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L.A. Film Critics Daringly International Choices: From Terrorists & Criminals to Kings & Mothers

L.A. Film Critics Best Actress Kim Hye-ja in Mother: determined to prove murder suspect son's innocenceL.A. Film Critics' Best Actress winner Kim Hye-ja in Mother. A television star in South Korea, Kim, whose acting career dates back to the early 1960s, was the surprise choice of the Los Angeles critics, beating Oscar front-runner Natalie Portman, and other Hollywood names like Nicole Kidman, Annette Bening, and Michelle Williams. In Bong Joon-ho's Mother, Kim plays the unglamorous titular character: a woman passionately protective of her mentally handicapped son (Won Bin) and fiercely determined to prove his innocence after he's accused of murder.

L.A. Film Critics awards boosts Colin Firth & Jacki Weaver Oscar chances

When it comes to the Academy Awards, the Los Angeles Film Critics Association (a.k.a. L.A. Film Critics) is one of the two most influential film critics groups in the United States. The other being, of course, the New York Film Critics Circle. (The National Society of Film Critics would come in third, chiefly because its choices tend to be less Oscar friendly.)

Below is the list of the 2010 L.A. Film Critics' winners and runners-up, announced on Dec. 12. Notice several interesting, internationally minded choices – no Americans among the acting winners – including Best Actress Kim Hye-ja for the South Korean drama Mother; Best Supporting Actress Jacki Weaver for the Australian crime drama Animal Kingdom; Best Supporting Actor Niels Arestrup for the prison drama A Prophet; and co-Best Director Olivier Assayas for the French-German (originally made-for-TV) political thriller Carlos.

And let's not forget runners-up Edgar Ramírez for Carlos, Olivia Williams for Roman Polanski's The Ghost Writer, and Sylvain Chomet's animated feature The Illusionist.

Best Film: The Social Network.

Runner-up: Carlos.

Best Foreign Language Film: Carlos.

Runner-up: Mother.

Best Director (tie): Olivier Assayas, Carlos & David Fincher, The Social Network.

Best Actress: Kim Hye-ja, Mother.

Runner-up: Jennifer Lawrence, Winter's Bone.

Best Actor: Colin Firth, The King's Speech.

Runner-up: Edgar Ramírez, Carlos.

Best Supporting Actress: Jacki Weaver, Animal Kingdom.

Runner-up: Olivia Williams, The Ghost Writer.

Best Supporting Actor: Niels Arestrup, A Prophet.

Runner-up: Geoffrey Rush, The King's Speech.

Best Screenplay: Aaron Sorkin for The Social Network.

Runner-up: David Seidler, The King's Speech.

Best Documentary: Last Train Home.

Runner-up: Exit Through the Gift Shop.

Best Animated Film: Toy Story 3.

Runner-up: The Illusionist.

Best Cinematography: Matthew Libatique, Black Swan.

Runner-up: Roger Deakins, True Grit.

Best Score (tie): Alexandre Desplat, The Ghost Writer & Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, The Social Network.

Best Production Design: Guy Hendrix Dyas, Inception.

Runner-up: Eve Stewart, The King's Speech.

Douglas E. Edwards Independent/Experimental Film/Video: Film Socialisme.

New Generation Award: Lena Durham, Tiny Furniture.

Legacy of Cinema: Serge Bromberg for his preservation efforts, including his work on Henri-Georges Clouzot's Inferno and the F.W. Murnau Foundation and Fernando Peña for the restoration of Metropolis.

L.A. Film Critics Awards: Expected/unexpected predictions mix

Dec. 11: The Los Angeles Film Critics Association will be announcing their 2010 winners tomorrow. Last year, the L.A. Film Critics' picks were mostly predictable – The Hurt Locker, Kathryn Bigelow, Mo'Nique, Christoph Waltz – but there were a few good surprises as well, e.g., Best Actress Yolande Moreau for Séraphine and Best Cinematography for The White Ribbon (Christian Berger).

