Los Angeles Film Critics Association awards winner: Best Picture Oscar next for ‘Moonlight’?

The Los Angeles Film Critics Association just named “Moonlight” as the Best Picture of 2016. So, does that confirm its status as the Oscar frontrunner? Not so fast. Remember, in its 41-year history, LAFCA has predicted only eight winners of the Best Picture Oscar and three of those were in the first five years of its existence.

Granted one of these double dippers was “Spotlight” just last year. Before that, LAFCA last aligned with the academy in 2009, the first year of the expanded Best Picture race, when both bodies went with “The Hurt Locker.” Prior to that, the last time that the L.A. critics predicted the top Oscar winner was way back in 1993 when “Schindler’s List” ran the board, also winning NYFCC and NBR before triumphing at the Oscars. The other Best Picture winners that were  recognized first by these west coast critics were: “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” (1975, tied with “Dog Day Afternoon” here); “Rocky” (1976, tied with “Network” here); “Kramer vs. Kramer” (1979); “Amadeus” (1984) and “Unforgiven” (1992).

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At last year’s LAFCA awards, “Spotlight” also won Best Screenplay for helmer Tom McCarthy and co-writer Josh Singer; the pair picked up the Original Screenplay Oscar as well. Best Director here went to George Miller whose film, “Mad Max: Fury Road,” was named runner-up for the top prize and also won Best Cinematography (John Seale) and Production Design (Colin Gibson). Of these, only Gibson repeated at the Oscars. Of the four performers feted, lead champs Charlotte Rampling (“45 Years”) and Michael Fassbender (“Steve Jobs”) reaped Oscar bids. Supporting player Michael Shannon (“99 Homes”) was snubbed by the acting branch of the academy. And Supporting Actress winner Alicia Vikander won here for “Ex Machina” but took home the Oscar for “The Danish Girl.”

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Two years ago, “Boyhood” was the big winner with LAFCA claiming Best Picture, Director (Richard Linklater), Actress (Patricia Arquette) and Editing; while all of these winners contended at the Oscars, only Arquette won and that was down in the supporting category. The group all but snubbed “Birdman,” which swept the Oscars (Best Picture, Director, Original Screenplay) by awarding it only Best Cinematography.

In 2013, the L.A. critics went with two films — “Gravity” and “Her” — for Best Picture over eventual Oscar champ “12 Years a Slave. “Gravity” helmer Alfonso Cuaron became just the 12th Best Director Oscar champ that LAFCA foresaw. In 2012, these left coasters named “Amour” as their favorite flick. While that French-language film went on to reap an Oscar bid, the winner of the top Academy Award was “Argo.” The 2012 L.A. champ — Paul Thomas Anderson (“The Master”) — wasn’t even nominated at the Oscars.

These Los Angeles-based critics do better presaging who will win the acting awards at the Oscars.

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They’ve gotten Best Actor right 21 out of 40 times. However, their choices for the last two years — Fassbender and Tom Hardy (“Locke,” 2014) — were not on Oscars radar. The 2013 winner with the L.A. crowd, Bruce Dern (“Nebraska”), did reap an Oscar bid  while 2012 pick Joaquin Phoenix was a surprise Oscar nominee for “The Master. In 2011, Fassbender was not nominated by the academy for any of his cited leading performances (“A Dangerous Method,” “Jane Eyre,” “Shame” and “X-Men: First Class”). The last time the L.A. critics foresaw an Oscar champ was in 2010 with Colin Firth (“The King’s Speech”).

In 2013, Cate Blanchett (“Blue Jasmine”) became the 14th LAFCA Best Actress winner who went on to claim the Oscar in that category; she had tied here with Adèle Exarchopoulos (“Blue Is the Warmest Colour”) who was snubbed by the academy. The two LAFCA winners in 2012 — Jennifer Lawrence (“Silver Linings Playbook”) and Emmanuelle Riva (“Amour”) — both went on to contend at the Oscars with Lawrence prevailing.

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Sixteen of the LAFCA choices for Supporting Actor repeated at the Oscars, most recently in 2014 with J.K. Simmons (“Whiplash”). In 2013, eventual Oscar champ Jared Leto (“Dallas Buyers Club”) tied here with James Franco (“Spring Breakers”) who was not nominated by the academy. Prior to that, the last L.A. winner to go on to an Oscar was Christopher Plummer (“Beginners”) in 2011.

Likewise, 14 of the group’s Supporting Actress winners picked up matching Oscar bookends, the most recent of which was 2013’s double champ Lupita Nyongo (“12 Years a Slave”). In 2012, LAFCA cited Amy Adams who went on to contend at the Oscars for “The Master.” In 2011,  Jessica Chastain won over the L.A. critics with six films: “Coriolanus,” “The Debt,” “The Help,” “Take Shelter,” “Texas Killing Fields” and “The Tree of Life.” She contended at the Oscars for “The Help” but lost to co-star Octavia Spencer.

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Be sure to make your Oscar predictions. How do you think “Moonlight” will do with academy voters? Weigh in now with your picks so that Hollywood insiders can see how this film is faring in our Oscar odds. You can keep changing your predictions right up until just before nominations are announced on January 24 at 5:00 am PT/8:00 am ET. Be sure to read our contest rules. And join in the fierce debate over the Oscars taking place right now with Hollywood insiders in our forums.

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