The Los Angeles Film Critics Association hands out its awards this Sunday (Dec. 3). Last year, these journalists named “Moonlight” as Best Picture over “La La Land,” which had been the choice of the New York Film Critics’ Circle three days earlier. Historically, the West coast critics have feted different films and performances than those that merited mention by the Gotham crowd. This year, the big winner with the NYFCC was Greta Gerwig‘s “Lady Bird,” which won Best Picture and Best Actress (Saoirse Ronan).
While “La La Land” was the overwhelming favorite to win the top Oscar, it was “Moonlight” that was (eventually) announced as the Best Picture winner. Indeed, LAFCA loved “Moonlight” so much that Barry Jenkins won Best Director over eventual Oscar champ Damien Chazelle (“La La Land”); likewise in cinematography.
While we should certainly pay attention to the choices of the West Coast based scribes, we need to remember that over the course of its 42-year history, LAFCA has predicted only nine winners of the Best Picture Oscar and three of those came in the first five years of its existence.
Granted one of these double dippers was “Spotlight” in 2016. Before that, LAFCA last aligned with the academy in 2010, 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 1994 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” (1976, tied with “Dog Day Afternoon” here); “Rocky” (1977, tied with “Network” here); “Kramer vs. Kramer” (1980); “Amadeus” (1985) and “Unforgiven” (1993).
Of last year’s other LAFCA winners, only two repeated at the Oscars: Best Supporting Actor Mahershala Ali (“Moonlight”) an Justin Hurwitz, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul for their “La La Land” score.
While “Manchester by the Sea” won Oscars for lead actor Casey Affleck and the original script by director Kenneth Lonergan , they lost here to Adam Driver (“Paterson”) and Efthymis Filippou and Yorgos Lanthimos (“The Lobster”) respectivley. Isabelle Huppert won Best Actress for two films: “Elle” and “Things to Come.”
At the 2016 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, only lead champs Charlotte Rampling (“45 Years”) and Michael Fassbender (“Steve Jobs”) received Oscar nominations. 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.”
Three 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 2014, 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.
Be sure to make your Oscar nomination predictions so that Hollywood studio executives can see how their films are faring in our Academy Awards odds. Don’t be afraid to jump in now since you can keep changing your predictions until just before nominees are announced on January 23.