Last weekend, behind the rumbling theater walls of the Studio Movie Grill, the Indiana Film Journalists Association had its annual meeting. In a dimly lit lounge tucked behind the bar, the members fought over the sounds of the sci-fi epic, Interstellar — and their choices for the year’s best films.
This is the second year the IFJA has met at this location — and my first time as a new member sitting in on its awards deliberation process. Since 2009, the IFJA has recognized the finest cinematic achievements of the year with what is essentially its equivalent of the Oscars, giving awards for best picture, director, actor, actress, etc.
The meeting in which members vote for these awards is far from the formality of the Oscars. Nick Rogers, a critic for The Film Yap, had a beer in his hand when I walked into the dark den where the other critics kicked back in leather couches, greeting each other with wisecracks and offerings of fried snacks. It felt fitting when this charming group of big kids launched into a discussion of Boyhood, Richard Linklater’s sprawling coming-of-age film, which was shot over the course of 12 years.
The drama affected the men not only as film critics but also as exuberant boys still growing up amid the ageless magic of movies. Co-founder of The Film Yap, Joe Shearer, talked about how the film touched him as a relatively new father and an army brat with memories of moving a lot during his own boyhood.
Amid the acclaim for Boyhood, the other Film Yap co-founder, Chris Lloyd, questioned its memorability, talking about how his mind meandered during the movie. NUVO’s own Ed Johnson-Ott eagerly leaned in and said, “But that’s the film’s desired effect — to make you forget about the particulars of the plot and see your life unfold on screen. As it jumps from one milestone to another, you fill in the gaps with your own memories.”
Although he disagreed, Lloyd absorbed this argument and smiled in admiration of it — a prime example of the strong camaraderie between these critics. They can be boisterous boys, joking around and ragging on each other. But when it comes to discussing the films they love, these critics treat each other with the same quiet respect they show when sitting down in front of the silver screen.
Boyhood ended up winning their award for best film of the year with Whiplash as the runner-up — a far more ferocious coming-of-age drama. Ironically, the father figures in both films (Ethan Hawke and J.K. Simmons) won top honors in the best supporting actor category.
This recognition for mentors and coming-of-age is oddly fitting and timely, as I now find myself in the midst of both as a young, new member of the IFJA.
Stay tuned for more updates from this group as film awards season approaches.