The L.A. Film Critics stood tall in the mud and adopted their usual contrarian, damn-the-torpedos stance in giving their Best Picture award today to Paul Thomas Anderson‘s There Will Be Blood — a brilliant, lacerating, suffer-no-softies art film that you need to see twice to get the full benefit of. But yay for LAFCA — it was a good thing to do for a movie that a lot of mainstream industry types may flinch at when they see it. (Which is why they’ll need to see it twice — the second time’s the charm!)

No Country for Old Men wasn’t the runner-up (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly took that honor) and that’s fine…but again, no love for poor Atonement, by any standard a non-competitor or perhaps even a weak-kneed underdog at this stage.

Variety‘s Anne Thompson wrote earlier today that LAFCA did this in response to the National Board of Review having given their Best Picture award to No Country for Old Men, not because of my Groucho Marx theory but “to seek another consensus winner…that could use their support.”

LAFCA also gave their Best Director award to Paul Thomas Anderson (the runner-up was Diving Bell and the Butterfly helmer Julian Schnabel).

The group’s Best Actor award went to Blood‘s Daniel Day-Lewis. LAFCA’s runner-up Best Actor was Starting Out in the Evening‘s Frank Langella, who won the Best Actor prize from the Boston film critics earlier today.

LAFCA’s Best Actress award went to Marion Cotillard for La Vie en Rose — no surprise there. Anamaria Marinca, the scrappy, blonde-haired star of 4 Months, 3 Months and 2 Days, was the runner-up. Marinca’s costar Vlad Ivanov, who plays the hard-eyed Mr. Bebe in Cristian Mungiu‘s film, won LAFCA’s Best Supporting Actor award with Into The Wild‘s Hal Holbrook taking the runner-up slot.

4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days costar Vlad Ivanov (r.), winner of LAFCA’s Best Supporting Actor award

Gone Baby Gone‘s Amy Ryan took the Best Supporting Actress award, zotzing I’m Not There‘s Cate Blanchett for the second time today. I suspect this probably happened because LAFCA and the Boston critics both figured Blanchett was the runaway front-runner and they wanted to give Ryan a helping hand.

LAFCA’s Best Screenplay award wet to Tamara Jenkins for The Savages.

The Best Animation award was split between Persepolis and Ratatouille.

LAFCA’s Best Foreign Language Film award, no surprise, went to 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days. (How dug in are the AMPAS foreign-branch members who didn’t care for Mungiu’s film? Their will and credibility is being tested by all the awards it’s been getting lately. Will they stick to their guns and, as feared, refuse to even nominate it as one of the five, or will they cave like the consensus shape-shifters they are deep down? Either way they’re scum.)

The Best Documentary/Non-fiction Film award went to No End in Sight witn runner-up status gogng to Sicko. The Best Music award wad given to Once‘s Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova. The Best Cinematography award went to Janusz Kaminski, for The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. The Best Career Achievement went to Before The Devil KNows You’re Dead director Sidney Lumet.