Los Angeles and Boston Shine a Spotlight

As critics organizations have started handing out their year end best of honors starting last week, two stories have stood in the forefront: the love fest enveloping Mad Max: Fury Road and the lack of attention to what many consider to be Oscar’s soft front runner. That would be Tom McCarthy’s Spotlight, the true life story of Boston Globe reporters exposing the Catholic Church priest sex abuse scandal. In fact, when Boston’s online critics organization bestowed their awards over the weekend, many assumed they would select Spotlight due to the geographic factor alone. They went with Max.

Today, however, two organizations from both coasts feted Spotlight with some love. It also finally got some hometown attention as the Boston Society of Film Critics named it their Best Picture. Just a few hours later, the Los Angeles Film Critics Association followed suit, making it a very good day for Spotlight.

Director McCarthy, on the other hand, was not picked by either coast in the Director race. Boston went with Todd Haynes for Carol and Los Angeles picked George Miller for Mad Max with Haynes as their runner up.

Truth be told, Spotlight winning the L.A. award may not be the greatest harbinger. In the 21st century, only one feature that won its top category went onto win the Oscar: 2009’s The Hurt Locker. The Los Angeles group is also known for making some out of left field choices in the acting races and they did with their supporting choices. Michael Shannon took Supporting Actor for the little seen 99 Homes and he’s not considered much of a threat in the Academy hunt. Runner up: Mark Rylance, whose chances are considerably better for Bridge of Spies. For Supporting Actress, they went with Alicia Vikander and she is widely expected to be nominated come Oscar time. Yet L.A. honored her for Ex Machina and not the film everyone expects her nomination for, The Danish Girl. Runner up: Kristen Stewart for Clouds of Sils Maria and Ms. Stewart won in Boston today. Her previously thought to be improbable Oscar nod keeps growing more probable everyday.

For Best Actress, it was a nice day for Charlotte Rampling, who won on both coasts. Her performance in little seen drama 45 Years has also been gaining attention and that could well translate into an Academy notice. L.A.’s runner up was Brooklyn’s Saoirse Ronan and her Oscar chances are excellent.

Los Angeles may have provided a lifeline to Michael Fassbender who took Actor for Steve Jobs. That film’s Oscar chances have taken a hit due to its dismal box office performance and some have begun speculating whether that factor could affect even Fassbender getting noticed. These critics awards help. The runner up was Geza Rohrig for foreign feature Son of Saul. In Boston, there was a tie between Leonardo DiCaprio in The Revenant and Paul Dano in Love and Mercy. DiCaprio is seen by many as the current Academy front runner while Dano is being campaigned for in Supporting Actor at the Oscars (where his inclusion is definitely a question mark).

As always, I’ll keep updating you on these precursors as they continue. Today’s bottom line: a true spotlight on Spotlight.

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