'The Descendants,' Terrence Malick win with LA film critics

Posted by · 1:13 pm · December 11th, 2011

The Los Angeles Film Critics Association has finished its annual voting on this year’s awards-worthy efforts. Firstly, though, a quick note of huzzah to them for sticking with this week rather than leaping to go first ahead of the New York Film Critics Circle’s nonsensical date. And kudos to the LAFCA member (who shall remain nameless) who proposed moving the date to January when that announcement was made.

And the awards themselves represent a classy, unique perspective on the race, to say the least. Starting with an inspired choice for Best Music/Score and continuing with nice tops of the hat in the screenplay and director categories, it was just a refreshing vote to watch unfold.

However, when the dust settled on the Best Picture category, it was a bit anti-climactic, with “The Descendants” taking the honor amid all that unique thinking. Ah well, it’s a distinguished set regardless. Check out the full list of winners with my real-time commentary scattered throughout below.

Career Achievement Award: Doris Day

Thoughts: Previously announced, this was a nice tip of the hat to an actress who many would like to see receive similar recognition from the Academy.

Best Music/Score: “Hanna” (Runner-up: “Drive”)

Thoughts: Already off to a nice, singular start. The Chemical Brothers’ work on “Hanna” is exemplary and deserving of a notice, and ditto Cliff Martinez’s pulsating work on “Drive” (as well as “Contagion”). I dig it.

Best Production Design: “Hugo” (Runner-up: “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy”)

Thoughts: Brilliant choices. Seriously, I was just saying (again, on Twitter) that it’s these two films in this category and then everyone else. I have trouble deciding between them, frankly, but bravo. Loving today’s announcements (so far, anyway).

Best Cinematography: “The Tree of Life” (Runner-up: “The City of Life and Death”)

Thoughts: Naturally. And yet, with all these honors, I still say Emmanuel Lubezki gets the shaft at the Oscars. I wish I had seen “The City of Life and Death” so I could comment on Cao Yu’s work therein, but I’m sure it’s a handsome choice for runner-up, as the LA critics are always classy with their below-the-line picks.

Best Supporting Actress: Jessica Chastain, “Coriolanus,” “The Debt,” “The Help,” “Take Shelter,” “Texas Killing Fields,” “The Tree of Life” (Runner-up: Janet McTeer, “Albert Nobbs”)

Thoughts: Just as she won the NYFCO prize for Breakthrough Performer, Jessica Chastain took down the LAFCA honor for Best Supporting Actress. It would matter more if someone would take a stand on which performance stands out. As it is, this doesn’t do much to help her Oscar chances. The bigger story here, though, is Janet McTeer coming in second. Really?

Best Supporting Actor: Christopher Plummer, “Beginners” (Runner-up: Patton Oswalt, “Young Adult”)

Thoughts: I can’t really argue with this. It’s a great performance and, more and more, it’s looking like an Oscar winner. But it’s no good being the frontrunner for this long. “Beginners” is a film I adore and I feel bad for not at least mentioning it in the top 10 podcast Friday.

Best Screenplay: “A Separation” (Runner-up: “The Descendants”)

Thoughts: Bravo! Seriously, bold call and a completely valid one. Guy has been pitching “A Separation” as a potential original screenplay Oscar winner all season, and while I still think that’s a considerable stretch, I’m happy to see it win something like this. Very nice call.

Best Documentary/Non-Fiction Film: “Cave of Forgotten Dreams” (Runner-up: “The Arbor”)

Thoughts: I really don’t get the love on Werner Herzog’s “Cave of Forgotten Dreams.” He blew it out of the water with “Into the Abyss” later in the year. It struggles so much to maintain enough of a reason to justify the feature length. I just don’t get it. Anyway, congrats to him, because he’s awesome.

Best Independent/Experimental Film: “Spark of Being”

Thoughts: I have none. But thanks to the LAFCA, I will now investigate.

Best Actress: Yun Jung-hee, “Poetry” (Runner-up: Kirsten Dunst, “Melancholia”)

Thoughts: A very lovely surprise (though it shouldn’t be surprising at this point that the LA critics always go with something unique in this field). It’s nice to switch it up and I’m even okay with Kirsten Dunst being that close for the win. It’s better than the usual obsession on the Oscar frontrunners.

Best Actor: Michael Fassbender, “A Dangerous Method,” “Jane Eyre,” “Shame” and “X-Men: First Class”(Runner-up: Michael Shannon, “Take Shelter”)

Thoughts: Another catch-all win, and a deserved one, no question. I like including “X-Men: First Class” on there. I would have expect them to leave it off but he was the best part of the film, after all. Oscar nod on the way? It’s looking good, but there’s another contender that’s about to make a big splash. More on that when I can talk about it.

Best Director: Terrence Malick, “The Tree of Life” (Runner-up: Martin Scorsese, “Hugo”)

Thoughts: Fantastic. I was hoping someone would stand up for Malick on this film and I’m glad it was a major group like LAFCA. I still think core support for the film could work wonders in Best Picture at the Oscars, but I’ve always thought directors would feel reverence for the man and the accomplishment. This is a great way to keep him at the forefront of consideration.

Best Animation: “Rango” (Runner-up: “The Adventures of Tintin”)

Thoughts: Can’t argue with that at all. I’ll see “Wrinkles” soon, but there isn’t much else worth picking in the category this year, to me. There are handsomly animated films (“Kung Fu Panda 2,” “Puss in Boots”), but only these two have the full package, in my book.

Best Picture: “The Descendants” (Runner-up: “The Tree of Life”)

Thoughts: Ugh. That’s a pretty limp conclusion. I was getting excited for a moment, thinking an intriguing stand might be taken, what with some of these other mentions. Alas, a bit of a safe-ish pick (after a lot of deliberating, it seemed).

Best Foreign Language Film: “The City of Life and Death” (Runner-up: “A Separation”)

Thoughts: This just makes me want to see “The City of Life and Death,” of course, which I regret I missed this year.

New Generation Award: The creative team behind “Martha Marcy May Marlene” (Antonio Campos, Sean Durkin, Josh Mond and Elizabeth Olsen)

Thoughts: A classy move to recognize that the film is indeed a collaborative effort, with Durkin’s partners having as much of a say in how it was conceived and achieved as he has. I’m guilty, too, for lending too much authoritative credit Durkin’s way this season. So I co-sign this.

For year-round entertainment news and awards season commentary follow @kristapley on Twitter.

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