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Wes Anderson quoted his worst review. Ava DuVernay thanked the critics who wrote her best notices. Angelina Jolie introduced her role model. And a roomful of film critics gushed about every element of the best picture Oscar frontrunner — process that sentence — that is Boyhood.
The 40th annual Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards were presented on Saturday night at the InterContinental Hotel in Century City. With 18 awards each introduced with explanations for the group’s selections — which were announced on Dec. 7 — by one of its group’s 57 members, the ceremony stretched to roughly four hours or so. But for the honorees — and especially the big winner, which also fared well with the critics on the other coast — it could have gone on forever.
The evening kicked off with welcoming remarks by LAFCA president Stephen Farber, a montage of the honorees’ 2014 work and a tribute to LAFCA co-founder Charles Champlin, who passed away last year, by his former Los Angeles Times colleague Kevin Thomas, who noted, “He gave a whole generation of us tremendous opportunities.”
Kirk Honeycutt then presented best cinematography to Birdman‘s Emmanuel Lubezski, the third such LAFCA prize the Mexican lenser has received in the last four years, following The Tree of Life and Gravity — leading him to crack, “My wife is worried that we may now have too many.”
In presenting best animated film, Charles Solomon said Isao Takahata‘s Japanese pic The Tale of Princess Kaguya “reminded audiences of the beauty, power and charm of hand drawn animation.” The head of GKIDS, which is distributing the film in America, accepted on Takahata’s behalf, thanking LAFCA for its history of supporting hand-drawn animation (the group honored GKIDS’ Ernest & Celestine last year).
Lael Loewenstein did the best actor honors, calling Tom Hardy‘s solo performance in the experimental indie Locke “singular and mesmerizing” and noting that he possesses “the kind of talent that comes along once in a generation.” Hardy, who is generally quite reclusive, was on hand to accept the prize, but deflected credit: “I really just read from the auto-cue.”
For the career achievement award presentation to the legendary actress Gena Rowlands, an intro by Farber (about a long-ago set visit with the actress) led to an intro by Chuck Wilson (suggesting she’s the female “equivalent” of Brando) which led to an surprise appearance/intro by Jolie, a longtime friend and admirer of the actress (who said, “You will never hear, ‘She’s the next Gena Rowlands’ — because there’ll never be another.” The 84-year-old received a standing ovation and offered a very brief thank you, adding, “I wouldn’t have missed this for the world.”
Alonso Duralde presented best editing to Boyhood‘s Sandra Adair — who has worked with the film’s director Richard Linklater for more than two decades — for her “beautifully flowing” work on his 12-year project, which she called “an extraordinary experience from beginning to end.”
Best production design was Jean Oppenheimer‘s responsibility. She highlighted honoree Adam Stockhausen‘s work on The Grand Budapest Hotel, which he described as a blast: “A thousand little things made it great fun.”
Best music score was a tie, and the first of its two winners was Mica Levy‘s first film score, Under the Skin, which, Mark Olsen joked, “brings out the intergalactic sex predator in each of us.” Levy noted, “It was a trip!”
David Ehrenstein presented the group’s annual Douglas Edwards Experimental/Independent Film/Video Award film award to Walter Reuben for The David Whiting Story, which had been seen by perhaps no one in the room aside from him.
Michael Sragow did the honors for best supporting actress, which was presented, in absentia, to Agata Kulesza, one of the stars of the Polish film Ida. The veteran character actress said, in a videotaped acceptance speech, that the prize was “a sign that what I did is universal and clear to everyone despite language.”
Next up was the presentation of a special citation to longtime LAFCA member Leonard Maltin, whose annual movie guides have just published their final installation. Robert Abele, in introducing Maltin’s daughter Jessie to introduce him, described Maltin’s annual movie guides as “the most beloved film compendium in history” and “a 45-year project” that makes Boyhood‘s length seem short! Jessie added, “He’s an absolutely incredible person.” Maltin, following a standing ovation, said of his “unplanned career,” “I’ve been lucky in so many ways” — and emphasized, “I’m not retiring; the book is retiring.”
Christy Lemire then gave J.K. Simmons the best supporting actor prize, noting that his 60th birthday was on Friday and calling his work in Whiplash “the most frightening villain I’ve seen on screen all year.” Simmons, the Oscar frontrunner, described the film as “the highlight of my film career to this point.”
Justin Lowe took care of the second of the two music score award, presenting it, in absentia, to Radiohead’s Johnny Greenville for Inherent Vice. The film’s music supervisor Linda Cohen accepted it on behalf of Greenville, who is out of the country for work.
Then Boyhood was back in the spotlight as Claudia Puig presented Linklater with best director, highlighting the way he “miraculously captures the ebb and flow of life” in all of his films. “Film-Freakdom: it’s just a really special place,” said Linklater in appreciation of being in a room with so many fellow cineastes.
Farber handled the New Generation Award presentation to Selma‘s DuVernay, describing the former publicist as being “in the front ranks of contemporary filmmakers.” She said, “On this circuit I’ve been in a lot of rooms, but this is the warmest,” and proceeded to thank many LAFCA members, by name, who had championed her earlier two films and this one. “Your work makes a difference to geeks like me,” she added.
Geoff Berkshire then presented best documentary to Laura Poitras for “an important historical document,” Citizenfour. The Oscar frontrunner discussed the recent terrorist attack in Paris and said of her fellow artists, “The work that we’re doing is under attack,” and urged people to fight back.
Best screenplay was Tim Grierson‘s category to present to Anderson for Grand Budapest, which he said “may be Anderson’s most ambitious work yet.” Anderson then said, “One of my favorite aspects of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association is that [famously acerbic film critic] Rex Reed is not a member of it,” unlike the New York Film Critics Circle. Anderson then quoted, at length, Reed’s recent scathing review of Grand Budapest.
Glenn Whipp presented best actress to Boyhood‘s Patricia Arquette — who is competing everywhere else in the supporting category, but was pushed for lead in LAFCA voting by member Devin Faraci, according to Farber — calling her character in the film “one of the great heroes in a movie this year.” For her part, she emphasized of the unique project, “It felt so close to us.”
Ida was back in the spotlight when Kenneth Turan presented it best foreign film, describing it as “simultaneously simple and complex.” Its filmmaker Pawel Pawlikowski called it the product of “a lot of disasters which turned out to be blessings” and made a black-and-white film with a strange screen ratio “a Cinderella story.”
Finally, it fell upon Justin Chang to explain LAFCA’s deep love for Boyhood, the best film winner. He described watching it as “an emotionally overwhelming experience” and “something truly magical… a movie for all-time.” Linklater and producers Jonathan Sehring, John Sloss and Cathleen Sutherland each took turns at the mic, with Sehring seeming to speak for the other two producers when he said of Linklater, “There’s no filmmaker I know who loves cinema more.”
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