‘Amour’ Breaks the ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ Streak, Wins L.A. Critics’ Award

Idiosyncratic critics group opts for Joaquin Phoenix, Jennifer Lawrence, Emmanuelle Riva, Dwight Henry and Amy Adams; Paul Thomas Anderson beats Kathryn Bigelow for best director

Michael Haneke's "Amour," a dark and unsparing look at old age and death, was named the best film of 2012 by the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, giving the French-language film an important boost during a season in which its chances outside the Oscar foreign-language category hinge on getting Academy voters to see it.

AmourThe film stopped a run by Kathryn Bigelow's "Zero Dark Thirty," which had won the top award with the New York Film Critics Circle, the National Board of Review, the Boston Film Critics Society and the New York Film Critics Online.

Paul Thomas Anderson's "The Master," which had seen its early awards-season momentum fade in recent weeks, won awards for its director, for stars Joaquin Phoenix and Amy Adams, and for production designers David Crank and Jack Fisk.

Jennifer Lawrence of "Silver Linings Playbook" and Emmanuelle Riva of "Amour" tied for best actress, in a rare case of the frequently contrarian critics' group picking both an Oscar favorite (Lawrence) and a longshot (Riva) at the same time.

Phoenix was named the best actor, proving that the group is even able to resist the power of Daniel Day-Lewis, who had been winning most previous critics' awards for his portrayal of the title character in "Lincoln."

Phoenix was considered a top contender for his role as an unstable vet who falls under the spell of a charismatic cult leader in Paul Thomas Anderson's drama, but his profile in the awards race faded after he gave an intervlew blasting awards, and the Oscars in particular.

His "Master" co-star Amy Adams was named the year's best supporting actress, beating another odds-on Oscar favorite, Anne Hathaway for "Les Miserables." Hathaway was named runner-up in the category by the L.A. critics, who often go in a different direction from other critics' groups.

Dwight Henry of "Beasts of the Southern Wild" was named best supporting actor by the LAFCA.

Henry had never acted before being chosen for Benh Zeitlin's low-budget indie set in the Louisiana bayous, and has been largely absent from the awards circuit because of his day job running a bakery in New Orleans.  

In best-director voting, Kathryn Bigelow's win streak for "Zero Dark Thirty" came to an end at the hands of Anderson.

Tim Burton's "Frankenweenie" was named the year's best animated film, while "The Gatekeepers" was named best documentary.

Because LAFCA voted for its best-film award before voting for best foreign-language film, its members were able to steer their votes in the latter category away from "Amour." Leos Carax's "Holy Motors" won instead.

Chris Terrio was honored for his screenplay to "Argo." The cinematography award went to Roger Deakins for the James Bond film "Skyfall," while editing went to Dylan Tichenor and William Goldenberg for "Zero Dark Thirty." (For his work on "Argo," Goldenberg was runner-up to himself in the category.)

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"Beasts of the Southern Wild" was honored for its score, while "The Master" won the award for production design.

Although a few times in recent years the LAFCA has gone along with the year's critical consensus (picking, for instance, "The Social Network" and "The Hurt Locker"), it typically is one of the more adventurous and idiosyncratic groups. Its last three best-actress winners, for instance, have been Yoon Jeong-hee for "Poetry," Kim Hye-ja for "Mother" and Yolande Moreau for "Seraphine," all of whom went unmentioned in most other year-end awards.

The group's unusual choices may be due to a voting system that is not used by other major critics groups: Rather than casting votes secretly, LAFCA members are called on ramdonly to stand and announce their picks, a process that allows off-the-beaten-track contenders to gain momentum over the course of a single round.

Because of the system and the organization's often-quirky tastes, the LAFCA is a notably bad predictor of Oscar success. Only seven times in the group's 37-year history has its choice agreed with the Academy's pick for Best Picture – and after back-to-back matches with "Unforgiven" and "Schindler's List" in 1992 and 1993, LAFCA went 18 years with only a single case of agreement, for "The Hurt Locker" in 2009.

Last year's winner was "The Descendants." Other recent LAFCA winners include "The Social Network," "WALL-E," "There Will Be Blood," "Letters From Iwo Jima," "Brokeback Mountain" and "Sideways."

TheWrap will continue to update the winners as they are announced.

The winners:

Picture: "Amour"
   Runner-up: "The Master
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson, "The Master
   Runner-up: Kathryn Bigelow, "Zero Dark Thirty"
Actor: Joaquin Phoenix, "The Master"
   Runner-up: Denis Lavant, "Holy Motors"
Actress: (tie) Jennifer Lawrence, "Silver Linings Playbook"
                     Emmanuelle Riva, "Amour"
Supporting actor: Dwight Henry, "Beasts of the Southern Wild"
   Runner-up: Christoph Waltz, "Django Unchained"
Supporting actress: Amy Adams, "The Master"
   Runner-up: Anne Hathaway, "Les Miserables"
Screenplay: Chris Terrio, "Argo"
   Runner-up: David O. Russell, "Silver Linings Playbook"
Foreign-language film: "Holy Motors"
   Runner-up: "Footnote"
Animation: "Frankenweenie"
   Runner-up: "It's Such a Beautiful Day"
Documentary/Non-fiction film: "The Gatekeepers"
   Runner-up: "Searching for Sugar Man"
Cinematography: Roger Deakins, "Skyfall"
   Runner-up: Mihai Malaimare Jr., "The Master"
Editing: Dylan Tichenor and William Goldenberg, "Zero Dark Thirty"
   Runner-up: William Goldenberg, "Argo"
Music/score: Dan Romer and Benh Zeitlin, "Beasts of the Southern Wild"
   Runner-up: Jonny Greenwood, "The Master"
Production design: David Crank and Jack Fisk, "The Master"
   Runner-up: Adam Stockhausen, "Moonrise Kingdom"
Independent/Experimental film/video: "Leviathan"
Career Achievement: Frederick Wiseman