Siskel Center director talks ‘Hollywood on State’ fundraiser, Oscar predictions

Gene Siskel Film Center’s Executive Director Jean de St Aubin is set to kick of their Oscar party fundraiser (Hollywood on State) on March 4th. For more information, visit and read below for de St Aubin’s thoughts on this year’s Oscar nominations and organization of the film critics panel.

Stephanie A. Taylor (SAT): How was the panel organized?

Jean de St Aubin (JdSA): We’ve done this for six or seven years now. Every year we choose five critics and a moderator and we like them to share their thoughts on the nominations. We always do it on the day when the Oscar nominations are announced.

SAT: Is there a specific strategy as to how the panelists and moderators are chosen?

JdSA: We want to make sure that we have a variety of perspectives and a range of people on the panel. We try to change it up a little bit every year. We also look at critics who review our work a lot during the year, who are familiar with the film center.

SAT: Are you rooting for any particular films this year?

JdSA: I really liked The Shape of Water. For Best Picture, I really believe it’s between Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and The Shape of Water. I felt Three Billboards was a little bit over-the-top, especially when she started firebombing the police station. And The Shape of Water was just beautiful. It was fantastical. There were villains. There were Russian spies, there was love. To me, it was more of a complete film.

SAT: Who are you rooting for as far as best actress goes?

JdSA: I think Frances will win. I would like Sally Hawkins to win. She did an amazing role without ever speaking a word. And that takes real skill.

SAT: What are your thoughts of Greta Gerwig being nominated for Best Director?

JdSA: Well, I think when there are more women directing movies, there will be more women in that category. We’re not there yet. The interesting thing in the best directing category is there are two men of color and one woman out of five. That’s not too bad. But, once we don’t have to ask that question then we’ll know we made progress. But as long as someone’s the first, the fifth or the only we haven’t really gotten to where we need to be.

SAT: You were telling me that the panelists were pick based on who reviews mostly from the Gene Siskel Film Center. Is that correct?

JdSA: It’s not 100 percent that, but it helps. Especially with our audience who like to talk about the documentaries, animated and foreign films. Many of those films are screened here. It helps when critics are familiar with our work. This event is kind of a kickoff for our Oscar party. It’s our big fundraiser, Hollywood on State. You’re watching the Oscars on the big screen, March 4.

SAT: Tell me a little bit more about that.

JdSA: We’ve been hosting this party for about 16 years. And it has morphed into this great event where we have various restaurants doing tasting venues. We have champagne, Tito’s Vodka and beer. We have the telecast in both of our theaters and we have big monitors in our gallery cafe. We have a red carpet, and people get dressed up. This year we’re doing something a little bit different because so many people say they like to stay at home in pajamas and watch the Oscars. So this year we’re encouraging people to wear vintage lounge wear, so they can be comfy.

SAT: But usually it’s black tie, right?

JdSA: Yeah people can still come in cocktail or Hollywood glam. But putting on a smoking jacket, that’s just fine.

© Stephanie A. Taylor (2/2/18) FF2 Media

Photo: Crowd at Gene Siskel Film Center for 2018 Oscar Nominations Panel

Photo Credit: Brigid Presecky

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Stephanie A. Taylor is a multi-award-winning journalist whose accolades span three publications including FF2. Some of her favorite articles she's written are Emma Cooper’s ‘The Mystery of Marilyn Monroe: The Lost Tapes, FACETS Honors Chaz Ebert F2F at Screen Gems 2022 Benefit, and Dorothy Arzner’s ‘Merrily We Go to Hell’ Discusses Modern Day Problems. She currently lives in Chicago. Reading, writing, and watching old films are some of her many passions.
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