The "Social Network" juggernaut rolled through the first round of critics awards on Sunday, taking top honors from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association to go with wins from the Boston Society of Film Critics, the Indiana Film Journalists and the New York Film Critics Online. The film was also named one of the year's 10 best by the American Film Institute.
The wins for David Fincher's drama about the creation of Facebook add to a previous Best Film citation from the Washington D.C. Area Film Critics to give the film a clean sweep of the critics awards announced to date. The movie was also nominated for Best Film by Detroit and Houston critics groups, which have yet to announce winners.
Next up: the Broadcast Film Critics Association, whose Critics Choice Awards are generally a reliable Oscar precursor, and the New York Film Critics Circle, with Los Angeles the most prestigious of the regional critics' groups.
The Critics Choice nominations will be announced at 6 a.m. Eastern time on Monday, with the NYFCC award winners coming later that day.
Last year, the "The Hurt Locker" took the majority of the critics awards, a showing that helped push that film to the forefront of the awards race. Director Kathryn Bigelow often credited critical support with keeping her low-grossing film alive, and giving it the momentum it needed along the way to its Oscar triumphs.
"The Social Network" is battling for Oscar attention with the likes of "The King's Speech," "The Fighter" and "Toy Story 3," all of which received scattered support from the critics groups and the AFI. Its status as an unassailable critical favorite is no guarantee of Oscar success (as "Sideways" and "L.A. Confidential" can testify), but it can certainly make the film a must-see with Academy voters.
The Los Angeles Film Critics Association is the most high-profile of the critics groups to announce on Sunday. The runner-up film in its voting was Olivier Assayas' three-part "Carlos" (right), which was made for French television but screened in the United States in both a three-film, five-and-a-half-hour roadshow version and in a shorter edit. Assayas and Fincher shared the Best Director award.
"Carlos" was also named Best Foreign-Language Film, while star Edgar Ramirez finished as runner-up to "The King's Speech" star Colin Firth for Best Actor honors.
Winning his first critics award of the season, Firth was by far the most mainstream of the LAFCA acting awards. The group's Best Actor honor went to Kim Hye-ja for the Korean film "Mother" — while in awards announced after the first of their two rounds of voting, LAFCA members made defiantly individualistic selections in the Supporting Actor and Supporting Actress races with the choices of Niels Arestrup from "A Prophet" and Jacki Weaver from "Animal Kingdom," respectively.
"The Social Network" led all films with four awards, though two of them were ties: Fincher for director, and composers Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross for the film's score, tying with Alexandre Desplat for "The Ghost Writer."
Aaron Sorkin won outright for the screenplay to "The Social Network"; David Seidler took the runner-up spot for "The King's Speech."
That last film was also runner-up for Best Supporting Actor, where Geoffrey Rush finished second to Arestrup. In the Supporting Actress race, the runner-up to Weaver (left) was Olivia Williams for Roman Polanski's "The Ghost Writer." Best Actress runner-up was Jennifer Lawrence for "Winter's Bone."
Other awards went to Matthew Libatique for the cinematography for "Black Swan" and "Last Train Home" for documentary/non-fiction film.
"Toy Story 3" was named Best Animation.
In recent years, LAFCA has given "WALL-E," "There Will Be Blood," "Letters from Iwo Jima," "Brokeback Mountain" and "Sideways" its top award. Before "Hurt Locker," its last Best Film winner to also win the top Oscar was "Schindler's List" in 1993.
The 35-year-old organization also has a history of making unexpected choices in the acting categories, including Sacha Baron Cohen (2006 co-Best Actor for "Borat"), Yolande Moreau (2009 Best Actress, "Seraphine") and Vlad Ivanov (2007 Best Supporting Actor, "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days").
LAFCA is known to be a contentious organization. Speaking earlier in the week, one member anticipated a pitched battle between the members who embrace the avant garde and the more mainstream critics who fill out the 54-member roster.
The awards will be handed out at a ceremony on Saturday, January 25, 2011. At that ceremony, writer-director Paul Mazursky will receive the LAFCA Career Achievement Award.
PICTURE: "The Social Network"
DIRECTOR: Olivier Assayas, "Carlos," and David Fincher, "The Social Network" (tie)
ACTOR: Colin Firth, "The King's Speech"
Runner-up: Edgar Ramirez, "Carlos"
ACTRESS: Kim Hye-ja, "Mother"
Runner-up: Jennifer Lawrence, "Winter's Bone"
SUPPORTING ACTOR: Niels Arestrup, "A Prophet"
Runner-up: Geoffrey Rush, "The King's Speech"
SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Jacki Weaver, "Animal Kingdom"
Runner-up: Olivia Williams, "The Ghost Writer"
SCREENPLAY: Aaron Sorkin, "The Social Network"
Runner-up: David Seidler, "The King's Speech"
FOREIGN-LANGUAGE FILM: "Carlos"
ANIMATION: "Toy Story 3"
Runner-up: "The Illusionist"
DOCUMENTARY / NON-FICTION FILM: "Last Train Home"
Runner-up: "Exit Through the Gift Shop"
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Matthew Libatique, "Black Swan"
Runner-up: Roger Deakins, "True Grit"
MUSIC/SCORE: Alexandre Desplat, "The Ghost Writer," and Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, "The Social Network" (tie)
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Guy Hendrix Dyas, "Inception"
Runner-up: Eve Stewart, "The King's Speech"
NEW GENERATION: Lena Dunham, "Tiny Furniture"
DOUGLAS E EDWARDS INDEPENDENT/EXPERIMENTAL FILM/VIDEO: "Film Socialism"
LEGACY OF CINEMA AWARDS: Serge Bromberg, "Henri-Georges Clouzot's Inferno," and the FW Murnau Foundation and Fernando Pena for the restoration of "Metropolis"