The Los Angeles Film Critics Association met earlier today and announced their picks for the best of 2020. In the past, the LAFCA has been considered to be one of the more reliable of the Oscar precursors. For the past decade, the LAFCA’s pick for best film has gone on to pick up several Oscar nominations.
Well, that streak came to an end today. In a totally unexpected but still rather nice twist, the LAFCA selected Steve McQueen’s Small Axe as Best Picture. Small Axe, of course, is the umbrella title for five films that McQueen produced for the BBC and which are currently streaming on Prime. I’ve reviewed two of them — Mangrove and Red, White, and Blue. I’ll watch and review the other three this week.
Whether or not Small Axe is Oscar eligible has long been an open question. Both Mangrove and Red, White, and, Blue were selected to premiere at Cannes and to play at other festivals before making then airing on the BBC and streaming on Prime. Due to the pandemic, the Academy also changed the rules this year to make it easier for streaming films to compete. However, Steve McQueen has said that Small Axe was always intended to be a television miniseries and that, despite the films being accepted to Cannes and other festivals, there was never any plan to release any of them theatrically. For its part, Amazon has submitted Small Axe to the Golden Globes as a Limited Series and was apparently planning on mounting an Emmy campaign next year. With the exception of documentaries, films nominated for Emmys are not eligible to be nominated for Oscars and vice versa. The rule, even in this odd year, is that you have to pick one or the other.
So, by all those standards, none of McQueen’s five films nor Small Axe as a whole are Oscar-eligible. Will that change? Will Amazon decide to forgo the Emmys and instead go for an Oscar campaign? Eh …. probably not. But who knows — with this year blurring the lines between theatrical and television films like never before, anything could happen. (But probably won’t.)
Anyway, here are the LAFCA winners!
Best Foreign Film
Runner-Up: Martin Eden
Chloé Zhao – Nomadland
Runner-Up: Steve McQueen – Small Axe
Carey Mulligan – Promising Young Woman
Runner-Up: Viola Davis – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Chadwick Boseman – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Runner-Up: Riz Ahmed – Sound Of Metal
Best Documentary Film
Promising Young Woman
Runner-Up: Never Rarely Sometimes Always
Best Animated Film
Best Supporting Actress
Youn Yuh-jung – Minari
Runner-Up: Amanda Seyfried – Mank
Best Production Design
Best Supporting Actor
Glynn Turman – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Runner-Up: Paul Raci – Sound Of Metal
Runner-Up: Lovers Rock
New Generation Award
Radha Blank – The Forty-Year-Old-Version
Career Achievement Award
Hou Hsiao-Hsien and Harry Belafonte
The Douglas Edwards Experimental Film Prize
John Gianvito – Her Socialist Smile