Is it just too Mean Girls to label a film "the worst?" Members of the Houston Film Critics Society debate whether or not it's too hateful but, by a narrow margin, the category stays in and the winner will be announced at the upcoming 12th Annual Movie Awards.
"We actually give a physical award to the winner," says Dustin Chase, one of the 37 or so members of the society. Chase says he tries to attend all the screenings, which helps with his film reviews for CW39, The Galveston Daily News, on Houston radio stations and for several online outlets.
His prediction for Best Worst Film for the 2018 season? "On my worst list this year — and some of these may end up being a nominee — Unfriended: Dark Web, it’s a sequel to another horror movie with found footage; Clint Eastwood’s movie, The 15:17 to Paris. I’m sure The Happytime Murders — Melissa McCarthy as a puppet — that will be on the list. And then there’s always the obscure ones that a handful of us will see.
Queen of the B movies and former Playboy Playmate of the Month, Dona Speir, is set to present the award for Best Worst Film. She was a favorite of the late director Andy Sidaris and acted in seven of his feature-length films, including Fit to Kill, Hard Hunted, Do or Die and Savage Beach.
Chase, who describes himself as the nerd of the group who loves to run stats, says that the society is small enough that it only takes five or six people to put a movie into any single category. As for their votes for Best Picture, the society's selections usually will be in about 50 to 60 percent alignment with the Oscars, Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild Awards.
The Houston Film Critics Society is announcing its short list of nominees on December 17, and the winners will be revealed January 3. The public is invited to attend, though space is limited, and there just might be some filmmakers or actors in the audience at this Oscar-style event that includes film clips and awards presentations.
"We always invite everybody and speak with the publicists. Some will send in videos if they can’t come. Matt Damon, Allison Janney, composers for best score; we’ve had a lot of high profile guests. Unfortunately our award show comes in at the same time as other events," says Chase, who adds that he can't say too much but that they're in talks with a few big names. Local filmmaker Damir Catic will be honored for his contributions to Houston cinema and an arrangement of Best Song nominees will be performed by pianist Hank Taylor.
It's too soon to tell which films from 2018 will soar to the top, though Chase says Roma, Green Book, A Star is Born and The Favourite are all strong contenders. He has seen Vice and says it's a love it or hate it sort of movie; pretty much if you liked The Big Short you'll probably enjoy Vice, with its rapid information and similar editing style.
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"The award show is free, open to everyone — as long as you’ve got a ticket. You can come to the afterparty [at Hotel ZaZa] and schmooze with the critics. This is a great chance for people in Houston who maybe don’t know their local critics," says Chase. "It's great and fun and free to do on Thursday. Come meet people that they may have read. There is a film critic for every reader."
Collectors will want to attend the after-party for a chance to bid on the silent auction with unique movie collectibles. "Some of them are donated by people throughout Houston, some by our own members: promotional items or things that they bought. But yeah, they do send us quite a lot of things to try to sway our vote. It’s nice to get stuff in the mail. I don’t think our integrity can be compromised," adds Chase.
The Houston Film Critics Society's 12th Annual Movie Awards is scheduled for 7-9 p.m. January 3, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Law Building, 1001 Bissonnet, 713-639-7515, mfah.org/calendar/houston-film-critics-society-best-2018-awards/201901030700PM or houstonfilmcritics.org, free (ticket is required).