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At Saturday night’s 41st annual Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards, a group of journalists awarded their top prize to a film about journalists (Spotlight), but a contingent of Aussies took home even more prizes for another movie (Mad Max: Fury Road), while one filmmaker made an impassioned plea for greater diversity in the critical community (Creed‘s Ryan Coogler) and an actress took everyone’s breath away (Ex Machina‘s Alicia Vikander).
The evening kicked off with welcoming remarks by LAFCA president Stephen Farber, who dedicated the ceremony to the late filmmaker Chantal Akerman (Criterion Collection DVDs of whose 1975 masterpiece Jeanne Dielman, 23 Commerce Quay, 1080 Brussels were included in the event’s gift bags) and a montage of the honorees’ 2015 work. Then it was on to the awards — each presented by one of LAFCA’s 55 members, complete with a personalized introduction.
Best production design went to Mad Max: Fury Road‘s Colin Gibson, who expressed his gratitude by saying, “It was honor enough to spend time with George Miller and an hour-and-a-half in your hearts.”
Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson collected best animated film honors for their stop-motion extravaganza Anomalisa, which the soft-spoken Kaufman accepted by saying, “This is a great thing for our film.”
Then, Alexander Payne, a student of film preservationist/silent film guru David Shepard, accepted a special citation and read a written acceptance letter on behalf of the absent Iowan.
Best screenplay was awarded to Josh Singer and Tom McCarthy for Spotlight, a film about journalists, prompting McCarthy to tell those in the room, “We salute you and your continued commitment to the truth.”
Michael Fassbender, who previously won LAFCA’s best actor award in 2011, was the recipient of it again this year for Steve Jobs, albeit in absentia. He dispatched the film’s screenwriter Aaron Sorkin to accept it on his behalf, which Sorkin did — after first complimenting the Spotlight writers: “Your movie is magnificent. Your screenplay is perfect. You sons of bitches.”
Best cinematography also went to Mad Max: Fury Road, and specifically to John Seale, who thanked his tablemate/the film’s director Miller for pursuing him for the project: “It was a great honor to be dragged, kicking and screaming, out of retirement.”
Carter Burwell was honored, in absentia, with best music/score for his work on two films, Carol and Anomalisa. After some videotaped remarks from him were aired, Carol‘s producers Christine Vachon, Elizabeth Karlsen and Stephen Wooley took to the podium to thank him for his work on their film. “He didn’t have a lot of time to do it, and he did a most tremendous job,” said Vachon.
The best documentary/non-fiction film prize went to Asif Kapadia for Amy, a film about the late Amy Winehouse. Accompanied to the stage by Winehouse friend/manager/film talking-head Nick Shymansky, Kapadia said of his pic, “This is my version of kind of being a reporter, I suppose,” continuing, “I fell in love with her.” Shymansky added, “I saw the most beautiful person that Amy was come back to life on the screen.
Vikander accepted best supporting actress for her work in Ex Machina, the success of which she described as “an example of the impact that critics can have on a film.” She also charmed the critics by saying, “You may not know me, but I know you.”
The career achievement award was presented, following a couple of impressive clip packages, to legendary film editor Anne V. Coates, who turned 90 last month. Coates’ work spans 1962’s Lawrence of Arabia (on which she invented “the match-cut”) to 2015’s 50 Shades of Grey, with 1980’s The Elephant Man, 1998’s Out of Sight, 2000’s Erin Brockovich and 2002’s Unfaithful in-between. Following an introduction in which a LAFCA critic said, “No editor in history has made their mark on so many great films in so many different decades,” and in which Chris Weitz, director of the Coates-edited The Golden Compass (2007), praised her effusively, she took the stage to a standing ovation. Coates thanked the group for recognizing editors “who as a whole are not as well-regarded as they should be,” and added, “I have just been approached to do a film in China this year, which is very thrilling.”
Then the 2015 film editing prize was awarded to The Big Short‘s Hank Corwin, who cracked, “Great, I have to follow Anne Coates!”
45 Years‘ Charlotte Rampling accepted the best actress prize via video, after which the film’s writer/director Andrew Haigh admitted, “When I first met her, I was totally terrified.”
Young Laszlo Nemes, co-writer/director of Son of Saul, accepted best foreign-language film honors for that Hungarian production, thanking the group for disproving what one financier had told him when he was trying to raise funds for the project: “Nobody in America will ever give you a dollar for your film.”
Michael Shannon accepted the best supporting actor prize for his work in 99 Homes with a gracious and eloquent speech in which he said he recently drove by the first apartment he occupied when he moved to Los Angeles in 1999, at 310 S. Sherbourne Dr., and told a friend that he never would have believed then that one day he would be getting a prize from the town’s film critics.
Perhaps the most powerful words of the night came from Creed co-writer/director Coogler in his acceptance of the New Generation Award. “I’m kind of happy it doesn’t say ‘best’ anything,” he began, after noting that he’d brought his two-time film muse, Fruitvale Station and Creed‘s Michael B. Jordan, up to the stage to keep him calm. “It’s a bit of a challenge,” said Coogler. “Challenge accepted.” After praising LAFCA critic Justin Chang, an Asian-American whose work so impressed him when he visited the Cannes Film Festival in 2009 and sat in Variety‘s offices because he didn’t know anyone else who spoke English, he said, “I have a challenge for you, too: Reach back into the community and find the next Justin Chang.”
Mad Max: Fury Road‘s Miller then thanked LAFCA for his best director prize, saying that when you “dare to read the reviews” it’s a scary thing, but that the critics have been so kind to his film that it was a pleasure.
Finally, the best picture prize was presented to Spotlight and accepted by one of the film’s producers, Blye Faust, along with McCarthy. Faust cracked, “We have cheated in creating a film that is a love letter to journalism.”
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