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Los Angeles Film Critics Awards: French Actress Is Major Surprise Winner

The Hurt Locker by Kathryn BigelowLos Angeles Film Critics Awards: Iraq War drama 'The Hurt Locker' tops Best Picture.

As we had predicted, Nine, The Lovely Bones, Avatar, and The Blind Side didn't get much recognition from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, which announced their winners earlier today.

Talent from those films was probably mentioned during the voting, but only Avatar got listed in the final results: it was the runner-up (Rick Carter and Robert Stromberg) in the best production design category, after District 9 (Philip Ivey).

Kathryn Bigelow's Iraq War drama The Hurt Locker was the Los Angeles critics' big winner – best film, best director (no split, my prediction notwithstanding) – matching results earlier today from the Boston Society of Film Critics. Actually, the Boston critics gave the Iraq War drama about a team of bomb-disposal experts a total of five awards; apart from its two wins, Los Angeles critics listed Bigelow's film only once more: it was the runner-up for best cinematography (Barry Ackroyd).

In addition to its wins in Los Angeles and Boston, The Hurt Locker also received top honors at the Gotham Awards. Despite its unimpressive box office performance – the film's domestic take barely covered its estimated production costs – The Hurt Locker is a likely contender for the best picture and best director Academy Awards. Its chances to come out on top in either category, however, are iffy.

The National Board of Review and Washington film critics' favorite, Jason Reitman's Up in the Air, managed to win only one award in LA, for Reitman and Sheldon Turner's screenplay. (As an aside, Mark Boal's The Hurt Locker screenplay hasn't been very lucky thus far.) Up in the Air was also the runner-up in two categories: best picture and best supporting actress (Anna Kendrick).

Charles Berling, Juliette Binoche in Summer Hours

One major surprise was the choice of Olivier Assayas' Summer Hours as the best foreign language film of 2009. Starring Juliette Binoche, Charles Berling (both above), and Jérémie Renier, Summer Hours chronicles the emotional ups-and-downs of three siblings as they get rid of cherished family mementos (and memories) after their mother (Edith Scob) dies. I should add that Summer Hours was also the Boston critics' pick; if it wins a third time, it'll no longer be a “surprise.”

More expected was the fact that Louie Psihoyos' The Cove, about dolphin abuse, was chosen the best documentary. Less expected was that it tied with Agnès Varda's The Beaches of Agnès. But don't get me wrong, Varda's autobiographical documentary has gotten great reviews; I just wasn't expecting a tie.

Wes Anderson's Fantastic Mr. Fox was the best animated feature. Pete Docter's Up was the runner-up. I'd have thought it'd have been the other way around.

Jeff Bridges in Crazy Heart
Yolande Moreau in Seraphine
Jeff Bridges in Crazy Heart (top); Yolande Moreau in Séraphine (bottom)

Jeff Bridges as the Los Angeles Film Critics' best actor for his ageing country singer in Crazy Heart wasn't totally unexpected, despite strong competition from the likes of Colin Firth for A Single Man (the LA critics' runner-up), George Clooney for Up in the Air, and Morgan Freeman for Invictus.

Now, Yolande Moreau's win for her performance as the emotionally troubled painter and cleaning lady Séraphine de Senlis in Séraphine was a major surprise – a good one. As a result of the Los Angeles critics' decision to go out on a limb in the best actress category, 2009 César winner Moreau now has a better chance of getting an Oscar nomination. (Update: Would have had … as her film has not been submitted for consideration.)

Well, maybe. The field is still very crowded, e.g., runner-up Carey Mulligan for An Education, Meryl Streep, Penélope Cruz, Marion Cotillard, Helen Mirren, Gabourey Sidibe, etc. etc.

Gabourey Sidibe, Mo'Nique in Precious

Mo'Nique (above top, with Gabourey Sidibe) was named best supporting actress for Precious, while Christoph Waltz (above, lower photo) was the best supporting actor for Inglourious Basterds. Both are sure to get Oscar nominations and could be considered the favorites in their respective categories.

Also, Michael Haneke's The White Ribbon, winner of the European Film Awards for best picture, best director, and best screenplay at a ceremony in Germany last night, was the Los Angeles critics' winner for best cinematography (Christian Berger). Additionally, Haneke's political-psychological drama was the runner-up for best director and best foreign language film.

In the last dozen years, nine LA critics best picture winners went on to receive best picture Oscar nominations. The other three – WALL-E, American Splendor, and About Schmidt – earned Oscar recognition in other categories.

Last year, three of the LA critics' acting picks went on to win an Oscar: Penélope Cruz for Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Heath Ledger for The Dark Knight, and Sean Penn for Milk. Happy-Go-Lucky's Sally Hawkins, however, didn't even land an Oscar nomination.

Theoretically, the same could happen to the little-known (in the U.S.) Yolande Moreau this year, whose Seraphine failed to make much of a splash at the box office – but stranger things have happened in the Academy's annals than to nominate a foreign actress in a foreign-language film that wasn't a major commercial hit.

