‘Hurt Locker’ tops with LA Critics

Posted by · 3:08 pm · December 13th, 2009

Kathryn BigelowToday is a very good day to be one Ms. Kathryn Bigelow. A few days ago, we asked you which film looks set to be the critics’ darling of the season — today, at least, the clear answer appears to be “The Hurt Locker.”

Hours after sweeping the board with the Beantown crowd, Bigelow’s Iraq-set heartpounder took the top two prizes in the LAFCA voting. What this means for the film’s Oscar chances is open to question, but its 58 year-old helmer’s trifecta of prizes today bodes well for her chances of become the first female Best Director Oscar winner in history.

The film wasn’t as dominant as it was in the Boston critics’ awards. Jeremy Renner’s Boston upset was not to be repeated, with Jeff Bridges taking his first (and, I suspect, not his last) Best Actor honor of the season for “Crazy Heart.” Meanwhile, DP Barry Ackroyd came in second to Christian Berger for “The White Ribbon.”

More thoughts, and a full list of winners and runners-up, after the cut.

Speaking of Germany’s Oscar submission, Michael Haneke was on Bigelow’s heels in the Best Director race. However, as I anticipated, it lost the Best Foreign Language Film award to the gorgeous French family drama “Summer Hours,” which took the same award in Boston earlier.

French cinema was very well served by the LA critics in fact, with little-known 56 year-old thesp Yolande Moreau pulling off the day’s biggest upset in the Best Actress category. Pipping pundits’ favorite Carey Mulligan to the post, Moreau won for her immensely affecting turn in the title role of period artist biopic “Séraphine,” which I reviewed from Edinburgh in June. (It’s not Moreau’s first upset victory of the year, incidentally: she beat Kristin Scott Thomas to the César back in March.)

If you’re stunned by the win, you shouldn’t be: it’s hardly first time the LAFCA has opted for a left-field foreign-language performance in recent years. (Remember those recent wins by Vlad Ivanov and Luminita Gheorghiu?) I suspected that the trend would re-emerge in this category, though I guessed that the slightly more buzzed Catalina Saavedra would be the beneficiary. It’s a pleasingly independent choice, though I doubt we’ll be talking about Moreau much more this season, sadly.

The supporting awards stuck more to the script, with Christoph Waltz and Mo’Nique each taking their third award of the day. I have a feeling both actors might be unstoppable in the Oscar race — though, to be honest, that’s a feeling I’ve had ever since I saw the respective performances.

(To be utterly self-serving for a minute, no one is more astonished than yours truly that I called nine of the LAFCA’s choices — including a win for “Fantastic Mr. Fox” in the Best Animated Feature race that seems to have taken some people off-guard. Is the curse lifting?)

Anyway, strong choices across the board — “Summer Hours” may be my favorite pick here, but I honestly can’t take issue with any of these. Your thoughts?

Best Picture: “The Hurt Locker”
Runner-up: “Up in the Air”

Best Director: Kathryn Bigelow, “The Hurt Locker”
Runner-up: Michael Haneke, “The White Ribbon”

Best Actor: Jeff Bridges, “Crazy Heart”
Runner-up: Colin Firth, “A Single Man”

Best Actress: Yolande Moreau, “Séraphine”
Runner-up: Carey Mulligan, “An Education”

Best Supporting Actor: Christoph Waltz, “Inglourious Basterds”
Runner-up: Peter Capaldi, “In the Loop”

Best Supporting Actress: Mo’Nique, “Precious”
Runner-up: Anna Kendrick, “Up in the Air”

Best Screenplay: Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner, “Up in the Air”
Runner-up: Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Ianucci and Tony Roche, “In the Loop”

Best Foreign Language Film: “Summer Hours″
Runner-up: “The White Ribbon”

Best Animated Feature: “Fantastic Mr. Fox”
Runner-up: “Up”

Best Documentary: “The Beaches of Agnes” and “The Cove” (tie)

Best Cinematography: Christian Berger, “The White Ribbon”
Runner-up: Barry Ackroyd, “The Hurt Locker”

Best Production Design: Philip Ivey, “District 9″
Runner-up: Rick Carter and Robert Stromberg, “Avatar”

Best Music Score: T-Bone Burnett and Stephen Bruton, “Crazy Heart”
Runner-up: Alexandre Desplat, “Fantastic Mr. Fox”

New Generation Award: Neill Blomkamp, “District 9”

Douglas Edwards Award: C.W. Winters and Anders Edstrom, “The Anchorage”

Career Achievement Award: Jean-Paul Belmondo

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64 responses so far

  • 1 12-13-2009 at 5:49 pm

    JP said...

    Now, how would this race be if there were 5 nominees for best picture. 3 (UITA, THL and Precious) would be locked and the last 2 spots? Would they nominate Avatar or snub just like The Dark Knight? Would An Education be strong enough with the europeans to get in? Would Invictus get in, considering that even with good reviews, people don’t seem to passionate about it? Would A Serious Man, a love it or hate it film, be in? WHAT DO YOU THINK?

  • 2 12-13-2009 at 5:53 pm

    Me. said...

    To JP

    I think the top 5 would be:

    “An Education”
    “The Hurt Locker”
    “Up in the Air”

  • 3 12-13-2009 at 6:04 pm

    Scott Foundas said...

