Steve McQueen’s ‘Small Axe’ Series Named Best Picture of 2020 by LA Film Critics

Steve Pond
·5 min read

Steve McQueen’s “Small Axe,” an anthology of five films set in Black areas of London over a period of decades, has been named the best film of 2020 by the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, which announced its annual winners on Sunday.

It is the first time that the LAFCA has honored a group of films rather than a single film with its best picture award. McQueen’s anthology, which includes “Lovers Rock,” “Mangrove” and “Red, White and Blue,” is currently playing on Amazon Prime, and neither the individual films nor the series are qualifying for the Oscars or guild awards as motion pictures.

“Small Axe” will be in the running for Emmys and guild awards in the television categories as a limited series. Strangely, LAFCA voters treated the anthology as individual movies in the music category, where they singled out “Lovers Rock” for a runner-up citation, but then lumped all five films together in the picture, director and cinematography categories.

Chloe Zhao’s “Nomadland” was runner-up, and Zhao won the directing award. McQueen was runner up in that category.

Also Read: 'Small Axe: Mangrove' Film Review: Steve McQueen Exposes the Police Brutality of the Past, and the Present

The late Chadwick Boseman was named best actor for “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.” The Netflix film directed by George C. Wolfe and based on an August Wilson play was the dominant film in the LAFCA acting categories, with Glynn Turman winning the supporting actor award and Viola Davis finishing as runner-up in best actress voting to Carey Mulligan for “Promising Young Woman.”

Korean actress Youn Yuh-jung was named best supporting actress for “Minari.”

“Sound of Metal” took runner-up awards in best actor for Riz Ahmed and in supporting actor for Paul Raci. Amanda Seyfried was runner-up in the supporting actress voting for “Mank.”

Also Read: 'Ma Rainey's Black Bottom' Film Review: Chadwick Boseman and Viola Davis Lead an Explosive Cast in Stagey Adaptation

“Wolfwalkers” was named the year’s best animated film, with “Soul” the runner-up. “Time” beat out “Collective” as 2020’s best documentary. “Beanpole,” which was Russia’s entry in the Oscars international race last year, was named the best foreign-language film, with “Martin Eden” as runner-up.

The screenplay awards went to two female writer-directors: Emerald Fennel won for “Promising Young Woman,” and Eliza Hittman was named runner-up for “Never Rarely Sometimes Always.”

In the below-the-line categories, the cinematography award went to Shabier Kirchner for “Small Axe.” The award for music/score went to Pixar’s “Soul,” which is set in the world of jazz and includes a score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. The production design award went to “Mank,” while the editing award went to “The Father.”

The New Generation award for an up-and-coming filmmaker was given to Radha Blank for “The Forty-Year-Old Version.”

Like the New York Film Critics Circle, which announced its winners on Friday, the LAFCA is sticking to the calendar year when determining its year-end awards, even though the COVID-19 pandemic made theatrical distribution in Los Angeles impossible for most of the year. The Academy Awards and virtually all other industry awards shows are extending their eligibility period through January and February 2021, rather than restricting entries to films that were released in 2020.

Also Read: New York Film Critics Circle Awards: Chadwick Boseman, Maria Bakalova, Delroy Lindo Win Acting Prizes

As usual, LAFCA’s winners were a mixture of films and people in the thick of the awards race (Boseman, Youn Yun-jung), dark-horse candidates who could use a boost from one of the most prestigious critics’ groups (Turman, Mulligan and “Promising Young Woman”) and left-field choices to emphasize the group’s independent streak (“Small Axe”).

Last year, four of the LAFCA winners went on to win the Oscar: “Parasite” for picture and director, “American Factory” for documentary and “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood” for production design. Four other winners were nominated for Oscars but did not win.

The LAFCA best film winner has won the Oscar for Best Picture 11 times in the 46 years the organization has been giving out awards, including three times in the last five years: “The Hurt Locker” in 2009, “Spotlight” in 2015, “Moonlight” in 2016 and “Parasite” in 2019.

The group consists of 67 Los Angeles-based film critics working in print and electronic media. (TheWrap’s Alonso Duralde is a member.)

This year’s Career Achievement Awards will go to Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-Hsien and actor, singer and activist Harry Belafonte, with the first Legacy Award going to Norman Lloyd.

The 2020 Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards:

Best Film: “Small Axe”
Runner-up: “Nomadland”
Best Director: Chloe Zhao, “Nomadland”
Runner-up: Steve McQueen, “Small Axe”
Best Actor: Chadwick Boseman, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”
Runner-up: Riz Ahmed, “Sound of Metal”
Best Actress: Carey Mulligan, “Promising Young Woman”
Runner-up: Viola Davis, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”
Best Supporting Actor: Glynn Turman, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”
Runner-up: Paul Raci, “Sound of Metal”
Best Supporting Actress: Youn Yuh-jung, “Minari”
Runner-up: Amanda Seyfried, “Mank”
Best Foreign-Language Film: “Beanpole”
Runner-up: “Martin Eden”
Best Documentary/Nonfiction Film: “Time”
Runner-up: “Collective”
Best Animated Film: “Wolfwalkers”
Runner-up: “Soul”
Best Screenplay: Emerald Fennell, “Promising Young Woman”
Runner-up: Eliza Hittman, “Never Rarely Sometimes Always”
Best Cinematography: Shabier Kirchner, “Small Axe”
Runner-up: Joshua James Richards, “Nomadland”
Best Editing: Yorgos Lamprinos, “The Father”
Runner-up: Gabriel Rhodes, “Time”
Best Music/Score: “Soul”
Runner-up: “Lovers Rock”
Best Production Design: Donald Graham Burt, “Mank”
Runner-up: Sergey Ivanov, “Beanpole”
New Generation Award: Radha Blank, “The Forty-Year-Old Version”
Douglas E. Edwards Independent/Experimental Film/Video: “Her Socialist Smile,” John Gianvito
Career Achievement Awards: Hou Hsiao-Hsien, Harry Belafonte
Legacy Award: Norman Lloyd

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