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SPOTLIGHT and THE LAST MAN ON THE MOON Big Winners at Houston Film Critics Awards

Updated 1276 days ago

Maybe you missed the local Houston Film Critics Society Awards, since they handed out their winners a day before the glitz and glamour of The Golden Globes. On January 9th at Sundance Cinemas in downtown Houston, the Houston Film Critics Society put on its annual award show open to the general public. Montage  clips from the year’s most popular and respected films opened the show as the 25+ member group, made up of San Antonio critics as well, revealed the winners in each category.

President of the HFCS Joshua Starnes, film critic for, opened and closed the show that awarded the critically-acclaimed journalism film Spotlight best picture. That film - directed by writer Tom McCarthy (Win Win, The Station Agent) - has maintained an unpursued frontrunner status in this year’s awards race due to a lack of consensus. However, when Tom Hardy, virtually absent from all previous critics and guild awards, took home the best supporting actor prize for The Revenant, followed by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu nabbing best director; it seems HFCS was way ahead of The Revenant’s surprising Golden Globe wins and 12 Oscar nominations that followed the next week.

Best actor favorite Leonardo DiCaprio didn’t win best actor from the group, instead another surprise, Michael Fassbender for Steve Jobs. Best Actress was Brie Larson in Room, while supporting actress was Rooney Mara for Carol. Also oddly predictive, the HFCS was one of the only groups to recognize Room director Lenny Abrahamson for his work. The director pulled a shockeroo landing on the Academy Awards list of best directors. Like most movie awards, the HFCS votes in secret with a preferential ballot. The nominees were announced a week before Christmas, giving members who missed the nominated films time to catch up on their screener pile before casting final votes.

The HFCS also gave Matt Damon the humanitarian award for his work with international water conservation and cleaning. The actor who won a Golden Globe for his performance in The Martian a day later, appeared on video at the Houston ceremony, taking a break from the latest Bourne film. He thanked the group for recognizing his organizations efforts. Damon also received his second Oscar nomination for acting Thursday Jan 14th.

The lifetime achievement award was bestowed to part time Texan Dennis Quaid. Film critic Travis Leamons (Inside Pulse), also one of the award show's digital editors, displayed a career montage of the actors’ work which spans over 20 years. Joe Leydon spoke about interviewing Quaid in his early days before accepting the award on the actors’ behalf. Leydon himself received distinguished honors from his peers, taking home the Local Contribution to Film award. The Variety film critic joked that when he heard the news, he feared he had missed the news about his upcoming death. Leydon, who remarked at length on his career that begin in Houston, said he was thankful to be accepting the award while still alive.

Perhaps the biggest highlight of the ceremony was the surprise winner of the Texas Independent Film Award. Documentary The Last Man on the Moon, chronicling the account of astronaut Eugene Cernan, took the final award of the evening. The 81 year old spaceman, and literal last man to walk on the moon, accepted the award on behalf of the filmmakers. His heartwarming accepting speech on “if I can go to the moon – today’s youth can do anything” resonated with the audience, who gave him a standing ovation. The documentary, which had its regional debut at SXSW back in March, caught the attention of one of the attending HFCS members who vetted the film for consideration. The TIFA nominees are chosen by a volunteer panel of select HFCS members, and the nominees are voted on by the entire body. Last year’s recipient Boyhood went on to garner a best picture nomination at the Academy Awards. To qualify for TIFA consideration, the film must be shot predominantly in Texas, be shown in at least one theater for the public, and be made available for the voting committee. Other nominees this year included feature film Results,  starring Guy Pearce, and the comedy 12 Chinese Brothers with Jason Schwartzman.

Article written by Dustin Chase

Dustin is an arts & entertainment blogger for & Company, and Film Editor for Galveston-based Texas Art & Film.