Films with universally good reviews on MetaCritic (“The Artist,” “Moneyball”) fared better with the New York Film Critics Circle than those that elicited polarizing reactions. While there are not enough Los Angeles Film Critics Assn. members on MetaCritic to make a similar comparison in advance of their vote Sunday, one critic — Kenneth Turan — has proven to be a reliable barometer. This Los Angeles Times scribe may well be the most read reviewer by Academy members.
Four of the last seven LAFCA winners were Turan’s top pick of the year (“The Social Network,” 2010; “The Hurt Locker,” 2009; “Letters from Iwo Jima,” 2007; and “Sideways,” 2004). In 2008, he did not rank his top ten but the LAFCA winner “WALL-E” made his list. In 2007, “There Will Be Blood” came in at No. 5 for him but won over his colleagues. And in 2005, he did not consider “Brokeback Mountain” among the year’s best, although as with all these champs but “Blood” (which he gave 90), he scored it as 100 at MetaCritic.
This correlation between Turan’s take and the eventual LAFCA winner only applies to the feature film race. When it comes to the documentary and foreign language film awards, he has been a strong supporter of some of the winners but not others as based on his annual top 10 list.
Turan is reserved with his raves. Of his reviews this year, Metacritic assigned a score of 100 to only four foreign language films — “Poetry,” “Of Gods and Men,” “The Princess of Montpensier,” “The City of Life and Death” — and two documentaries — “Cave of Forgotten Dreams,” “We Were Here”.
While Metacritic doesn’t score his review of “The Artist,” it was an all-out rave which began:
“The Artist” is the wonder of the age, as much a miracle as “Avatar,” though it comes at things from the totally opposite direction. Far from embracing the most modern cinematic techniques, “The Artist” is a glorious throwback, a black-and-white silent movie that manages the impossible: It strikes an exact balance between the traditions of the past and the demands of the present, managing to be true to the look and spirit of bygone times while creating the most modern kind of witty and entertaining fun. Look on this work, ye mighty of Hollywood, and rejoice.
This year, Turan did not critique two top contenders. His colleague Betsy Sharkey raved about “Melancholia” (100) and was enthusiastic about “The Descendants” (80). However, Turan likes Alexander Payne‘s work even when he does not review it in print. In 2003, he had “About Schmidt” at No. 6 on his top 10 and it won Best Picture from LAFCA.