Expect the same mix of predictability and unpredictability this year.

Best Film & Best Director: Facebook drama

David Fincher's The Social Network is the clear favorite among U.S.-based critics. Chances are this drama about the troubled creation of Facebook will nab awards for Best Film, Best Director, and Best Screenplay (Aaron Sorkin).

Potential L.A. Film Critics Best Film upsets:

  • Lee Unkrich's Toy Story 3 (Pixar's Wall-E won in 2008).
  • Tom Hooper's The King's Speech.
  • Mike Leigh's Another Year.
  • Debra Granik's Winter's Bone.
  • Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan.

Apart from Unkrich, the other filmmakers are strong contenders in the L.A. Film Critics' Best Director category. Here are two more possibilities:

Best Screenplay: More Facebook drama

As mentioned above, The Social Network, adapted by Aaron Sorkin, is the odds-on favorite for the L.A. Film Critics' Best Screenplay award.

Other potential Best Screenplay winners include:

  • Debra Granik for Winter's Bone.
  • David Seidler for The King's Speech.
  • Mike Leigh for Another Year (even though his movies are supposed to be mostly improvised).
L.A. Film Critics' A Prophet with Tahar Rahim: brutal prison drama features Corsican mafia warsL.A. Film Critics Best Foreign Language Film possibility: Jacques Audiard's brutal prison drama A Prophet, starring Tahar Rahim as a young man sentenced to six years in prison for attacking police officers. Once in the big house, he falls under the influence of the Corsican mafia, led by eventual L.A. Film Critics Best Supporting Actor winner Niels Arestrup.

Best Foreign Language Film: Brutal prison life

Though a 2009 release in parts of the world, Jacques Audiard's acclaimed prison drama A Prophet, starring Tahar Rahim, opened in the United States only in February 2010. It'll quite possibly be the L.A. Film Critics' pick for Best Foreign Language Film.

In fact, Audiard could also have a chance at the Best Director award, though that doesn't seem all that likely considering the (high-profile) English-language competition.

Other Best Foreign Language Film possibilities:

  • Luca Guadagnino's I Am Love.
  • Bong Joon-ho's Mother.

Xavier Beauvois' Of Gods and Men should be out of the race, as it opens in the U.S. only in February 2011.

Best Animated Film & Best Documentary: Toys & crooks

Hands-down Best Animated Film at the L.A. Film Critics Awards: Toy Story 3.

A win by Sylvain Chomet's The Illusionist, based on a semi-autobiographical work by Jacques Tati (Monsieur Hulot's Holiday, Mon Oncle), though not exactly impossible, would be a major upset.

The Best Documentary may well turn out to be Charles Ferguson's acclaimed Inside Job, about the global financial meltdown that is still taking place – Ireland is the latest country to go Third World.

Other possibilities include:

  • Davis Guggenheim's Waiting for 'Superman'.
  • Alex Gibney's Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer.
  • Amir Bar-Lev's The Tillman Story.
  • Banksy's Exit Through the Gift Shop.

Short-tempered Best Actor?

The L.A. Film Critics have a number of strong male performances to choose from this year, mostly from well-known actors:

So, will they go instead for Jim Broadbent in Mike Leigh's Another Year? Don't bet against it.

Having said that, it would be smarter to put your money on Colin Firth for playing the stuttering (and short-tempered) King George VI in The King's Speech.

Another strong possibility: Jesse Eisenberg for portraying another real life character, Facebook's controversial founder Mark Zuckerberg, in The Social Network.

Leonardo DiCaprio (Inception, Shutter Island) and Tahar Rahim (A Prophet) are two very disparate – and unlikely – possibilities. But when it comes to the L.A. Film Critics, nothing is impossible.

Javier Bardem to make L.A. Film Critics Awards history?

Somewhat curiously, no performer in a non-English-language film has ever received the L.A. Film Critics' Best Actor award. The vast majority of the winners, in fact, consist of big Hollywood names, e.g., Michael Douglas, Burt Lancaster, Al Pacino, etc.

