Los Angeles Film Critics Name ‘Spotlight’ Best Film of the Year

By Kristopher Tapley | Variety

The film won two prizes while 'Mad Max: Fury Road' won three.

What a lovely day it was for “Mad Max: Fury Road.” George Miller’s bold, extravagant film had a great showing during the Los Angeles Film Critics Association’s (LAFCA) vote Sunday, winning prizes for best director, best cinematography and best production design. But the group’s best picture prize ended up going to “Spotlight,” which also won best screenplay.

Acting honors went to Michael Fassbender (“Steve Jobs”), Charlotte Rampling (“45 Years”), Michael Shannon (“99 Homes”) and Alicia Vikander (“Ex Machina”). Anne V. Coates, meanwhile, received a career achievement acknowledgment.

The group’s New York counterparts fell hard for Todd Hayne’s “Carol,” giving it four prizes own including best film and best director.

Full list of LAFCA winners below.

Career Achievement: Anne V. Coates
A titan of the industry, editor extraordinaire, visionary, you name it. A wonderful choice, from “Lawrence of Arabia” to “Out of Sight” and still going strong with “Fifty Shades of Grey” this year. She makes everything she touches better.

Best Cinematography: John Seale (“Mad Max: Fury Road”); Runner-up: Edward Lachman (“Carol”)
I have to wonder if that’s indicative of where the best picture vote will end up going. There is a strong “Mad Max” faction, though of course, “Spotlight” and “Carol” (the runner-up here) have their champions as well. Bottom line, the look of this film is amazing and Seale, at 70 years old, was up there on those war rigs operating camera. He was dragged out of (semi)retirement for this, and lucky us that he was.

Best Music Score: Carter Burwell (“Anomalisa” and “Carol”); Runner-up: Ennio Morricone (“The Hateful Eight”)
Inspired choice, really. And you could have included “Mr. Holmes” and “Legend” in that easily, by the way. Burwell still doesn’t have an Oscar nomination to his credit. Sort of ridiculous. Also, great call on the runner-up spot. Morricone’s ominous compositions work brilliantly in Quentin Tarantino’s chamber piece.

Best Supporting Actor: Michael Shannon (“99 Homes”); Runner-up: Mark Rylance (“Bridge of Spies”)
Inspired once again. And a great feather in Shannon’s cap. Broad Green has been doing what they can to get him in the mix this year but this raises his profile considerably. Check out my interview with Shannon here.

Best Production Design: Colin Gibson (“Mad Max: Fury Road”); Runner-up: Judy Becker (“Carol”)
I’ll just say it again: INSPIRED. The production design of George Miller’s opus is outstanding, and extends to each of those vehicles decked out and gnarly tearing through the desert landscape. Here’s hoping the Academy chalks it up for a nomination because it would be a real shame if it missed out.

Best Editing: Hank Corwin (“The Big Short”); Runner-up: Margaret Sixel (“Mad Max: Fury Road”)
…interesting choice. “Mad Max” was apparently very close.

Best Supporting Actress: Alicia Vikander (“Ex Machina”); Runner-up: Kristen Stewart (“Clouds of Sils Maria”)
Clearly Stewart, who won the Boston Society of Film Critics’ award in this category earlier Sunday and the New York Film Critics Circle prize as well, has found new life on the circuit. But a win for Vikander, with a thumbed nose to her supporting campaign for “The Danish Girl,” is intriguing. This category is anyone’s guess at the Oscars.

Best Documentary: “Amy”; Runner-up: “The Look of Silence”
The best documentary of the year wins the best documentary prize. Sounds right to me. Truly, though, “Amy” is one of the best films of the year full stop, not just in the realm of docs. It’s an intimate, inviting portrait of a ruined talent’s downfall. Extraordinary.

Best Screenplay: “Spotlight”; Runner-up: “Anomalisa”
Great pair of picks. The script for “Spotlight” was a work of journalism itself, really, as Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer tracked down the story behind the story themselves. But that runner-up choice might have carried more weight had it won.

Best Actor: Michael Fassbender (“Steve Jobs”); Runner-up: Géza Röhrig (“Son of Saul”)
That’s a shot in the arm this film needed. Fassbender has waved off a lot of the usual campaigning this season, largely due to shooting “Assassin’s Creed” in Malta. The box office dive the film took on release was a huge hit, too. But this is a possessed performance that groups simply have to remember down the stretch. But a win for Röhrig would have meant more. It would have thrust him, legitimately, into the race.

Best Animation: “Anomalisa”; Runner-up: “Inside Out”
Inevitable duel, really, and frankly a tough call. Both so wonderfully human in their own idiosyncratic ways. The two best films of the year period? Quite possibly…

Best Director: George Miller (“Mad Max: Fury Road”); Runner-up: Todd Haynes (“Carol”)
Back on track with more “Mad Max” love. Clearly the L.A. crowd is going to the mat for Miller’s movie. Best film next?

Best Actress: Charlotte Rampling (“45 Years”); Runner-up: Saoirse Ronan (“Brooklyn”)
A major feather in her cap. It seems to be between her and Blythe Danner for a final spot in the hugely competitive best actress Oscar race (though that could be pundit bubble talk). Rampling is getting more critical notices as of late, however; she also won the Boston Society of Film Critics’ prize Sunday morning.

Best Foreign Language Film: “Son of Saul”; Runner-up: “The Tribe”
“Son of Saul” remains the strongest contender for the Oscar and a difficult one to pass up. The NYFCC went with “Timbuktu” but they had the option after handing “Saul” director László Nemes the debut director prize.

New Generation Award: Ryan Coogler
Great choice…if we’re giving this out two years ago. Coogler is an immense talent. Perhaps it shouldn’t take a transition to studio filmmaking to put him on a radar like this. Just a note.

Best Picture: “Spotlight”; Runner-up: “Mad Max: Fury Road”
Twist! It looked like Miller’s film would take this one walking away, but in the end, the L.A. crowd went with perhaps the film with seemingly the most across-the-board approval this season. Is an Academy Award for best picture on the horizon?