Los Angeles Film Critics Awards: Three Major French Surprises + French Cinema Icon Gets Career Award

The Hurt Locker Jeremy Renner: Best Picture fave + Los Angeles Film Critics winnerThe Hurt Locker with Jeremy Renner. The Boston, San Francisco, and Los Angeles film critics' Best Picture is a low-budget Summit Entertainment release that turned out to be a major box office disappointment. Curiously, the Kathryn Bigelow-directed, Mark Boal-written Iraq War-set thriller about a U.S. Explosive Ordnance Disposal team was all but ignored at this year's Venice Film Festival and at the 2008 Spirit Awards – where it received a mere two nominations: Best Actor (Jeremy Renner) & Best Supporting Actor (Anthony Mackie). And now, suddenly, The Hurt Locker has become an awards season favorite and an Oscar front-runner.

Los Angeles Film Critics bypass most big studio releases + major Best Actress surprise

Big Hollywood hits and flops like Avatar, The Blind Side, Nine, and The Lovely Bones, didn't get much – or, in most cases, any – recognition from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association. (See further below the full list of L.A. Film Critics winners.)

Talent from these films was probably mentioned during the voting process, but only Avatar got listed in the final results: James Cameron's environmentally conscious action-fantasy was the runner-up in the Best Production Design category (Rick Carter and Robert Stromberg), trailing winner District 9 (Philip Ivey).

Instead, the Los Angeles Film Critics' big winner – Best Film, Best Director – turned out to be Kathryn Bigelow's relatively little-seen Summit Entertainment release The Hurt Locker, which has also just topped the Boston Society of Film Critics' choices.

To be more specific: the Boston Film Critics gave a total of five awards to the Iraq War drama about a team of bomb-disposal experts. In Los Angeles, apart from its two wins, The Hurt Locker was listed only once more: Best Cinematography runner-up (Barry Ackroyd).

In addition to its wins in L.A. and Boston, it also received top honors at the Gotham Awards.

Oscar front-runner?

Despite its unimpressive box office performance – The Hurt Locker's domestic take barely covered its production costs – Kathryn Bigelow's Iraq War drama is a likely contender for the Best Picture and Best Director Academy Awards. Its chances of coming out on top in either category, however, remain iffy.

The Hurt Locker features the following:

Jeremy Renner. Guy Pearce. Brian Geraghty. David Morse. Christian Camargo.

Evangeline Lilly. Anthony Mackie. Sam Redford (the son not of Robert Redford, but of British actor Ian Redford).

Two-time Oscar nominee Ralph Fiennes (as Best Supporting Actor for Schindler's List, 1993; as Best Actor for The English Patient, 1996).

As an aside, Mark Boal's The Hurt Locker screenplay hasn't been very lucky thus far, as this awards season's focus has been on director Bigelow.

'Up in the Air' & surprising French-made Best Foreign Language Film

The National Board of Review and Washington D.C. Film Critics' favorite, Jason Reitman's Paramount-distributed, socially conscious comedy-drama Up in the Air managed to win only one award in Los Angeles: for Reitman and Sheldon Turner's screenplay.

The tale of a frequent-flying, business-downsizing specialist (George Clooney), Up in the Air was also the runner-up in two categories: Best Picture and Best Supporting Actress (Anna Kendrick).

Much more surprising was the Los Angeles Film Critics' choice of Olivier Assayas' Summer Hours / L'heure d'été as the year's Best Foreign Language Film.

Starring Juliette Binoche, Charles Berling, and Jérémie Renier, Summer Hours chronicles the emotional ups-and-downs of three siblings as they get rid of cherished family mementos (and memories) following the death of their mother (Edith Scob).

Equally surprising is the fact that Summer Hours – which came and went without causing much of a stir – was the Boston Film Critics' pick as well. In case Assayas' French drama wins a third U.S. film critics award, it'll definitely no longer be a “surprise” winner.

Update: Summer Hours is no longer a surprise winner.

Dolphin slaughter documentary & 'Fantastic Mr. Fox'

Among the Los Angeles Film Critics winners, more expected was Louie Psihoyos' The Cove, about the slaughter of dolphins in a Japanese fishing village, being chosen Best Documentary.

Less expected was that The Cove tied with Agnès Varda's The Beaches of Agnès – an autobiographical documentary that has received enthusiastic reviews.

In the Best Animated Feature category, Wes Anderson's Fantastic Mr. Fox, featuring the voices of George Clooney and Meryl Streep among others, was the surprising top film. Pete Docter's acclaimed blockbuster Up, the animated feature to beat this awards season, was the runner-up.

Yolande Moreau Séraphine de Senlis: Los Angeles Film Critics surprise Best Actress winnerYolande Moreau in Séraphine. The Los Angeles Film Critics' utterly unexpected Best Actress pick was the French Academy's 2009 Best Actress Prix César winner Yolande Moreau. In Séraphine, the Brussels-born Moreau plays cleaning lady Séraphine Louis, best known as the painter Séraphine de Senlis. Louis' work was discovered by German art collector Wilhelm Uhde (Ulrich Tukur in the film) in 1912, when the artist was already in her late 40s. She died in poverty and alone – either in 1934 or 1942 – at a lunatic asylum in the northern French town of Clermont. In all, Séraphine won seven Prix César, including Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay.

Jeff Bridges & the Los Angeles Film Critics' biggest surprise of all: Best Actress Yolande Moreau

The selection of veteran Jeff Bridges (The Last Picture Show, Starman) as the Los Angeles Film Critics' Best Actor for his ageing country singer in Scott Cooper's Crazy Heart wasn't totally unexpected, despite strong competition from the likes of runner-up Colin Firth for A Single Man, George Clooney for Up in the Air, and Morgan Freeman for Invictus.