Could Javier Bardem become the first non-English-speaking Best Actor winner for his star turn in Alejandro González Iñárritu's Spanish drama Biutiful?

L.A. Film Critics' Lesley Manville in Another Year? Mike Leigh actresses are favoritesL.A. Film Critics' Best Actress possibility Lesley Manville in Another Year. A film, stage, and television performer, Manville has been featured in about 15 movies since the early 1980s, almost invariably in supporting roles. Her intermittent collaborations with Mike Leigh began with High Hopes back in 1988, eventually leading to a London Film Critics' Best British Actress win for the 2002 drama All or Nothing. On TV since the mid-1970s, her longest-running role to date has been in the soap opera Emmerdale a.k.a. Emmerdale Farm (1974–1976).

'Man-hungry' Best Actress?

Every so often, the Los Angeles Film Critics Association bestows at least one of their acting awards on performers featured in “unexpected” movies – those non-mainstream, at times non-English-language productions that are off the Hollywood-centric, Anglophone-centric radar of most U.S.-based awards season pundits.

Last year, for instance, Yolande Moreau won the L.A. Film Critics' Best Actress award for Martin Provost's French biopic Séraphine, about the life of painter Séraphine de Senlis. In all likelihood, no one saw that coming, even though Moreau had won a Best Actress César earlier in the year. (Séraphine opened in France in 2008.)

This year, we're betting on Lesley Manville for her lonely – some might say man-hungry – middle-aged secretary in Another Year. That's partly because she's a potential Oscar contender who has already been singled out by the National Board of Review, partly because the L.A. Film Critics really like Mike Leigh's actresses: Brenda Blethyn (Secrets & Lies), Imelda Staunton (Vera Drake), and Sally Hawkins (Happy-Go-Lucky) have all been honored in the last 15 years.

Motherly upset?

Other international Best Actress possibilities include Tilda Swinton for I Am Love and Noomi Rapace for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, in addition to the following Hollywood (or borderline-Hollywood) types:

  • Natalie Portman for Black Swan.
  • Nicole Kidman for Rabbit Hole.
  • Michelle Williams for Blue Valentine.
  • Annette Bening for The Kids Are All Right (and Mother and Child?).
  • Jennifer Lawrence for Winter's Bone.

A win by Mother's Kim Hye-ja, however deserving, would be a major upset.

Drugs & crime in supporting categories

The Best Supporting Actor could very well be Christian Bale for his portrayal of a drug-addicted former boxer in The Fighter. In the Best Supporting Actress category, we're betting on Jacki Weaver for David Michôd's Australian crime drama Animal Kingdom.

Both Bale and Weaver have already won awards from the National Board of Review.

Christian Bale's competition includes the usual suspects, such as Geoffrey Rush for The King's Speech and Andrew Garfield for The Social Network.

Or the winner could be someone unexpected such as:

  • Oliver Maltman from Another Year.
  • John Hawkes for Winter's Bone.
  • Joel Edgerton for Animal Kingdom.

Or even Matt Damon for Joel and Ethan Coen's True Grit (and Clint Eastwood's critical and box office disappointment Hereafter?).

Jacki Weaver will have to contend with the following:

Marion Cotillard probably doesn't stand much of a chance for her performance as Leonardo DiCaprio's – literally – dream wife in Inception, but stranger things have happened.

On the other hand, previous L.A. Film Critics Best Supporting Actress winner Catherine Keener could well be cited once again, this time around for Nicole Holofcener's Please Give, and Jay and Mark Duplass' Cyrus.

Keener, by the way, won for no less than four performances back in 2005: Capote, The Interpreter, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, and The Ballad of Jack and Rose.

 

Los Angeles Film Critics Association website.

Image of L.A. Film Critics Best Actress Kim Hye-ja in Mother: CJ Entertainment.

Lesley Manville Another Year image: Sony Pictures Classics.

Tahar Rahim A Prophet image: Sony Pictures Classics.


         
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