L.A. Film Critics Select a History-Making 2020 Best Picture

Hometown critics awarded top honors to ’Small Axe,’ Steve McQueen’s five-film anthology series—which is technically a TV series as far as other awards are concerned

It’s nearing the close of 2020, which means it’s time for the various critics’ associations to weigh in on their year-end picks. The L.A. Film Critics Association, aka LAFCA, convened via Zoom on Sunday, December 20, to announce their prizes. But do these critics’ picks affect the who gets noms for the Globes and the Oscars?

You could certainly argue they do—or at least they have in the past. The LAFCA’s Best Picture pick has been nominated for the Best Picture Oscar every year since 2009, but that streak is likely to end this year. Our hometown critics picked Small Axe, Steve McQueen’s stunning five-film, Amazon-released anthology series, as Best Picture. As the Chicago Tribune explains, Small Axe is technically being treated as a TV series, and will be up for Emmys rather than Oscars. “Instead of each movie vying for awards individually, all five are being submitted as a single group in the limited series TV category,” says entertainment writer Nina Metz. “That applies for the upcoming Golden Globes in February and the SAG-AFTRA Awards in March, and eventually the Emmys in September.”

McQueen himself said, “I made the decision. No one’s been telling me what to do or how to do it. I, from Day 1, decided that this was going to be on TV.”

In a column published Monday morning, Variety wonders whether Small Axe can now pivot to being part of the Oscars conversation, an effort that could actually be muddied by the LAFCA, which awarded the series Best Picture as a collection of films but recognized a single installment—Lovers Rock—for Best Music and Score. According to writer Clayton Davis, as the rules are currently laid out, it doesn’t seem possible that Small Axe could be submitted for consideration as a single movie.

As that debate continues, check out the rest of the winners below …

BEST PICTURE: “Small Axe” (directed by Steve McQueen) (Amazon)

  • RUNNER UP: “Nomadland” (directed by Chloe Zhao) (Searchlight)

BEST DIRECTOR: Chloe Zhao (“Nomadland”) (Searchlight)

  • RUNNER UP: Steve McQueen, “Small Axe” (Amazon)

BEST ACTOR: Chadwick Boseman, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” (Netflix)

  • RUNNER UP: Riz Ahmed, “The Sound of Metal” (Amazon)

BEST ACTRESS: Carey Mulligan, “Promising Young Woman” (Focus Features)

  • RUNNER UP: Viola Davis, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” (Netflix)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Glynn Turman, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” (Netflix)

  • RUNNER UP: Paul Raci, “The Sound of Metal” (Amazon)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Yuh-jung Youn, “Minari” (A24)

  • RUNNER UP: Amanda Seyfried, “Mank” (Netflix)

BEST ANIMATED FILM: “Wolfwalkers” (Apple TV)

  • RUNNER UP: “Soul” (Pixar)


  • RUNNER UP: “Collective” (Magnolia Pictures and Participant)

BEST SCREENPLAY: “Promising Young Woman” (Focus Features) – Emerald Fennel

  • RUNNER UP: “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” (Focus Features) -Eliza Hittman

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY: “Small Axe” (Amazon) – Shabier Kirchner

  • RUNNER UP: “Nomadland” (Searchlight) – Joshua James Richards

BEST EDITING: “The Father” (Sony Classics) – Yorgos Lamprinos

  • RUNNER UP: “Time” (Amazon)

BEST MUSIC/SCORE: “Soul” (Pixar) – Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross

  • RUNNER UP: “Lovers Rock” (Amazon) – Mica Levi

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN: “Mank” (Netflix) – Donald Graham Burt

  • RUNNER UP: “Beanpole” (Kino Lorber) – Sergey Ivanov


CAREER ACHIEVEMENT: Hou Hsiao-Hsien and Harry Belafonte

LEGACY AWARD: Norman Lloyd

On Saturday, the New York Film Critics Circle Awards gave their top prizes to Kelly Reichardt’s First Cow, Delroy Lindo (Da 5 Bloods), Sidney Flanigan (Never Rarely Sometimes Always), Chadwick Boseman (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom), and Maria Bakalova (Borat Subsequent Movie Film).

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