Jeremy Renner in The Hurt Locker

Another major critical surprise: The Hurt Locker (above, with Jeremy Renner) was voted best picture of 2009 by the San Francisco Film Critics Circle. The Iraq War drama's director, Kathryn Bigelow, received top honors as well.

All kidding aside, a more unique choice – though not all that unexpected considering that it's San Francisco – was Colin Firth for best actor. In Tom Ford's A Single Man, Firth plays a gay English professor in 1960s Los Angeles, a time and place where homosexuality was generally not your usual conversation topic. His lover (Matthew Goode) dies unexpectedly, and the professor must decide what he wants to do with his own life – or rather, if he still has a life. A few months ago, Firth was voted best actor at the Venice Film Festival.

Christian McKay in Me and Orson Welles

Christian McKay's win for the little-seen Me and Orson Welles (above), starring Zac Efron no less, was a bigger surprise, though McKay has been mentioned elsewhere (usually as a nominee or runner-up). Another curiosity was the choice of Sacha Gervasi's rockumentary Anvil! The Story of Anvil as best documentary of 2009. Louie Psihoyos' The Cove and Robert Kenner's Food, Inc. have been the favorites thus far. (Anvil! has no chance at the Oscars, as it's not one of the semi-finalists in the best documentary feature category.)

Wes Anderson and Noah Baumbach's citation for their adaptation of Roald Dahl's Fantastic Mr. Fox wasn't something expected, either, but the San Francisco critics' biggest surprise was its choice of best foreign language film: Roy Andersson's off-the-wall comedy-drama You, the Living, a 2008 production that was Sweden's submission for the best foreign language film Academy Award last year. Thus far, no other US critics group has mentioned it (at least at the very top).

Meryl Streep in Julie and Julia

Among the expected winners were Meryl Streep (above) for her Julia Child incarnation in Julie & Julia, Mo'Nique for her abusive mom in Precious, Quentin Tarantino for his original Inglourious Basterds screenplay, and, in the SFFCC's inaugural animated feature category, Henry Selick's stop-motion adventure tale Coraline.

Everything Strange and New by Frazer Bradshaw

Other winners were Roger Deakins' cinematography for Joel and Ethan Coen's A Serious Man, the animated release Sita Sings the Blues, by Nina Paley, which received a special mention, and two Marlon Riggs Award recipients: Frazer Bradshaw's drama Everything Strange and New (above), about working-class life in Oakland, and Barry Jenkins' Medicine for Melancholy, described as a “lyrical black-and-white portrait of two African-American twenty-somethings spending a long day and night in San Francisco.” The Marlon Riggs Award is given to a “Bay Area filmmaker or individual who represents courage and innovation in the world of cinema.”

And lastly, screenwriter/producer Rose Kaufman, who recently died of cancer, was given a In Memoriam citation.

The San Francisco Film Critics Circle consists of 26 Bay Area film critics. Last year, they chose Milk, about gay-rights activist Harvey Milk, as the best picture of the year.

Best Picture
The Hurt Locker

Best Foreign Language Film
You, the Living (Sweden)

Best Documentary
Anvil! The Story of Anvil

Best Animated Feature

Best Director
Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker

Best Actor
Colin Firth, A Single Man

Best Actress
Meryl Streep, Julie & Julia

Best Supporting Actor
Christian McKay, Me and Orson Welles

Best Supporting Actress
Mo’Nique, Precious

Best Original Screenplay
Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds

Best Adapted Screenplay
Wes Anderson and Noah Baumbach, Fantastic Mr. Fox

Best Cinematography
Roger Deakins, A Serious Man

Special Citation
Sita Sings the Blues

Marlon Riggs Award for courage & vision in the Bay Area film community
Frazer Bradshaw, filmmaker, in recognition of his film Everything Strange and New
Barry Jenkins, filmmaker, in recognition of his film Medicine for Melancholy

In Memoriam
Rose Kaufman

The Boston Society of Film Critics has announced its 2009 winners.

The Hurt Locker was the Boston critics' top film in more ways than one. Kathryn Bigelow's Iraq war drama about a bomb squad was chosen best picture of the year, winning a total of five awards including best director for Bigelow and best actor for Jeremy Renner. Additionally, The Hurt Locker topped the best cinematography (Barry Ackroyd) and best film editing (Bob Murawski and Chris Innis) categories.

The only other movie to win in more than one category was Lee Daniels' drama Precious, which earned Mo'Nique a best supporting actress citation for her abusive mother from hell and the best ensemble prize, tied with the space crew of Star Trek.

Meryl Streep, Stanley Tucci in Julie and Julia

Other winners were best actress Meryl Streep for her Julia Child impersonation in Julie & Julia (above, with Stanley Tucci), best supporting actor Christoph Waltz for his nasty Nazi in Inglourious Basterds, Pete Docter's Up as best animated feature, Joel Coen and Ethan Coen for their A Serious Man screenplay, and Louie Psihoyos' The Cove as best documentary.

