The LAFCA Honors Terrence Malick, Michael Fassbender, and …. The Descendants?

For those of you who love to follow the Oscar race, today is a big day.  Several groups announced their picks for the best of 2011 today.  The most important of these groups would be the Los Angeles Film Critics Association.  Though the LAFCA has a pretty iffy record when it comes to predicting the actual Oscar winners, their picks still tend to influence the nominations. 

Here are the LAFCA winners, along with a little commentary from yours truly.

Best Musical Score: Hanna (runner-up: Drive)

There was a lot I liked about the LAFCA awards but this is the one that truly made me go: “Yay!”  Hanna was a great film that deserves a lot more attention than its been given.

Best Cinematography: The Tree of Life (Runner-up: The City of Life and Death)

Best Production Design: Hugo (runner-up: Tinker, Tailor, Solider, Spy)

Best Supporting Actress: Jessica Chastain for Coriolanus, The Debt, The Help, Take Shelter, Texas Killing Fields, and The Tree of Life (runner-up: Janet McTeer for Albert Nobbs)

Considering that she has next to no range as an actress, Jessica Chastain is having a pretty good year.  I have a feeling she’ll win an Oscar in February and then eventually end up joining the cast of Law & Order: SVU.

Best Supporting Actor: Christopher Plummer in Beginners (runner-up: Patton Oswalt in Young Adult)

As good as Plummer was in Beginners, think about how much more exciting it would have been if Oswalt had won.

Best Screenplay: A Seperation. (runner-up: The Descendants)

Best Documentary: The Cave of Forgotten Dreams (runner-up: The Arbor)

Again, let us consider that Werner Herzog’s masterpiece wasn’t even a semi-finalist as far as the Academy is concerned.

Best Independent/Experimental Film: Spark of Being

Best Actress: Yun Jung-hee in Poetry (runner-up: Kirsten Dunst in Melancholia)

Yay!  I am so bored with Meryl Streep.

Best Actor: Michael Fassbender for Shame, A Dangerous Method, X-Men: First Class, and Jane Eyre. (runner-up: Michael Shannon in Take Shelter)

Yay!  For both the winner and the runner-up. 

Best Director: Terrence Malick for The Tree of Life (runner-up: Martin Scorsese for Hugo)

I was on twitter when this result was announced and Oh. My. God.  My timeline like totally exploded with people getting all excited and hopeful.  And then, quite a few minutes later, all that excitement turned to rage as the next award was announced–

Best Picture: The Descendants (runner-up: The Tree of Life)

That’s right.  After going out on a limb with best actress and (debatably) best director and going out of their way to honor the unfairly neglected, the LAFCA gave best picture to one of the most overrated films of 2011 — The Descendants.  This despite the fact that The Descendants hadn’t won a single other award and was a runner-up in only one category.  That must have really loved that 2nd place screenplay.  This choice reeks of compromise, as if a group of critics decided to all unite and vote for their 2nd or 3rd choice in order to keep a more controversial films like The Tree of Life from winning.

That said, my pick for the best of 2011 remains Hanna.

Best Foreign Language Film: The City of Life and Death (runner-up: A Separation)

So, A Separation has a better screenplay than the best film of 2011, yet it’s not as good a film as The City of Life and Death.

New Generation award: Martha Marcy May Marlene

To recap, the three major critics groups have now spoken and each one has named a different film for best picture.  The National Board of Review went for Hugo, the New Yorkers went for The Artist, and the LAFCA went for The Descendants.

In fact, the Artist was totally ignored by Los Angeles and I’ve noticed that there seems to be a backlash developing against this film.  The Artist won’t be opening here until Dec. 21st so I can’t judge it but I would say that if you’re upset about about a French film like The Artist getting so much attention, don’t worry.  Maybe David Fincher will remake it with American actors next year.

4 responses to “The LAFCA Honors Terrence Malick, Michael Fassbender, and …. The Descendants?

  1. I think some of the backlash about The Artist comes from the premise and, dare I say it, the gimmick of the film done as a silent film homage to the silent films of the past.

    I think this year’s lack of a major front-runner or two should make it easier for a film like Hanna, Drive or even Shame to slip through and cause an upset over the bigger Oscar-bait films.

    I definitely can see Shame riding it’s controversial NC-17 decision from it’s filmmaker Steve McQueen getting sympathy nods from Academy voters who have tired of the MPAA and feel Shame is the film to buck the trend. It helps that the performances by it’s lead in Fassbender and Mulligan has no chinks.

    There is still Fincher’s Dragon remake and I have feeling many people still waiting how that will turn out and be received before the final grouping of Oscar contenders are finalized.

    I, for one, think Shame is the best film of the year with Drive, Hanna and Hugo right behind it (I still have to see TinTin so this final four could change).


  2. Great Coverage. I’m shocked Hugo didn’t get into the Best Picture part of this. I’m so thrilled to see Fassbender walk away with Best Actor, though. Hopefully it’ll give Shame a bit more needed recognition by the Academy and other award shows (though honestly, that’s a lot to ask for).

    For the Descendants, I loved it, but based on what’s already been happening, it could just be considered a safe choice. What I never seem to get is how the Best Picture isn’t always considered the Best Directed film. If you did good enough to make what’s considered a Best Picture. wouldn’t the Director’s work in that be a major contribution to it? Just my thinking.


    • The fact that the Decendants didn’t really factor into the voting for best director (or, apparently, best actor either) leads me to suspect that the Descendants was probably a compromise choice. I imagine that the critics were pretty evenly divided between those who liked Tree of Life and those who didn’t. Those who didn’t probably realized that the only way they could beat Tree of Life was to agree on one film and the Descendants — which is, as you pointed out, a very safe movie regardless of its overall quality — is the one they could all go with.


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