Saturday, December 10, 2005

And the Trumpets Sounded!

The Los Angeles Film Critics Association, often the most Oscar-attuned of the major critics' groups and this year the first one to announce their picks, has crowned Brokeback Mountain their Best Picture of the year, and Ang Lee as their Best Director. David Cronenberg's A History of Violence was the runner-up in both races and scored one nod—oddly, if you ask me—for William Hurt's unimpeachably bold but not entirely persuasive supporting performance.

Capote was a triple winner, though only one prize, for Philip Seymour Hoffman's lead performance, was exclusive to this film. Dan Futterman's screenplay prize was shared with Noah Baumbach for The Squid and the Whale (two impeccable winners there), and Catherine Keener's win as Best Supporting Actress actually cited her entire stable of 2005 turns, which I'd rank in the following order, quality-wise: The 40-Year-Old Virgin (wonderful), Capote (really good), The Interpreter (perfectly sufficient), and The Ballad of Jack and Rose (um, no).

Best Cinematography went to Robert Elswit for Good Night, and Good Luck. and Production Design to 2046; each of those films was the runner-up in the opposite category. Animated Film went to Wallace and Gromit..., while the animated Howl's Moving Castle won for its Score, which I don't remember even slightly. Best Documentary went to my beloved Grizzly Man, Foreign-Language Film to Michael Haneke's post-colonial surveillance thriller Caché, and the New Generation Award to Terrence Howard, whom I still refer to as Terrence Dashon Howard, for Hustle & Flow and Crash. (Apparently, the LAFCA weren't paying attention in Glitter and Angel Eyes, like I was.)

I'm saving my favorite category, Best Actress, where the LAFCA endorsed a real dark horse, Vera Farmiga (pictured), for playing a drug-addicted housewife in Debra Granik's Down to the Bone. Both the performance and the film were Sundance victors, but the Academy-baiting theatrical run at the end of November was distressingly brief in NYC and LA, so Farmiga had better hope someone is sending screeners around Hollywood. Her selection by this group recalls their joint endorsement in 1998 of Fernanda Montenegro in Central Station, a Brazilian superstar unknown on these shores who actually did score a come-from-behind Oscar nod in a year as weak as this one. Montenegro tied, though, with Ally Sheedy in High Art, who was unjustifiably missing from Oscar's list. I'm betting that Farmiga goes the way of Sheedy rather than Montenegro, but the LAFCA's early laurel could really help.

Who this all really hurts is Joan Allen, and by extension, me. Allen, historically a favorite of this group, had her best chances of a big critical boost here, or else at the National Board of Review. It is crucial that Allen get a critics' prize, so that she can more likely be Oscar nominated, so that she can be a surprise winner, so that she can prove me right in my rather sanguine insistences throughout the fall that she is a front-runner. This dame needs an Oscar! (Alas, she wasn't even LAFCA's runner-up; Judi Dench was.)

Correction: Down to the Bone is still playing at the Quad Cinema on 13th St. in NYC, which gave Being Julia such a good long run last year, and at the Laemmle Fairfax in Los Angeles. Seek it out, people. Maybe it's time for me to get moving for a day.



Blogger Yaseen Ali said...

I'm kind of surprised that they went with PSH over Heath Ledger, considering how much they loved Brokeback Mountain. Hedger definitely needs it more than Hoffman at this point.

And it's a shame they felt the need to cite four performances to justify Catherine Keener's win, as if The 40-Year-Old Virgin didn't seem weighty enough on its own. I thought that giving it to her for that performance alone would be have been sufficient - she was amazing. [But I suppose her best chances for Oscar are with Capote, so they took that into consideration...]

I'll also be, like you, crossing my fingers for Joan Allen on Monday for NBR. She has my prediction for Best Actress; I hope it happens.

11:14 PM, December 10, 2005  
Blogger tim r said...

I'm pleased about Brokeback Mountain's emergence as an Oscar favourite for several reasons, but principally because I have $20 riding on it to win Best Pic, at 9/1! (That was months ago at - they've now narrowed to 9/2, which I still think is a bargain at the price.) I laid a covering $4 on Munich (6/1) at the time, and that's now narrowed, weirdly, to 11/5, before anyone's even seen the bloody thing. Such is the power of Spielberg. (Actually, Todd McCarthy's iffy Variety review does not bode at all well for that movie, about which I'm secretly quite gratified.)

From where I'm standing only King Kong has an outside chance of muscling in, but if it were to win I'd be so over the moon that I really couldn't care about losing a bit of cash.

Drinks are on me if BM wins though.

Any other Oscar betters in our midst? It's something of an addiction...

4:56 AM, December 11, 2005  
Blogger NicksFlickPicks said...

@Ali: So glad to have comrades in these causes.

@Tim: Get behind me, devil! The day I start betting on the Oscars is the day I start living under a tree, selling paper dolls on the sidewalk, and fleeing my creditors. I'm all about calling the dark horse who comes in but my overall calling average is often pretty low. Adrien Brody was my most recent succès d'éstime, and we know how long ago that was. I rolled into this year positive that Hope Davis would finally snag a nod for Proof; of course, that was before I realized that she would exercise her own worst, most severe tendencies and play an ungenerously written character with as much additional contempt as possible.

I will, however, let you buy me a drink, as the Warbucks ducats start rolling in from your Brokeback call.

8:51 AM, December 11, 2005  
Blogger tim r said...

Brody made me about £100 that year. I owe him drinks too...

2:38 PM, December 11, 2005  

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