The Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA), which has been around since the mid-'70s, announced earlier today, December 8, 2013, their list of winners and runners-up. As usual, there were a number of surprises, including James Franco, tying in the Best Supporting Actor category, and Shane Carruth's sci-fi indie drama Upstream Color, selected as the runner-up for Best Editing. (Check out the full list of 2013 Los Angeles Film Critics winners. See also: Boston Society of Film Critics 2013 winners, announced earlier today.)
But really, the biggest surprise of the day was the fact that the Los Angeles Film Critics came up with no less than three ties, including Best Picture: Alfonso Cuarón's Gravity and Spike Jonze's Her. That's the LAFCA's first Best Picture tie since its first awards year, when Milos Forman's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest tied with Sidney Lumet's Dog Day Afternoon back in 1975.
Cuarón Gravity movie won three other Los Angeles Film Critics awards: Best Director, Best Cinematography (Emmanuel Lubezki), and Best Editing (Alfonso Cuarón and Mark Sanger). Sandra Bullock, touted as a potential Best Actress Oscar nominee, and George Clooney star in this good-looking but unabashedly conventional Warner Bros.-distributed Hollywood flick that became a critical and box office hit worldwide. (Those who have compared Gravity to Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey surely have never watched Kubrick's 1968 classic.)
Jonze's Her movie, another Warners domestic release, also earned K.K. Barrett the Best Production Design Award, and was the runner-up for Best Director, Best Screenplay, and Best Music Score (Arcade Fire and Owen Pallett). In the film, Joaquin Phoenix plays a man who begins a relationship of sorts with a computer voiced by Scarlett Johansson. Amy Adams, Kristen Wiig, Chris Pratt, and Olivia Wilde are some of Her's other players.
LAFCA Best Picture tie and the Academy Awards
For those who see this LAFCA Best Film tie as some sort of Oscar Omen ... Well, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest became the first movie since Frank Capra's It Happened One Night in early 1935 to win Academy Awards for Best Picture (Saul Zaentz, Michael Douglas), Best Actor (Jack Nicholson), Best Actress (Louise Fletcher), Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay (Lawrence Hauben, Bo Goldman).
In the key Oscar categories, Dog Day Afternoon had to content itself with nominations for Best Picture (Martin Bregman, Martin Elfland), Best Actor (Al Pacino), Best Supporting Actor (Chris Sarandon), and Best Director, in addition to winning for Best Original Screenplay (Frank Pierson). Note: Neither Gravity nor Her has any chance of repeating One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest's Oscar feat.
James Franco and other LAFCA surprises
James Franco's win, I should add, was for his portrayal of a gold-toothed, multiple-tattooed rapper/gangster/drugs and arms dealer enmeshed with bikini-clad girls gone wild Vanessa Hudgens, Selena Gomez, and Ashley Benson in Harmony Korine's (sort of) cautionary tale Spring Breakers. With nearly $32 million worldwide, as per Box Office Mojo, the film was a modest box office success in relation to its (reported) $5 million budget. (Not including marketing and distribution expenses.)
Franco's fellow winner was Jared Leto. The New York Film Critics Award winner plays an AIDS-stricken cross-dresser in Jean-Marc Vallée's Dallas Buyers Club – which recently may have caused a furor at a Frozen screening in Florida.
A previous tie in the Best Supporting Actor category took place in 1998, when Bill Murray (Rushmore, Wild Things) and Billy Bob Thornton (A Simple Plan) were both singled out.
Besides James Franco, the other major Los Angeles Film Critics surprise was their choice of Best Animated Feature: Stéphane Aubier, Benjamin Renner, Vincent Patar's French-Belgian production Ernest & Celestine, about the unlikely friendship between a mouse and a bear, and the rejection they face from species-conscious mice and bears. The LAFCA's runner-up was Hayao Miyazaki's The Wind Rises, the winner in New York and at the National Board of Review.
So far, Hollywood animated movies – e.g., Frozen, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2, The Croods – have been bypassed this year, no matter how successful at the North American box office.
More Los Angeles Film Critics winners
Hollywood veteran Bruce Dern was the Best Actor, playing a Montana man traveling to collect a cash prize in Nebraska in Alexander Payne's road movie Nebraska. This marked the 77-year-old Dern's first LAFCA win. Will Forte and Best Supporting Actress runner-up June Squibb co-star in Nebraska.
And as usual, there was some overlapping with the choices of both the New York Film Critics Circle and the National Board of Review, which were announced last week. These include the New York Film Critics' Best Supporting Actor co-winner Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club), who tied with James Franco (Spring Breakers) in that category in Los Angeles; and Sarah Polley's documentary Stories We Tell, about the complex relationship between her parents (including a surprising revelation), which was the choice of all three groups.
"LAFCA 2013 Winners: Spring Breakers' Gold-Toothed, Tattooed James Franco" continues on the next page. See link below.
James Franco Spring Breakers photo: A24.