The 36th annual Los Angeles Film Critics Association awards ceremony will be held Saturday, January 15 at the InterContinental, Los Angeles. To learn more about this event we talked to Brent Simon.
A graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and current President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, Brent Simon was for five-plus years editor-in-chief and lead film critic of the now-defunct Entertainment Today. Since then, he has been a film critic for Screen International, and has written extensively on film for Los Angeles Daily News, New York Magazine’s Vulture, Magill’s Cinema Annual, CityBeat, IGN and H Magazine, among many others. He also maintains a blog at SharedDarkness.com. “Films are a portal to other worlds,” he says, “and the best of cinema can open minds. I love sharing those experiences, both as a viewer and critic.”
Bijan tehrani: Please tell us about the background of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association and how it is helping the film community.
Brent Simon: The organization was founded in 1975, and it’s comprised of professional film critics based in Los Angeles. Obviously it has changed over the years, particularly over the last 8-10 years, I’d say, as print has waned and online criticism has waxed. While we do have a couple of members who have experience with on-camera criticism, everyone is primarily a writing critic, a reviewer, and that background greatly informs the group. Over the past couple of years we have hosted numerous panels and screenings, and we also have our Films That Got Away series, whereby we are able to shine a spotlight on films that have not received a commercial exhibition in Los Angeles. As you know, there are so many great and interesting movies that often do not receive a commercial showcase. We have also drafted formal protests against censorship and other film-related issues, including the recent imprisonment of Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi. One of the great things about film is that it is a window into the hearts and minds of cultures from all around the world. I remember when I was a kid I of course first enjoyed films that were targeted for my culture and age group, but I was lucky to have parents that embraced travel and exploration and the beauty of film that you can go anywhere and be anybody.
Bijan: How much attention does your organization pay to international cinema?
Brent: Quite a bit. As you know, with the release of this year’s awards winners we have quite a diverse group of choices — our acting honors went to a Brit, an Australian, a Korean, and a Frenchman. I think a lot of our choices, particularly this year, were seen by some of these awards season prognosticators as being willfully outside of the box, and that we were making some statement against others of this year’s frontrunners, which could not be further from the case. We have a diverse membership. Unlike, say, the New York Film Critics Circle, which is comprised almost exclusively of staff critics, we have members who may review only mainstream studio films for one publication, but chiefly documentaries for another, and more foreign films for another. And we’ve come to notice that when you have a group that is comprised of critics who write for many different types of publications, you have a membership that is very well informed, and that allows for a more potentially interesting set of honorees.
Bijan: Can you tell us a little bit more about the event that will be happening on the 15th?
Brent: Yes, we have the awards dinner every year and this year we have another nice event planned. Each year we have a Career Achievement honoree, and this year it is Paul Mazursky, who is a true American original. Mazursky wrote or co-wrote almost all of his films as a director, and always maintained his own voice while working within the American studio system. I think one of the things that separates our event from other awards season events is that unlike the telecast events we don’t announce a slate of nominees, we just announce our winners and runners-up. So in being able to just host and celebrate our honorees and all of their work, it makes for a very relaxed and laidback event, where people can come in relaxed and just speak their minds.
Bijan: I know that the film Carlos has won numerous awards. What do you think about that film?
Brent: Well I love it, I think it is a real achievement. And it’s kind of ironic and interesting: Mr. Assayas was honored with the Best Foreign-Language Film award last year for his movie Summer Hours, but he could not make it due to the fact that he was trying to wrap up postproduction on Carlos. But we are really excited to have him back this year. And I feel that Carlos is a true cinematic achievement; the fascinating thing for me is the bird’s eye view that the film gives of how some government states want to manipulate and maximize politics through fear, but how diplomacy can slowly bleed that. I think that the film teaches a lesson that we can probably serve to relearn in this day and age. I found Edgar Ramirez’s performance staggering, and it is a really engrossing movie experience for sure.
Sponsors of the the 36th annual Los Angeles Film Critics Association awards ceremony include : Korean Air, The Wilshire Plaza Hotel, Amnesty International, the Canadian Consulate, the French Consulate, the French Film and TV office in L.A, Air Tahiti Nui and ELMA.