LA critics crown George Clooney film

2011-12-12 09:52

Los Angeles - George Clooney's family drama The Descendants was chosen on 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.

From Sideways director Alexander Payne, The Descendants stars Clooney as a neglectful father in Hawaii trying to tend to his daughters after his wife falls into an accident-induced coma.

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.

Terrence Malick

The best-actor runner-up was Michael Shannon as a man beset by apocalyptic visions in Take Shelter.

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.

Kirsten Dunst was best-actress runner-up as a depressive woman who finds inner strength as another planet bears down on a collision course with Earth in Melancholia.

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. The Tree of Life was the best-picture runner-up to The Descendants.

The film also helped pick up the supporting-actress honour for Jessica Chastain, who was cited for The Tree of Life and five other films in which she co-starred this year. The Tree of Life also earned the cinematography award for Emmanuel Lubezki (the runner-up was Cao Yu for City of Life and Death).

The directing runner-up was Martin Scorsese for his 3D family adventure Hugo, about an orphan boy unravelling a mystery pegged to a toy-seller at a Paris train station in the 1930s.

Charlize Theron

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 ageing nerd who becomes unlikely pals with an old high school bombshell played by Charlize Theron 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 The Tree of Life, in which she plays a nurturing mother as counterpoint to Pitt's harsh dad. Besides The Tree of Life, Chastain's films included The Help, Take Shelter and Coriolanus.

Janet McTeer was runner-up for supporting actress for her cross-dressing role as a woman disguising herself as a male labourer in Albert Nobbs.

The LA critics passed over the acclaimed silent film The Artist, considered a potential best-picture favorite at the February 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 honouring independent film.

Prizes from the two critics' groups help sort out the awards picture amid the crush of Oscar contenders that studios fling into theatres at the end of the year. The Oscar outlook will be further refined by nominations on Wednesday for the Screen Actors Guild Awards and on Thursday for the Golden Globes.

The LA critics honoured Johnny Depp's Western comedy Rango as best animated film. Steven Spielberg's globe-trotting action tale The Adventures of Tintin was runner-up.

The electronic duo the Chemical Brothers earned the prize for best music score for the action thriller Hanna. The runner-up was Cliff Martinez for another action tale, Drive.

Also on 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 AFI, whose awards honour US films, gave a special prize to French director Michel Hazanavicius' The Artist.