LOS ANGELES — “The Social Network” was the big winner Sunday at the Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards, nabbing the best picture prize, best director for David Fincher (in a tie), best screenplay for Aaron Sorkin, and in another tie, best music for Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross.
With the exception of “Social Network” and “The King’s Speech,” which won the lead actor prize for Colin Firth’s portrayal of King George VI and three runner-up nods for supporting actor Geoffrey Rush, screenwriter David Seidler and production designer Eve Stewart, LAFCA recognized more obscure titles and performances for the year, leaving many Oscar watchers at a loss for clues as to how those awards might play out.
Chief among those unusual choices was “Carlos,” the French film about Venezuelan revolutionary Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, which took the foreign language award and claimed the runner-up slot for best picture. Director Olivier Assayas shared the best director trophy with Fincher.
Another offbeat choice was in the actress category, where Kim Hye-ja won for her role in the South Korean film “Mother,” a tale of a mother’s search for the killer who framed her son for murder. She beat out the young Jennifer Lawrence, who’s portrayal of an Ozarks teen in “Winter’s Bone” has been one of the most talked about of the year. Lawrence, considered an Oscar contender, was voted the runner-up.
In the supporting actor category, Niels Arestrup won for his role in the French film “A Prophet,” which was nominated last year for an Oscar in the foreign language category, while Jacki Weaver won for her part as the bubbly but ruthless matriarch of a crime family in the Australian drama “Animal Kingdom.”
“Toy Story 3” grabbed the prize in the animation category, while “The Illusionist” was granted runner-up status in a very close vote. During the animation voting round, one LAFCA wag nominated Joan Rivers.
In the documentary category, Chinese migrant story “Last Train Home” nabbed the prize, beating out graffiti artist Banksy’s “Exit Through the Gift Shop,” and Davis Guggenheim’s popular film on public education, “Waiting for ‘Superman.’ “
In the technical categories, Matthew Libatique nabbed the cinematography prize for his work on “Black Swan,” while Guy Hendreix Dyas won for his production design on Christopher Nolan’s “Inception.”
In addition to the two director winners, LAFCA presented two winners in the music/score category. Alexandre Desplat earned recognition for his score in “The Ghost Writer” along with Reznor and Ross.
Although their wins were limited, “Black Swan” and “Ghost Writer” had significant support throughout the voting.
Among the presumed Oscar contenders, there were very few votes for “The Fighter,” “127 Hours,” “The Kids Are All Right” and “Another Year” in any categories. Christian Bale (“The Fighter”), James Franco (“127 Hours”) and Annette Bening (“Kids Are All Right”) all received a handful of votes in the acting categories, but were never much of a factor. Melissa Leo and Amy Adams did receive some backing for supporting actress, but wound up splitting “The Fighter’s” votes in that category. The Coen brothers’ “True Grit” had several passionate supporters but not enough votes to be a factor.
The L.A. critics group doesn’t see itself as any kind of predictor or advocate for the Academy Awards and often goes its own way in choosing which films it honors.
The 36th annual Los Angeles Film Critics Association awards will be held on Jan. 15, with special recognition for Paul Mazursky who will receive the 2010 Career Achievement Award.
(Freelance writer Glenn Whipp contributed to this story.)