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford though he was bested by Robert Elswit (There Will Be Blood). Many Oscar prognosticators thought he had his best chance to date with the Coens’ redo of True Grit, but that film’s breathtaking vistas were no match for the  dazzling Inception and its variety of logistical details.  If Skyfall ekes out a Best Picture nod, which is entirely possible, Deakins could be well-positioned to take home the golden boy at last. Meanwhile, all that much praised 3-D razzle-dazzle in The Life of Pi does not seem to be translating into awards. At this point, I think director Ang Lee and his film are fading fast, faster than what many insiders might have expected. On the other hand, even though Martin Scorsese’s 3-D Hugo was a 2011 box-office bust, the movie still earned 11 Oscar nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director, but its wins were all in the technical categories: art direction, cinematography,  visual effects, etc.

I’m thrilled that Dwight Henry has been named the year’s Best Supporting Actor by the Los Angeles Film Critics Association for his superb portrayal of”Wink,” the conflicted pop of young “Hushpuppy” played by dynamic newcomer,  Quvenzhane Wallis, who has generated much more press, much more Oscar buzz.  This man, who runs his own bakery in New Orleans and had reportedly never acted, prior to this film, just blew me away as he experiences emotions both raw and tender. I’m glad to know it’s not just me who was/is impressed. This is a performance so good that it hurts. I hope to see him on Oscar’s final ballot. Two years ago, I had similar hopes for John Hawkes in Winter’s Bone, and that worked out pretty well. Last year, I was mad for Corey Stoll as Ernest Hemingway in Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris, but that campaign never developed the necessary momentum. I’ve got my fingers cautiously crossed for Henry at this point.

I’m also glad to see the great–unsung–Jack Fisk (The Master) in the win column. Though Fisk has been working in the biz since the 1970s, on such pictures as Badlands, Carrie, Days of Heaven, and The Tree of Life, he only has one Oscar nomination–for 2007’s There Will Be Blood (also from director Paul Thomas Anderson), but the Oscar went home with the team of Dante Ferretti and Francesca Lo Schiavo for Tim Burton’s big screen treatment of Stephen Sondheim’s macabre musical, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. On the other hand, if I were voting, I’m afraid I’d be torn between Fisk and first runner-up Moonrise Kingdom‘s Adam Stockhausen.  That noted, I can also imagine nominations in the Art Direction/Production Design category for Anna KareninaSkyfall and Beasts of the Southern Wild, a movie that, because it looks so true-to-life, probably has a lot more design elements in it than viewers might think possible. Oh, and speaking of Tim Burton and Sweeney Todd, my guess is his flop update on Dark Shadows won’t be garnering too many Oscar nods even though Burton’s films tend to do well in the design categories, going all the way back to 1989’s Batman (designed by the late Anton Furst), up through Sleepy Hollow (1999), Sweeney Todd (2007), and Alice in Wonderland (2010).

Even though Ben Affleck’s Argo did not make much of a splash with this group, winning in only one category (Best Screenplay), and coming in second in another (Best Editing), I feel like Affleck is very much in the game. He’s an actor-hyphenate, and I expect that to make a much bigger impression among people in the biz than critics who operate from an entirely different point of view.

AH - les_mis_trailer_featured120530110609

Here are some of the runners-up in the Los Angeles Film Critics Association voting: Best Picture – The Master; Best Actor – Denis Lavant (Holy Motors); Best Director – Kathryn Bigelow (Zero Dark Thirty); Best Supporting Actress – Anne
Hathaway (The Dark Knight Rises and Les Misérables, as seen above ); Best Supporting Actor – Christoph Waltz (Django Unchained); Best Screenplay – David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook), and Best Editing – William Goldenberg (Argo). Btw: the buzz for Anne Hathaway’s turn in Les Misérables, singing showstopper “I Dreamed a Dream,” is deafening. She may very well be on her way to front-runner status.


Now, let’s see what happens later in the week with the announcements of the Screen Actors Guild nominees as well as the Golden Globe nods.

Thanks for your consideration…

Los Angeles Film Critics Association website:

Emmanuelle Riva at the IMDB:

Article about Dwight Henry from the Huffington Post:


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