What do the Los Angeles film critics’ awards mean for the Oscars?

Awards momentum behind “The Descendants” sagged when it was shut out at the New York Critics Circle Awards, but it picked up steam today by winning the Best Picture honors from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association. That doesn’t necessarily portend good Oscar news ahead. Over the past 25 years, only “Schindler’s List” (1993) and “The Hurt Locker” (2009) lined up with both groups. However, LAFCA has a history of pushing ponies into the derby that ultimately went the distance, dating back to “Rocky” (1976) and “Unforgiven” (1992).

The Tree of Life” came in second place for Best Picture, but received the consolation prize for Best Director Terrence Malick, thus bolstering his hopes for an Oscar bid. Every director who has won at LA has gone on to reap an Academy Award bid from 1990 onward. An asterisk must be disclosed for last year, which featured a tie between David Fincher (“The Social Network”) and the non-nominated Olivier Assayas. His “Carlos” was ineligible at the Oscars because it originally screened as a television miniseries.

“Descendants” writer/director Alexander Payne‘s script was overlooked in favor of Asghar Farhadi‘s “A Separation.” Payne had won a breakthrough honor previously for his “Election” (1999) plus script laurels for two of his flicks that won Best Picture at LAFCA: “About Schmidt” (2002) and “Sideways” (2004).

Best Actor was L.A.’s key race to watch. Whoever won would follow a hot streak of six men who became eventual Oscar winners: Philip Seymour Hoffman (“Capote”), Forest Whitaker (“The Last King of Scotland”), Daniel Day-Lewis (“There Will Be Blood”), Sean Penn (“Milk”), Jeff Bridges (“Crazy Heart”), and Colin Firth (“The King’s Speech”). This year’s trophy went to Michael Fassbender, who was cited for his work on “Shame,” “Jane Eyre,” “A Dangerous Method” and “X-Men: First Class.”

As is typical for the group, they honored an off-the-wall choice in Yun Jung-hee as Best Actress for “Poetry.” Their previous two selections — Kim Hye-ja (“Mother”) and Yolande Moreau (“Seraphine”) —  never picked up a modicum of Oscar buzz.

Read a recap of the winners here and see the full slate of here.

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