    Yes, Half Empty, Seraphine really is “a little known movie”: Nearly $1 million at the U.S. box office (very good for a foreign film these days); an 84 score on Metacritic (including a 4-star Roger Ebert rave); an 89% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes; 7 French Oscars (including for Moreau as Best Actress). Amazing anyone could have remembered that one!

  • 4 12-13-2009 at 6:40 pm

    Chad Hartigan said...

    red_wine said…
    I seriously think now that only sexism will prevent Bigelow from winning the Oscar.

    I actually think sexism is coming into play if she DOES win the Oscar. The underlying subtext (and sometimes blatant text) to a bulk of the reviews and interviews commends her for making a man’s movie in the way a man would. For not letting her being a female get in the way more or less. It seems like the ultimate, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em award.

  • 5 12-13-2009 at 6:42 pm

    Glenn said...

    Why is Half Empty so against a critics group actually thinking outside the box and choosing a winner that isn’t a stock standard, oscar-bait choice? Not everyone thinks the exact same and these critics groups probably choso Moreau as a consensus pick. Some maybe didn’t like Mulligan enough, but they all loved Moreau.

    Nothing like awards season to bring out the cynical people. It’s people like half empty who probably throw the word “irrelevant” around anyone who doesn’t put all their pieces into perfect Oscar allignment.

    These guys are always my favourite critics group. I love their cinematography choices too. Last year was Zhang Ke-Jia’s “Still Life”, which is a choice everybody should agree with, but who sadly haven’t seen it so they can’t.

  • 6 12-13-2009 at 6:50 pm

    Brent said...

    Go Foundas!

  • 7 12-13-2009 at 7:07 pm

    PJ said...

    Strong, interesting picks. Good for them for not following the herd. Hopefully the other critics’ awards will be just as imaginative.

  • 8 12-13-2009 at 7:13 pm

    half empty said...

    Yes, I am cynical. But I’m not a proponent of critics groups acting as Oscar prognosticators. My problem is actually that these LAFCA winners aren’t far enough outside of the box. If you ignore the runners up, it reads like a standard list of Oscar frontrunners with one token left field choice. The fact that Moreau is the only really surprising winner is what makes it frustrating.

    Bring on the irrelevancy, seriously. Give the awards to In the Loop, White Ribbon, Antichrist, 35 Shots of Rum. I wish every awards group would go that route. Maybe if I was less cynical, I would be happy they went for a performance that is so clearly not in play for an Oscar. But I honestly think the award is just an attempt to add color to the rest of their autopilot choices. What the rest of you see as an example of independent thought, I see as posturing from a group that mostly went the boring route.

    And Scott, are you seriously suggesting that a film that hasn’t cracked a million in the US is well known here? Or that the French Oscars somehow increase a film’s US profile? Or that Ebert giving a film four stars these days (like Knowing or Watchmen) means a damn thing? It’s not well known outside of film circles. Arguing otherwise makes you sound pretty out of touch. But, once again, it’s the fact that the award is such an aberration in an otherwise dull lineup that’s pissing me off and not the fact that an award was “wasted” on a little film.

  • 9 12-13-2009 at 7:38 pm

    Rob said...

    “I think we still have a couple of buzz (and backlash) cycles left to go before the picture becomes truly clear…”

    I agree. I still maintain that “Precious” is going to have a second wind.

  • 10 12-13-2009 at 7:41 pm

    Scott Foundas said...

    Damned if we do, damned if we don’t, I guess: Give prizes to thoroughly deserving performers like Bridges and Waltz and the LAFCA is just trying to be an Oscar bellwether; award the equally deserving Moreau and we’re a bunch of calculated boat rockers. Sorry the membership didn’t get your memo early enough to know the correct list of “surprising,” just-obscure-enough-but-not-too-obscure candidates to choose from. Please do call earlier next year.

    As for Seraphine, excluding Bollywood releases it ranks among the five highest-grossing foreign-language pictures of the year at the U.S. box office, and has been released in major and minor markets across the country. True, it still may be best known in “film circles,” but considering it has been seen by more people than Julia and The Maid combined (two films considerably more “buzzed about” in advance by the awards season soothsayers), for the purposes of this discussion, it’s a veritable blockbuster–the Avatar of French painter bio-pics.

  • 11 12-13-2009 at 8:17 pm

    half empty said...

    I never said you were rocking the boat. Don’t take credit for that.

    And this: “the Avatar of French painter bio-pics.”

    Yeah, that’s still reinforcing everything I’ve said about it being low profile. I don’t think you’re going to change my mind, but you can keep trying.

  • 12 12-13-2009 at 8:38 pm

    The Other James D. said...


    (Tried to post as an image, but it doesn’t work.)

  • 13 12-14-2009 at 2:50 am

    red_wine said...

    Chad: I do agree that she’s (probably) gonna win for a thoroughly manly movie, but atleast its a start. Almodovar has been winning awards for years for making his so-called women’s pictures. I doubt a woman would have been commended for those. Campion for the Piano or Coppola for Lost In translation might have been more desirable but besides all this , I think it remains the best directing job in an American film this year. And should win on its own merit without this weight of history being added to it.