LA, LA, LA (Does It Matter?)

My Grad School Week from Hell is just about over. And not a moment too soon, as there’s all sorts of exciting business that I haven’t been able to report on. After the NYFCC and NBR, a slew of other critics’ groups have had their usual say (more on them in a moment), but perhaps more importantly, the industry insider types that actually make up the Academy votership finally got a say with the Screen Actors Guild nominations. And then there’s those always-entertaining folks over at the Golden Globes.

But let’s go one at a time. First off, the LA film critics rounded out last week’s critic’s trio with a flurry of indecision and zig-zags. No fewer than three of their categories ended in a tie, usually a fairly rare occurrence. That included Best Picture, which got split between Alfonso Cuarón’s phenomenon “Gravity” and Spike Jonze’s “Her,” which has quickly emerged as the critical favorite of the season after receiving the top NBR prize as well. I had expected the critics to champion “12 Years a Slave,” and McQueen’s film has still picked up plenty of notices from the likes of the Boston and Washington groups, but so far there’s been a gratifying variety going around this year. “Her” is far from a lock at the Oscars or anything, but the unexpected love is a great PR boost for a film that was thought to be on the fringe and now seems right in the thick of things.

The frontrunners for the acting categories do seem fairly locked in at this point, with Cate Blanchett, Lupita Nyong’o and Jared Leto taking up the majority of notices in their respective races. The LAFCA didn’t add much to that variety, though they went with Bruce Dern over Chiwetel Ejiofor in Best Actor and added a few ties – Adele Exarchopoulos was an unsurprising pick for this often-foreign-title-leaning group, and, well, SOMEONE was going to go there for James Franco in “Spring Breakers,” right? But I’ll talk more about the acting races with the SAG awards, as past the frontrunners there’s some quite interesting shuffling going around to fill out the slates.

Other highlights from LA include, finally, a Screenplay win for Richard Linklater and his “Before Midnight” stars, Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke. That film also hasn’t been getting championed by the critics in general like I thought it would, which is somewhat disappointing. The love for the music of “Inside Llewyn Davis” continues, and having finally caught the film last Sunday, I’m totally on board. Just more sterling production work from T-Bone Burnett, who also famously coordinated the Coens’ music for “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” Meanwhile, “Gravity” was confirmed as not just a commercial but critical smash, picking up notices for Cinematography, Director, and Editing (love the runner-up choice for that category though – Shane Carruth’s “Upstream Color” looks wonderful).

GKIDS offering “Ernest and Celestine” popped up to bip “The Wind Rises” out of yet another Best Animated Feature victory – can the little-animation-house-that-could guide yet another charming foreign entry to an unexpected Oscar nod, as they did with ‘The Secret of Kells,” “Chico and Rita” and “A Cat in Paris?” There have been some rule changes in that category to open up the nomination voting to a general Academy vote, which will make their battle even more difficult.

Finally, a great notice in the LAFCA’s special New Generation Award for producer Megan Ellison. 27-year-old Ellison (daughter of Oracle Corporation CEO Larry Ellison) has been absolutely murdering it since founding her own production company, Annapurna Pictures, only last year; since then she’s been a major force in producing and distributing “Lawless,” “The Master,” “Zero Dark Thirty,” “Spring Breakers,” “The Grandmaster,” “Her” and “American Hustle” (with Bennett Miller’s “Foxcatcher” coming up next year). That’s already an astounding resume, and she’s barely started – she’s clearly a vital new force in fostering independent cinema.

Any wins with that group that stand out to you, dear readers?

Los Angeles Film Critics Association winners

Best Picture: (tie) “Gravity” and “Her”

Best Director: Alfonso Cuarón, “Gravity” (runner-up: Spike Jonze, “Her”)

Best Actress: (tie) Cate Blanchett, “Blue Jasmine” and Adele Exarchopoulos, “Blue Is the Warmest Color”

Best Actor: Bruce Dern, “Nebraska” (runner-up: Chiwetel Ejiofor, “12 Years a Slave”)

Best Supporting Actress: Lupita Nyong’o, “12 Years a Slave” (runner-up: June Squibb, “Nebraska”)

Best Supporting Actor: (tie) James Franco, “Spring Breakers” and Jared Leto, “Dallas Buyers Club”

Best Screenplay: Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke, Richard Linklater, “Before Midnight” (runner-up: Spike Jonze, “Her”)

Best Music: T-Bone Burnett, “Inside Llewyn Davis” (runner-up: Arcade Fire and Owen Pallett, “Her”)

Best Cinematography: Emmanuel Lubezki, “Gravity” (runner-up: Bruce Delbonnel, “Inside Llewyn Davis”)

Best Foreign Language Film: “Blue Is the Warmest Color” (runner-up: “The Great Beauty”)

Best Documentary: “Stories We Tell” (runner-up: “The Act of Killing”)

Best Animated Feature: “Ernest and Celestine” (runner-up: “The Wind Rises”)

Best Editing: Alfonso Cuarón and Mark Sanger, “Gravity” (runner-up: Shane Carruth and David Lowery, “Upstream Color”)

Best Production Design: K.K. Barrett, “Her” (runner-up: Jess Gonchor, “Inside Llewyn Davis”)

Douglas E. Edwards Independent/Experimental Film/Video Award: Charlotte Pryce, “Cabinet of Wonders” (author’s note: This is the most ridiculously waffling name for an award in the history of awards)

New Generation Award: Megan Ellison

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