Last couple of days have seen the unveiling of the ultra important LA Film Critics and NY Film Critics Circle's choices for the best films, performances, etc. Out of all the critics awards that are handed over these strenuous months (and there are quite a few), these two are probably the most important, if what we're talking about is Oscar traction. So, what did we see from the two organizations? Was there simply a regurgitation of all the Oscar hopefuls (which all seem to be waiting till December before being seem by anybody)?
Let's begin with with the LAFCA, which came out yesterday. They honored the Pixar film WALL-E as the Best Picture of 2008. It was a pleasant surprise, as it is definitely the best movie that I have seen this year (though I'm still missing a lot), and most people are ignoring it on their buzz-worthy list because of it's "cartoon, kids movie" reputation. Best Actor went to Sean Penn for his recreation of the Gay Rights activist Harvey Milk in Milk, and Best Actress went to Sally Hawkins' beautiful performance in Happy-Go-Lucky. Penn was a welcome choice, but as Hawkins was beginning to lose her awards buzz, this gave her a rather large boost.
They gave Heath Ledger a posthumous Best Supporting Actor award for his demented Joker in The Dark Knight, while Penelope Cruz won another Best Supporting Actress award for Vicky Cristina Barcelona. They both seem to be the leading candidates in their respective categories. Best Director went to Danny Boyle for the suddenly awards-laden Slumdog Millionaire. Mike Leigh won for Best Screenplay (has he actually ever written one?) for Happy-Go-Lucky. The rest of the winners at the LAFCA can be seen right here.
Today, the New York Film Critcs Circle gave in their two cents, and named Gus Van Sant's Milk as the Best Film of the year. It's the first Best Film award, as most of the attention to the film was being directed toward the performances of Sean Penn and Josh Brolin. Speaking of whom, both Penn and Brolin won their second award for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor respectively as well. Sally Hawkins also won her second Best Actress award for Happy-Go-Lucky, while Mike Leigh won Best Director for that film as well.
The third acting repetition came when Penelope Cruz won, once again, for Woody Allen's Vicky Cristina Barcelona (Woody has always been like magic for supporting female performances). Jenny Lumet's screenplay for Rachel Getting Married won Best Screenplay, that film's only win over the two award sessions. WALL-E walked away with another award, but this time it was the Best Animated Feature prize. These are the first awards not to lavish Slumdog Millionaire with honors, but it did manage to grab the Best Cinematography award for Anthony Dod Mantle. The full list of winners can be seen right here.
What did we learn from the last two days? Well, the critics went down the much braver path, by choosing more artistic fare, such as Milk and Happy-Go-Lucky, as opposed to awarding more Hollywood, heavy-hitting, buzzed-to-the-max films like The Curious Case of Benjamin Button or Doubt. Over the course of the early awards, it seems clear that Revolutionary Road has gotten off to a pretty terrible start. It is important to remember, though, that the Academy Awards are not voted on by the critics, and while it's nice to see WALL-E win something other than the obligatory Best Animated Film award, it's probably not going to happen on Hollywood's biggest night. I'm just glad they didn't go conventional.
Tomorrow is a big day, as the Golden Globes unleash their nominations on the world. They are surprisingly a very good precursor to the Academy Awards, despite being completely out of their minds a majority of the time (SEVEN nominations for Best Drama? Really?).