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Chicago critics award ‘Boyhood,’ Ebert’s ‘Life Itself’

Usually films that open early in the year are overlooked by the time “award season” rolls around in the fall, but the Chicago Film Critics Association didn’t let that happen to ‘Boyhood.’

Richard Linklater’s movie — shot over a 12-year span, depicting the coming-of-age of the character portrayed by actor Ellar Coltrane from age 6 to 18 — was named best picture of 2014 by the Chicago critics Monday night. The film also was honored with the best director prize for Linklater, with Patricia Arquette named best supporting actress for her performance as the boy’s mom.

Another movie that also opened early in 2014 — back in March — was “The Grand Budapest Hotel.” Wes Anderson’s fantastical comic drama, set in a mythical European hotel on the brink of World War II, was the recipient of the best original screenplay award (for Anderson), took home the art direction award, and tied for best cinematography with Emmanuel Lubezki for “Birdman.”

“Whiplash,” the acclaimed indie drama charting the battle of wills between a highly ambitious musical prodigy and his teacher, both obsessed with perfection at all costs, won three awards: writer-director Damien Chazelle was named most promising filmmaker, J.K. Simmons was named best supporting actor for playing the scary teacher, and Tom Cross won the best editing prize.

The Chicago film critics also named Michael Keaton best actor for “Birdman,” and Julianne Moore as best actress for her portrayal of a brilliant university professor afflicted with early-onset Alzheimer’s in “Still Alice.”

The critics also honored one of their former colleagues, the late Sun-Times film critic and Pulitzer Prize winner, Roger Ebert, by naming Steve James‘ outstanding film “Life Itself,” inspired by Ebert’s memoir, as the best documentary of 2014.

Another Chicagoan, Gillian Flynn won the best adapted screenplay award for her script of “Gone Girl,” based on her own novel.

Here is the complete list of winners:

BEST PICTURE: “Boyhood”

BEST DIRECTOR: Richard Linklater — “Boyhood”

BEST ACTOR: Michael Keaton — “Birdman”

BEST ACTRESS: Julianne Moore — “Still Alice”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: J.K. Simmons — “Whiplash”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Patricia Arquette — “Boyhood”

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: Wes Anderson — “The Grand Budapest Hotel”

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: Gillian Flynn — “Gone Girl”

BEST ART DIRECTION: “The Grand Budapest Hotel”

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY (TIE): Emmanuel Lubezki — “Birdman”; Robert Yeoman — “The Grand Budapest Hotel”

BEST EDITING: Tom Cross — “Whiplash”

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE: Mica Levi — “Under the Skin”

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE: “The Lego Movie”

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE: “Life Itself”

BEST FOREIGN-LANGUAGE FILM: “Force Majeure”

MOST PROMISING PERFORMER: Jack O’Connell — “Starred Up”/”Unbroken”

MOST PROMISING FILMMAKER: Damien Chazelle — “Whiplash”