On the other hand, Yolande Moreau's win for her performance as the emotionally troubled painter and cleaning lady Séraphine de Senlis in Martin Provost's Séraphine was a major surprise.

As a result of the Los Angeles Film 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.)

Either way, this year's Best Actress field remains very crowded, e.g., L.A. runner-up Carey Mulligan for An Education, in addition to Meryl Streep (Julie & Julia), Penélope Cruz (Broken Embraces), Marion Cotillard (Nine; unless she's listed as Best Supporting Actress), Helen Mirren (The Last Station), Gabourey Sidibe (Precious), Sandra Bullock (The Blind Side), et al.

Los Angeles Film Critics' Austrian winners: Christoph Waltz & Christian Berger

More Los Angeles Film Critics winners: Best known as a comedian, Mo'Nique was named Best Supporting Actress for her highly dramatic performance as Gabourey Sidibe's abusive mother in Lee Daniels' dysfunctional family drama Precious.

Vienna-born performer and Cannes Film Festival Best Actor winner Christoph Waltz was chosen Best Supporting Actor for his “Jew-hunting” Nazi in Quentin Tarantino's World War II revenge fantasy Inglourious Basterds.

Both Mo'Nique and Waltz are sure to receive Oscar nominations and could already be considered the favorites in their respective categories.

Waltz's fellow Austrian Christian Berger surprisingly topped the Best Cinematography category for his black-and-white work seen in Michael Haneke's stark German drama The White Ribbon / Das Weisse Band – the 2009 European Film Awards' Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Screenplay winner.

Additionally, Haneke's political-psychological drama was the runner-up for Best Director and Best Foreign Language Film.

Jean-Paul Belmondo Pierrot le Fou: French cinema big Los Angeles Film Critics winsJean-Paul Belmondo in Pierrot le Fou. One of the biggest international movie stars of the 1960s and 1970s, Jean-Paul Belmondo was both the male muse of the French New Wave – toplining efforts by the likes of Jean-Luc Godard, François Truffaut, and Jean-Pierre Melville – and the star of highly commercial fare directed by the likes of Henri Verneuil, Jacques Deray, and Philippe de Broca. In its heyday, Belmondo's film career was akin to having a superstar like Tom Cruise alternating between Yorgos Lanthimos' arthouse fare and Mission: Impossible flicks.

Jean-Paul Belmondo gets Career Achievement Award

And finally, adding to the Los Angeles Film Critics Awards' European flavor, veteran Jean-Paul Belmondo was named the Career Achievement Award recipient.

One of the greatest French cinema icons, Belmondo became a major international star in the 1960s despite having never had a Hollywood career.

In the last five decades or so, he has worked with some of the most important French cinema directors, among them:

  • Jean-Luc Godard: Breathless, A Woman Is a Woman, Pierrot le Fou.
  • Jean-Pierre Melville: Le Doulos, Léon Morin Priest.
  • François Truffaut: Mississippi Mermaid.
  • Louis Malle: The Thief of Paris.
  • Philippe de Broca: That Man from Rio.
  • Jacques Deray: Borsalino.
  • Henri Verneuil: Weekend at Dunkirk.
  • Claude Lelouch: Les Misérables.
  • Alain Resnais: Stavisky.

Los Angeles Film Critics vs. the Academy Awards

In the last dozen years, nine Los Angeles Film Critics Best Picture winners have gone on to receive Best Picture Oscar nominations.

The other three – WALL-E, American Splendor, and About Schmidt – earned Oscar recognition in other categories.

Three of last year's L.A. Film Critics acting picks ended up taking home Oscar statuettes: Best Supporting Actress Penélope Cruz for Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Best Supporting Actor Heath Ledger for The Dark Knight, and Best Actor Sean Penn for Milk.

At the other extreme, Happy-Go-Lucky Best Actress Sally Hawkins didn't even land an Oscar nomination.

See below the full list of the Los Angeles Film Critics' 2009 winners & runners-up.

Los Angeles Film Critics winners & runners-up

Best Picture: The Hurt Locker.

Runner-up: Up in the Air.

Best Foreign Language Film: Summer Hours.

Runner-up: The White Ribbon.

Best Documentary (tie): The Cove & The Beaches of Agnès.

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 Director: Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker.

Runner-up: Michael Haneke, The White Ribbon.

Best Screenplay: Jason Reitman & Sheldon Turner, Up in the Air.

Runner-up: Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci, Tony Roche, In the Loop.

Best Cinematography: Christian Berger, The White Ribbon.

Runner-up: Barry Ackroyd, The Hurt Locker.

Best Animated Feature: Fantastic Mr. Fox.

Runner-up: Up.

Best Music: T Bone Burnett & Stephen Bruton, Crazy Heart.

Runner-up: Alexandre Desplat, Fantastic Mr. Fox.

Best Production Design: Philip Ivey, District 9.

Runner-up: Rick Carter & Robert Stromberg, Avatar.

New Generation Award: Neill Blomkamp, District 9.

Independent/Experimental Film and Video Award: The Anchorage, dir.: Anders Edström & C.W. Winter.

Career Achievement Award: Jean-Paul Belmondo.

Los Angeles Film Critics Association website.

Image of Jeremy Renner in the Los Angeles Film Critics Association Best Picture winner The Hurt Locker: Jonathan Olley / Summit Entertainment.

Image of Los Angeles Film Critics Best Actress winner Yolande Moreau in Séraphine: Diaphana Films.

Jean-Paul Belmondo Pierrot le Fou image: Société Nouvelle de Cinématographie.

“Los Angeles Film Critics Awards: Three Major French Surprises + French Cinema Icon Gets Career Award” last updated in December 2018.

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