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What will win the L.A. film critics' top award?

December 9, 2011 | 12:43 pm

George Clooney and Shailene Woodley in The Descendants
It’s the last working day before this Sunday’s L.A. Film Critics vote, which means that my phone is ringing ringing ringing with publicists calling, all wanting to hear the same thing.

“Please tell me ‘The Artist’ isn’t going to win … please!!!”

Two things: 1) No, these inquiries are not coming from the Weinstein Co. They’d be happy for their lovely little film to win here just as it did when the New York Film Critics Circle voted last week.

2) No, “The Artist” isn’t going to win.

How can I say that? As a LAFCA member, I have just one vote, but having participated in these drawn-out gatherings since the twilight of the 20th century, I can note that Los Angeles and New York rarely make the same choices, unless the movie is spectacularly good. (Last year, the NYFCC rubber-stamped LAFCA’s selection of “The Social Network.”) And “The Artist” just isn’t that good.

So what movie will take LAFCA’s top honor? The voting figures to come down to three films: “The Descendants,” “The Tree of Life” and “Melancholia.” All have their champions. Many members adore all three. But if the cineaste wing of the group splits its vote between “Tree” and “Melancholia,” then Alexander Payne’s “The Descendants” might just emerge victorious.

Then again, “The Descendants” could also just run away with the day. Payne has a strong history with the group, winning (with writing partner Jim Taylor) LAFCA’s New Generation award in 1999 for “Citizen Ruth” and “Election,” and then taking best picture honors for his next two films, “About Schmidt” and “Sideways.”

If you’re keeping score, that makes Payne four for four with LAFCA. The group loves him more than the motion picture academy hearts Stephen Daldry. And since “The Descendants,” Payne’s first movie since “Sideways,” may be his most accomplished film yet, there’s no reason to think this particular penchant will end this year.


Predicting the Golden Globes: Motion picture drama races

-- Glenn Whipp

Photo: George Clooney and Shailene Woodley in "The Descendants." Credit: Fox Searchlight