Nobody knows anything about tomorrow’s Los Angeles Film Critics Association voting, the results of which should be known by 5 pm or so. Nonetheless, I have a couple of hunches. LAFCA’s Best Picture winners are occasionally contrarian in one of two ways — they try and help out the proverbial little guy (i.e., a highly regarded “critics film” that has had trouble at the box-office or received insufficient support from its distributor), or they simply honor the cinematic merits of a film with an almost perverse disregard for the herd mentality, even if the winner has a shortcoming or two.
If this is a contrarian year (and the ingredients are in place in that there’s no one film with a big head of steam), that means they may go political and give it to Todd Field‘s Little Children, which New Line has only marginally supported since it opened, or (my personal hope) Alfonso Cuaron‘s Children of Men, a thrillingly composed tour de force that’s facing tough odds at the box-office, or, even more perversely, Jean-Pierre Melville‘s Army of Shadows, a 1969 film about the French resistance that has gotten several raves from big-gun critics.
If none of these three can build a big-enough consensus and LAFCA still wants to go contrarian, the big prize will go to The Departed. Pound for pound and move for move, no film provided as much sheer revved-up delight. The bizarre Catholic-guilt ending aside, it’s almost a complete 100% popcorn high, albeit in a sophistica- ted, high-end way. Plus it’s the Martin Scorsese film everyone’s been waiting for since Goodfellas. The fact that Scorsese probably has the Best Director prize in the bag may mean LAFCA will go elsewhere for Best Picture…who knows?
I heard from two big-wheel critics yesterday, and one of them wrote:the following: “Frankly, it’s wide open. I’ve been chatting with several members, and there’s no clear front runner or front-runner group. I’ve heard about everything from Army of Shadows to Flags of Our Fathers to Letters From Iwo Jima to Dreamgirls” — say what? — “to The Departed to United 93 to you-name-it. (Not to mention Volver, Babel, The Pursuit of Happyness, Apocalypto, et. al.)
“Anyone claiming on any website regarding any voting org (LAFCA or otherwise) that there’s a front-runner is either lying, has an agenda or is misinformed — or a bit of all three. I like it when it’s wide open since this allows the voting group to get more creative and move away from the dull middlebrow toward something more interesting. I love the stuff I’m hearing about Army of Shadows — that would throw the Hollywood types into a tizzy, and it would be eminently well-deserved.”
I suppose the Best Picture prize could also go to Letters From Iwo Jima. As good as it is — it’s a far better film than Flags of Our Fathers — it doesn’t quite have the startling high-throttle quality that I feel a Best Picture winner ought to possess. But then I’m not a voter. I’m just sitting here in a warm Brooklyn apartment.