An Inside Look
Since the 2011 movie year, I’ve been honored to be a part of my local critics organization, The St. Louis Film Critics Association. A major part of any critics organization – perhaps THE major part – is bestowing awards. With the dust finally settled on our own annual go-round, I thought it would be good to not just list our winners (the list is below, feel free to skip to it), but to also offer a general glimpse behind the curtain at how we arrive at these results.
Qualifications for inclusion in an organization such as this one means that each member must clear particular bars in terms of output, reach, and quality. Our current threshold is a minimum of twenty-five full length, published film reviews per year. A “full length” review, if memory serves, is 400 words or more. This is the threshold typically acknowledged by the studios, and therefor adopted by most critics groups such as ours. Outlets, be they print, television, radio, or internet, must clear particular reaches for each medium. Again, local groups decide these thresholds, but are usually based heavily on what the film studios state as their own thresholds.
Why all of this adherence to studios? Good question. Critics do not, DO NOT, work for the studios. The studios, however, hire local ad agencies to host early screenings which allow critics early looks at their films. In order to get on that invite list, one must qualify. It’s as simple as that. Throughout the year, we see and cover as many films as we can, mostly via these early screenings.
With the dust finally settled on our own annual go-round, I thought it would be good to offer a general glimpse behind the curtain at how we arrive at these results.
Around the end of the year, usually starting in November, guilded critics (and members of other industry organizations) begin to receive “screeners” for home viewing of many movies vying for year-end awards attention. If possible, we attend the theatrical screenings of said films. If that’s not possible, we have the screeners to fall back on. Screeners are also very helpful for second and third looks, as well as checking out isolated aspects (cinematography, editing, a particular performance, etc.) Critics groups consider all films of a given year, not just the ones placed before us at the end of the year as screeners. (Although the release date strategy of many of those films is obvious: The closer to voting, the better. A film like Sully, which was released in the early Fall, has that much more of a hard time being remembered when pitted agains the deluge of new, year-end “prestige pictures”.)
In St. Louis, members email each other with specific picks, shout-outs and suggestions for our twenty-three categories. I find this process to be a help in prioritizing what to see, as the screener pile can grow untenable awfully quickly.
In early December, we hold a mandatory meeting in which the membership decides the final nominations ballot. Depending on the year, deliberation can last anywhere between twenty minutes to six hours. (Thankfully, we haven’t had a six hour meeting in several years. This year was about one hour.) The following week, everyone should have cast their votes, and the results are announced. This process takes the devotion of many hours of our Secretary and our Awards Coordinator, currently Lynn Venhaus (The Belleville News-Democrat) and Jim Batts (We Are Movie Geeks).
As for me, I’m proud to currently hold the position of President of the organization. ZekeFilm contributor Max Foizey, of “Max on Movies” radio fame, is also a devoted member of this group. I’m especially happy with this year’s awards results, as I think we’ve done a good job of spreading the wealth to many deserving films, some of which have been falling between the cracks in the greater scheme of the 2016 film awards (Golden Globe noms, etc.) That said, there is one film in particular that the group has carried a torch for.
In the end, we hope that our picks speak to and illuminate the filmic and artistic tastes of the critical tastemakers of our community. See if our list of winners gives you something to sing about…
2016 ST. LOUIS FILM CRITICS ASSOCIATION AWARDS
BEST FILM: La La Land
BEST DIRECTOR: Damien Chazelle, La La Land
BEST ACTOR: Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea
BEST ACTRESS: Isabelle Huppert, Elle
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Mahershala Ali, Moonlight
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Viola Davis, Fences
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: Whit Stillman, Love & Friendship
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: Taylor Sheridan, Hell or High Water
BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY: Linus Sandgren, La La Land
BEST EDITING: Sebastian Sepulveda, Jackie
BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN: The Handmaiden
BEST VISUAL EFFECTS: The Jungle Book
BEST MUSIC SCORE: Justin Hurwitz, La La Land
BEST MUSIC SOUNDTRACK: Sing Street
BEST SONG: “Audition (The Fools Who Dream)” from La La Land
BEST ACTION: Captain America: Civil War
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE: Zootopia
BEST COMEDY: Hail, Caesar!
BEST DOCUMENTARY: I Am Not Your Negro
BEST HORROR/Sci-Fi: The Witch
BEST FOREIGN FILM: Elle
BEST SCENE: Opening Traffic Jam, “Another Day of Sun!” La La Land
BEST WORST: Warcraft
For the full list of nominees, visit the St. Louis Film Critics Association website.