- ABOUT US
In November 2011, the Oklahoma Film Critics Circle presented its annual Tilghman Award to Tulsa filmmaker Sterlin Harjo at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art.
Photo by ANN SHERMAN
The Oklahoma Film Critics Circle, a group of reviewers from across the state, compare notes, occasionally butt heads, and honor Okie filmmakers with the annual Tilghman Award.
By DYRINDA TYSON
Published January/February 2012
The Oklahoma Film Critics Circle could boil its mission down to three words: “Strength in numbers.”
“No one cares what’s on Kathryn Jenson White’s individual list of ten best films every year,” says Jenson White, who has written reviews for The Oklahoman and The Oklahoma Gazette. “But when the Oklahoma Film Critics Circle (OFCC) says as a statewide organization that this was the best film of the year, then we get heard and counted and the name ‘Oklahoma’ goes across the nation.”
Jenson White founded the OFCC in 2006 and served as its first president.
The group numbers about two dozen, with members scattered across the state, says current OFCC President Rod Lott, corporate managing editor and a film critic for the Oklahoma Gazette. Members cross paths at screenings throughout the year, compare notes, and occasionally clash. Late in the year, the critics compile their awards nominations.
On one end of the spectrum, the group’s choices sometimes mirror voting for the major awards—they have picked The Hurt Locker and Slumdog Millionaire as best films in the past, for example, and both went on to win best picture Oscars.
Sometimes their choices are more surprising. The Dark Knight only missed the OFCC’s best film honors in 2008, Lott says, “literally by one vote.” And though the Batman epic brought home Academy Awards months later—including a posthumous best supporting actor award for costar Heath Ledger—it wasn’t even nominated for best picture.
That’s fine with Jenson White.
“We want to be the people who have the independent voice about film, not just some studio marketing product response,” she says.
On the other end of the spectrum, the OFCC gives nods to “Worst Film” and “Not-So-Obviously Worst Film.” The OFCC’s members didn’t expect Mamma Mia to be terrible, for example, but they couldn’t help deciding that it was.
The group also annually bestows the Tilghman Award, named for lawman Bill Tilghman, an Oklahoma film pioneer. Past winners include Oklahoma filmmakers Bradley Beesley and, in 2011, Sterlin Harjo. Others, such as Brian Hearn, Oklahoma City Museum of Art film program curator; and Clark Wiens, president of the nonprofit foundation running the Circle Cinema in Tulsa, have helped grow the state’s film scene.
The year-end awards presentation also puts Oklahoma in a national spotlight, says Phil Bacharach, editor of the Oklahoma Gazette, who served as the OFCC’s second president.
“It puts a level of attention on films that are distributed here that studios might not otherwise pay attention to,” he says.
In 2010, Jesse Eisenberg won OFCC’s best actor award for his performance in The Social Network, an accolade he mentioned on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.
“So you put out a press release in Oklahoma City, and next thing you know, it’s made it to Hollywood,” Lott says.
Get There: For more information on the Oklahoma Film Critics Circle, including awards for 2011, visit ofccircle.org.