By: Erik Childress

Up In The Air
got off to a great launch this awards season, but today we have been given a new front runner. Kathryn Bigelow's The Hurt Locker has taken top honors from Boston and now the Los Angeles Film Critics. The only film on their list to win multiple awards - a whole two - the Iraq War thriller about bomb-defusing soldiers is now up 11 awards to Up In The Air's and the fast-approaching Inglourious Basterds' 8. Sure, Los Angeles' choice for Best Film hasn't won the Academy Award since 1993's Schindler's List, but we weren't exactly talking about THAT kind of front-runner.

The L.A. critics have a history of choosing a film with a lot of early awards chatter only to wind up being the second choice, if you will, come Oscar time. Recent selections include Sideways, Brokeback Mountain and There Will Be Blood. This still puts The Hurt Locker in the very respectable 70th percentile for a nomination, something the leader in total awards never seems to fail in.

Speaking of rarely failing, you have to look back all the way to 1989 when Spike Lee didn't get a nod for Do The Right Thing to find the last time the L.A. critics' choice wasn't on the short list for Oscar. Is it too early to congratulate Kathryn Bigelow? Certainly not for completely the Sunday sweep of Boston, NYFCO and L.A. giving her four victories on the season. Six of L.A.'s last eleven winners have gone to the Oscar podium, including last year's Danny Boyle.

Jeff Bridges starts off in lamenting another bowling alley in Crazy Heart, but by the end, he may have given the performance that finally wins him a long-deserved Oscar - even if he was better as The Dude. Part of a five-win day for Scott Cooper's film (with three going to its music), Bridges is part of a nice recent tradition with the L.A. critics. Nine of their last twelve choices have been nominated. Four of their last five have been victorious. The lone holdout? Sacha Baron Cohen for Borat, who tied with Forest Whitaker in 2006.

Known for occasionally throwing an out-of-nowhere wrinkle into the awards race - Luminita Gheorghiu (2006's The Death of Mr. Lazarescu) or Vlad Ivanov (2007's 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days) anyone? - they didn't disappoint again giving Best Actress to Yolande Moreau for her portrayal of French painter Seraphine de Senlis. After a run at several film festivals including its premiere at Toronto in 2008, Seraphine had a limited release this past June and now finds itself, at least temporarily, in the Oscar discussion. Since 1999, only Vera Farmiga (2005's Down to the Bone) and Sally Hawkins (2008's Happy-Go-Lucky) were left off the Oscar ballot after being crowned in Los Angeles. Two of their last three choices (Helen Mirren and Marion Cotillard) actually went on to win. Anyone want to seriously double down on Moreau's chances though? The Best Actress tally currently stands at three wins for An Education's Carey Mulligan (who was L.A.'s runner-up), two for Meryl Streep (Julie & Julia) and one for Precious' Gabourey Sidibe.

As mentioned earlier, L.A. has made it a foursome amongst critics in the supporting categories, adding to the praise for Christoph Waltz and Mo'Nique. They are 60% and 80% in seeing their selections here go on to nominations since 1999. Both Heath Ledger and Penelope Cruz won in 2008, representing the first time their choice for Supporting Actress has won the Oscar since Dianne Wiest for 1994's Bullets Over Broadway. Peter Capaldi (In The Loop) and Anna Kendrick (Up In The Air) served as the runners-up.

The LAFCA continue to stick with keeping the screenplay category as a solo honor, not minding that some have a head start with a previously published work. In the last decade though seven of their choices have leaned towards the work of Originals while only four have been adaptations. (Capote and The Squid and the Whale shared the honor in 2005.) They went for the latter again this year, bestowing Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner with their third screenplay honor of the year for Up In The Air. The only screenplay of their choosing to win the Oscar in that time though was 2004's Sideways. The runner-up was the brilliantly vulgar farce, In The Loop. Continuing the trend of wanting to be just a little different when they can be, the LAFCA are the first group to knock Pixar's Up back to a runner-up slot, while Wes Anderson's Fantastic Mr. Fox was named Best Animated Feature.

Other victories went to Summer Hours for Best Foreign Film (its second win today after Boston), Christian Berger for The White Ribbon's cinematography, District 9 for Production Design, a tie for Documentary between The Beaches of Agnes and The Cove, and Crazy Heart for its Music/Score. Runners-up were noted for Up In The Air (Picture), Michael Haneke (Director, The White Ribbon), Colin Firth (Actor, A Single Man), Alexandre Desplat (Score, Fantastic Mr. Fox), and Avatar (Production Design).