Filmmakers and critics rarely spend time in the same spaces, which is probably good for the mental health of the former and the physical health of the latter. But on Saturday night, they peacefully — even joyously — coexisted in a ballroom at the Biltmore hotel in downtown Los Angeles for the 48th Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards.
Things got off to a convivial start with a reel of clips highlighting each of LAFCA’s 2022 honorees, which were announced last December. People chuckled at a scene of best actress winner Cate Blanchett melting down in Tár, aww-ed at a clip from best film not in the English language winner EO and clapped along to the “Naatu Naatu” musical number from RRR, the winner of best music/score.
Acceptance speeches were uniformly compact and generous. M.M. Keeravani, RRR’s composer and a writer of “Naatu Naatu,” explained how impacted he had been by the score of Jaws, crediting that 1975 film’s composer John Williams — who he said was, along with his father and his cousin, RRR director S. S. Rajamouli, one of the three people who’d had the greatest influence on his life — “for teaching me the lesson of simplicity and humbleness.”
One of the two winners of the newly-degendered best lead performance award, Bill Nighy of Living, said of the other, “To be associated in any way with Cate Blanchett? You have my attention.” Blanchett, for her part, praised a host of fellow actresses, including the star of the project with which her film tied for best film, Everything Everywhere All at Once, who is also widely thought to be her primary competition for the best actress Oscar: “Michelle Yeoh blew my socks off and my underpants and everything else.”
The Everything Everywhere and Tár teams’ mutual affection was further emphasized by Everything Everywhere’s producer Jonathan Wang, who told the Tár team, “Thank you for being the apple to our orange,” and by Tár’s Todd Field, winner of best film, best director and best screenplay.
Field additionally noted that he was last at the LAFCA Awards 21 years ago, when he was feted for his first film, In the Bedroom. After his second film, 2006’s Little Children, it was 16 years before his third, Tár. “I’ve kept the lights on pretty much just directing commercials,” he acknowledged. “I truly love making films, but it had been an awful long time for me, and I was really scared. I didnt know if I knew what the fuck I was doing.” Blanchett, in her speech, and LAFCA, with its trio of accolades, reassured him that he did.
Yeoh’s costar Ke Huy Quan was one of the two best supporting performance award winners, and the other was Triangle of Sadness scene-stealer Dolly De Leon. De Leon, a veteran Filipina character actress, said, “I’ve been acting for 33 years and often played nameless characters, and sometimes lineless characters. I’ve thought of quitting so many times. But that’s changed thanks to you, LAFCA.”
Guillermo del Toro, a recipient of the best animation prize for Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio, thanked critics for championing his work, noting that he had not always received similar votes of confidence from studio executives: “Every single person except passed on Pan’s Labyrinth, and the same with Pinocchio.”
And Laura Poitras, the director of best documentary/non-fiction film winner All the Beauty and the Bloodshed, called “for the release of Jafar Panahi and every incarcerated filmmaker around the world” and for the U.S. Justice Department to prosecute Richard Sackler, who, her film emphasizes, was one of the catalysts of America’s opioid crisis.
The LA critics presented a special citation to Gwen Deglise, who is stepping down as deputy director and co-director of programming at American Cinematheque in order to care for her aging parents, and honored French filmmaker Claire Denis with their career achievement award. Los Angeles Times film critic Justin Chang hailing Denis’ “Deniassance,” and filmmaker Barry Jenkins made a surprise appearance to hand the award to a woman he called “my favorite filmmaker, my inspiration, my heart.” Jenkins further professed: “You absolutely own a piece of my heart. There have been few things as meaningful in my life as finding your work.”
Denis, for her part, admitted, “I was afraid to come [to the ceremony] because I never thought I had a ‘career,’” adding, “I dont care too much about recognition. The only thing I care about is to find money for the next film.”
LAFCA has a track record of missing more than hitting, in terms of corresponding with the Oscars — indeed, only 11 times have they awarded their top prizes to the same film — but hope springs eternal.
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