The First (Maybe) Annual Effie Awards – Errol Flynn Filmhouse, Northampton, 21st June 2014

Errol Flynn FilmhouseCan you believe it’s been a year since the Errol Flynn Filmhouse first opened its sumptuous auditorium to the cinemagoers of Northampton? It certainly changed how Mrs Chrisparkle and I think of cinema. No more those tacky venues that masquerade as candy stores designed to sell you a plastic bucket of coke, a basket of hotdogs and hamburgers, and a suitcase of popcorn, with the occasional cinema ticket thrown in for good measure. No more limiting yourself to American yoof “comedies”, blood ‘n’ guts horror-thrillers, and mainstream Hollywood blockbusters. The Errol Flynn provides us with somewhere in the centre of town that offers a wide range of films from all over the world designed to make you think, make you see life in a different way, and to give you some alternatives to the usual movie titles that monopolise every multiplex across the land.

First Effie AwardsAnd they treat you like adults too. Reclining leather seats, first class sound and picture systems, a quality choice of food and drink, with small tables to the side of each seat to place your real glass of wine or beer, or proper cup of tea or coffee. No wonder that the cinema has the honour of being Northamptonshire’s No 1 attraction on Trip Advisor.

First EffiesTo mark its first anniversary, regular customers were asked to vote in the first Effie Awards, to select the favourite films shown over the past twelve months in a number of categories. And on Saturday morning there was a star-studded ceremony (even if all the stars attending were only on screen rather than in person) to celebrate and announce the awards. So whilst we knocked back our Bucks Fizzes and nibbled at our Errol Flynn cupcakes, we were welcomed by our Master of Ceremonies, the Royal and Derngate’s Chief Executive, Martin Sutherland, and in turn he introduced several R&D/EF colleagues, who were holders of exciting-looking golden envelopes, to come forward to reveal the winners in each category.

12 Years A SlaveThe first category was Best of the Biggest Selling Films, and this was the category in which I had seen the majority of the nominees. I had voted for Behind the Candelabra, but, perhaps unsurprisingly, the winner was 12 Years A Slave, and it’s hard to deny this was an extraordinary film, albeit not an easy watch. Steve McQueen and the team were sadly unable to be there, but I’m sure they’ll be thrilled with the award to go alongside their Oscars. After each award was presented, we watched the official trailer for the film, as you can do now if you like:

It's A Wonderful LifeThe next category was Best Classic Film, and from a choice of notable black and white favourites, the winner was It’s A Wonderful Life, much to the delight of many in the audience. James Stewart was unable to be there to accept his award, for several reasons. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen this film, but watching the trailer reminded me of why it remains such a favourite.

Twenty Feet From StardomMoving on to the Best Documentary Film, and again agreeing with this year’s Oscar committee, the Effie went to 20 Feet From Stardom, which I haven’t seen but looked really entertaining in the trailer. It’s a look at those unknown backing singers who have supported the world’s most famous and best-loved music stars, and an understanding of their role in creating definitive performances and recordings.

War Horse The next category was Best Live Event. Not only does the Errol Flynn show a wide range of films, but it’s also noted for its NT Live/RSC live relays, where you can see a live theatrical, opera or ballet performance from anywhere in the world, almost as if you were there. We’ve not attended one of these yet, which is a sin of omission on our part – unfortunately they tend to start at 7pm which is just a bit early for us. Still, one day we will. Also considered for this category was the EF’s live Eurovision night, bringing the camp glamour of the Beloved Contest to the big screen and an excuse for a party. But the winner in this category was the NT Live presentation of War Horse, a production we still haven’t seen, but which hopefully will be touring in the near future.

Stranger by the LakeThen there was an award for the Best Film or Documentary Not in the English Language. I hadn’t seen any of the contenders, but the winner was the intriguing looking Stranger By The Lake, a French thriller that had been shown as part of the EF’s regular LGBT film club, Q-Film.

Inside Llewyn DavisThey had a category called Best Under The Radar Film – this category covers all those niche movies that could never commercially sustain a long run in Northampton but which really put the Art into Arthouse. Again, I hadn’t seen the winner – Inside Llewyn Davis – but it looks a complete treat from the trailer. Definitely need to catch this one.

PhilomenaThe final category was simply to select the Errol Flynn audiences’ favourite film of the year, and with some fantastic runners-up, the winner was Philomena – which again we haven’t seen although we really wanted to; every time it was shown we always had other commitments! Nevertheless, having seen the trailer again it really whetted our appetite to see it.

So there you have it, this year’s Effie awards, and the winners represent a very wide range of talent and achievement that’s both representative of the film industry as a whole and a credit to the Errol Flynn and the good taste of its audiences. It’s a bit late for New Year’s Resolutions – but a Mid Year Resolution for us should be to see more films! And I can’t think of a better place to see them.

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