LOS ANGELES — George Clooney’s family drama “The Descendants” was chosen Sunday as the year’s best film by the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, whose prizes are an early influence on the way to the Academy Awards.
Michael Fassbender won best actor for a breakout year that included leading roles as a sex addict in “Shame,” as a genetic mutant in “X-Men: First Class,” as psychiatrist Carl Jung in “A Dangerous Method” and as sullen Victorian gentleman Rochester in “Jane Eyre.”
The critics’ group passed over big Hollywood names to bestow its best-actress prize on Yun Jung-hee for the South Korean drama “Poetry,” in which she plays a grandmother in the early stages of Alzheimer’s who struggles with a new desire to write a poem.
Notoriously press-shy filmmaker Terrence Malick was named best director for his epic family drama “The Tree of Life,” starring Brad Pitt as a domineering father who mixes tenderness and cruelty in raising his sons. “Tree of Life” was the best-picture runner-up to “The Descendants.”
The film also helped pick up the supporting-actress honor for Jessica Chastain, who was cited for “The Tree of Life” and five other films in which she co-starred this year. “Tree of Life” also earned the cinematography award for Emmanuel Lubezki (the runner-up was Cao Yu for “City of Life and Death”).
Christopher Plummer won as supporting actor for “Beginners,” in which he plays an elderly dad who announces to his son that he’s gay. The runner-up was Patton Oswalt as an aging nerd who becomes unlikely pals with an old high school bombshell in “Young Adult.”
Chastain, largely unknown until this year when she appeared in half a dozen films, was picked as supporting actress for her rush of movies, among them “Tree of Life,” in which she plays a nurturing mother as counterpoint to Pitt’s harsh dad. Besides “Tree of Life,” Chastain’s films included “The Help,” “Take Shelter” and “Coriolanus.”
The LA critics passed over the acclaimed silent film “The Artist,” considered a potential best-picture favorite at the Feb. 26 Oscars. Their East Coast counterparts, the New York Film Critics Circle, chose “The Artist” as the year’s best picture last week. “The Artist” also is tied for the lead with five nominations at the Spirit Awards honoring independent film.
Prizes from the two critics’ groups help sort out the awards picture amid the crush of Oscar contenders that studios fling into theaters at the end of the year. The Oscar outlook will be further refined by nominations Wednesday for the Screen Actors Guild Awards and Thursday for the Golden Globes.
Also Sunday, the American Film Institute released its list of the year’s top-10 films, listed alphabetically: “Bridesmaids,” “The Descendants,” “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” “The Help,” “Hugo,” “J. Edgar,” “Midnight in Paris,” “Moneyball,” “The Tree of Life” and “War Horse.” The group does not rank films on its top-10 list.
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