Two unusual wins: Olivier Assayas' family drama Summer Hours as best foreign language film and Neill Blomkamp as best new filmmaker for the sci-fi sleeper hit District 9.

2009 Boston Society of Film Critics Award winners: Dec. 13, '09

Best Picture: The Hurt Locker

Best Foreign-Language Film: Summer Hours

Best Documentary: The Cove

Best Animated Film: Up

Best Director: Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker

Best Actor: Jeremy Renner for The Hurt Locker

Best Actress: Meryl Streep for Julie & Julia

Best Supporting Actor: Christoph Waltz for Inglourious Basterds

Best Supporting Actress: Mo'Nique for Precious

Best Ensemble Cast (tie): Precious and Star Trek

Best Screenplay: Joel Coen and Ethan Coen for A Serious Man

Best Cinematography: Barry Ackroyd for The Hurt Locker

Best Film Editing: Bob Murawski and Chris Innis for The Hurt Locker

Best New Filmmaker: Neill Blomkamp for District 9

Best Use of Music in a Film : Crazy Heart

Ben Foster, Woody Harrelson in The Messenger
Ben Foster, Woody Harrelson in The Messenger

There were quite a few surprises among the nominees for the St. Louis Film Critics Association 2009 Awards.

I mean, Kim So Yong's Treeless Mountain for best foreign language film? Jeff Stilson's Good Hair for best documentary? Wes Anderson (Fantastic Mr. Fox) and Oren Moverman (The Messenger) for best director? Patton Oswald (Big Fan) and Ben Foster (The Messenger) for best actor? Maya Rudolph (Away We Go) for best actress?

There were several less jarring surprises as well, including Marc Webb's (500) Days of Summer in the running for best picture; Robert Duvall as best supporting actor for The Road; Jeremy Renner as best actor for The Hurt Locker; Melanie Laurent as best supporting actress for Inglourious Basterds; Red Cliff for best cinematography (Yue Lü and Li Zhang); and Anvil: The Story of Anvil as best documentary.

Some of us at Alt Film Guide are always complaining that US film critics pick the same five or six movies and performances over and over again in their year-end choices. At least when it comes to their nominations, St. Louis critics have definitely proven us wrong. And that's a good thing.

Among the more predictable nominees were Up in the Air in multiple categories, Pete Docter's Up for best picture and best animated film, Jeff Bridges (no longer a dark horse) for Crazy Heart, Meryl Streep for Julie & Julia, Carey Mulligan for An Education, Mo'Nique for Precious, Marion Cotillard for Nine (in the supporting category), and Robert Kenner's Food, Inc. for best documentary. (But where's The Cove?)

James Cameron's Avatar only managed two nods: best visual effects and “Most Original, Innovative or Creative Film.”

The St. Louis Film Critics will announce their winners on Dec. 21.

The Indiana Film Journalists Association – we hadn't heard of this group before – have also announced their list of winners. (Four of the Association's nine members can be found at The Film Yap. I hadn't heard about them because this is their first year giving out awards.)

Will it influence the Oscars? Not really, but it's interesting to see that Hoosier critics have gone their own way by choosing Jason Reitman's Up in the Air as the best picture of the year, Louie Psihoyos' The Cove as best documentary, George Clooney as best actor for Up in the Air, Carey Mulligan as best actress for An Education. Most shocking of all was the choice of Mo'Nique as best supporting actress for Precious and Christoph Waltz as best supporting actor for Inglourious Basterds. No, scratch all that.

All joking aside, the Indiana Film Journalists have made one curious choice (and that's better than nothing): Spike Jonze as best director for Where the Wild Things Are, which also won the IFJA's Original Vision Award. True, this big-budget fantasy film is hardly what you'd call "unusual" in terms of popularity, but it's certainly something new when it comes to year-end critics' choices that have tended to honor the same five people and the same five films over and over again. Just like in years past.

Via Ryan Adams at Awards Daily.

Best Film
Up in the Air
Runner-up: Fantastic Mr. Fox

Best Foreign Language Film
Sin Nombre
Runner-up: Welcome

Best Documentary
The Cove
Runner-up: Anvil! The Story of Anvil

Best Animated Film
Fantastic Mr. Fox
Runner-up: Up

Best Director
Spike Jonze, Where the Wild Things Are
Runner-up: Wes Anderson, Fantastic Mr. Fox

Best Actor
George Clooney, Up in the Air
Runner-up: Jeremy Renner, The Hurt Locker

Best Actress
Carey Mulligan, An Education
Runner-up: Meryl Streep, Julie & Julia

Best Supporting Actress
Mo'Nique, Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire
Runner-up: Vera Farmiga, Up in the Air

Best Supporting Actor
Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds
Runner-up: Stanley Tucci, The Lovely Bones and Julie & Julia

Best Screenplay
Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner, Up in the Air
Runner-up: Spike Jonze and Dave Eggers, Where the Wild Things Are

Original Vision Award
Where the Wild Things Are
Runner-up: District 9


Indiana Film Journalists Association website.

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