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David Poland

By David Poland

On The Indie Spirit Awards…

Very happy for Paul Giamatti.

Consider this as you will… every single category that had an Oscar nominee in it was won by the Oscar nominee. (5 for Sideways, Doc – Born Into Brothels, Foreign Language – The Sea Inside… even Motorcycle Diaries for cinematography)

Even with Giamatti’s win… no Oscar noninated competition, unless you include Jamie Foxx for the TV movie that snuck into an ISA nom. None of the five docs were Oscar nominated. The only two Oscar-on-Oscar competitions were the screenplay of Sideways vs Before Sunset and foreign language candidate Yesterday vs. The Sea Inside.

What does this say about these awards?

And what can IFP LA do about this? After all, the big names drive the fame of the show. But are they doing anything good for independent movies here?

12 Responses to “On The Indie Spirit Awards…”

  1. Warren says:

    The opposite of something you do not respect is not necessarily respectable by just being its opposite. That fundamental fact seems to be lost with the IFP awards. If the so-called commercial films are hung up on comic books, gross comedies and sequels, then what America would see watching this award show is that indpendent films exists in an equally small world of human experience: drugs, slackers and self-absorbed people. What is Sidways but the same characters from Will and Grace in their mid-forties and in wine country? We movie goers who yearn for a bigger world can feel let down by both.
    The clothes is a perfect symbol. Just because you are wearing your dress downs (which probably cost more than my dress ups) does not make you more real. Except for the kid from Mean Creek, have you ever heard a worst group of acceptance speeches in your life? They made the Oscars look … well, golden. Please do not give the director of Mean Creek an award ever again … I do not think I could take another one of his I-can-be-just-as-assine-as-a-commerical-film person rant again.
    There are so many issues, so many characters and so many stories that neither commerical or indpedent are touching. They both seem dedicated to just splashing about in their limtied wading pools.
    The smugness of the IFP occasion is not a superior step forward from the pretentiousness of the Oscar boy. In fact, it is more annoying.

  2. lazarus says:

    Why be so happy for Paul Giamatti? Because his award thumbs its nose at the Oscar? I hate to break it to you, but Giamatti’s performance was NOT better than Jeff Bridges’. Where’s the outrage at Bridges not getting recognized with an Oscar nomination? From a slightly more subjective position, I’d argue Liam Neeson’s performance was better as well. Yet all we hear is Giamatti, Giamatti, Giamatti. Just because Sideways was nominated for a bunch of other stuff doesn’t automatically qualify it for something else. This was a VERY tough year for the Lead Actor category, and before shedding tears for Paul we should weep for Javier Bardem, who did work better than most Oscar WINNING performers in the past. I haven’t seen The Woodsman, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Bacon was a better choice too.
    You want to be happy for someone, how about Zach Braff? Garden State winning best first feature may finally silence some of the people that think Napoleon Dynamite was actually a film of merit. Thank god the Spirit awards recognized someone with actual directing & writing talent, and didn’t just pick the trendy success story.
    And I know this is going back to an old argument, but I’m still going to strongly disagree with Alexander Payne for best director. I would have rather seen Walter Salles take that prize for his beautiful film, which may not have had as good of a screenplay as Sideways but really stuck with me. Hell, I’d prefer Bill Condon, who wasn’t even nominated.
    Do you think there would be anything wrong with waiting until AFTER the oscar nominations are announced to decide on the Independent Spirit nominees? I really feel that if you’re in the running for the big prizes, you should be disqualified for these awards. I thought the whole point was to recognize stuff that didn’t get a chance to compete in the big dance. Indies have finally been able to break through, so take it down another notch and look at more films/actors/writers who haven’t. Lost and Translation winning and now Sideways just makes the whole thing seem like a bitter second-guessing of the Oscar choices, which is really lame. Besides, Sofia Coppola didn’t go home empty handed at the Oscars last year, and Payne/Taylor probably won’t this year. Spread the love.

  3. KamikazeCamel says:

    The IFP awards were a crock this year. Seriously! The fact that Sideways cost $16mil is beyond the point. The fact that they all but ignored movies such as Before Sunset was mind-boggling. Why does Jamie Foxx get a Best Actor nomination for a non-theatrically released TV movie?
    And, yeah, I don’t really see why everyone was so horrorfied that Paul Giamatti missed out on an Oscar nom. Why is he so more special over Jim Carrey or Jeff Bridges who all gave career best work…?
    At least Last year’s Lost In Translation only cost something like $5mil.

  4. Sandy says:

    So good for Giamatti, but really, I agree that Bardem, Neeson, etc. all gave better performances. The majority of critics who voted for Sideways to win everything became warped with disappointment that Giamatti didn’t make the shortlist for Oscar. It’s as if it was the biggest snub in history the way these critics STILL carry on.

  5. KamikazeCamel says:

    Yeah, and we all know the biggest Oscar snub OF ALL TIME was the befuddling exclusion of Collateral from the Best Cinematography catagory. What’s up with that…?

  6. L&DB says:

    Uh, it’s a tedious bore of a film. That might be
    the reason they ignored Collateral. While I am
    glad Giamatti at least has something to display
    in his lue. Those awards are just a joke. Ignoring
    independent films in lue of DEPENDENT films remains
    one hell of a mystery. Of course no one can really
    determine what the hell “indie” has become. So
    verklempt might be the right word for these awards.
    Tomorrow night, may Oscar voters rise up against
    coordinated boxers bipping themselves on benches!

  7. Gizmo says:

    I agree with the comment about Jeff Bridges. That was an amazing performance in “The Door in the Floor,” maybe a little too nuanced for mass consumption. I don’t know. I can’t figure it out besides the fact that the performance was better than the film. I still stand by it being the best piece of acting all year by anyone.
    And I totally agree with the person who said that “Collateral” was slighted for Best Cinematography. Anyone who knows how they shot that film and what they achieved using basically untested technology understands. A real risk that paid off and it is disheartening that the movie got overlooked in this way.

  8. The reason the Spirit Awards have become the People’s Choice Awards of the Indie set is their method of voting. Anyone can join IFP, as long as they pay the membership dues. I myself joined one year when I was in college – thanks to the student discount, it was quite affordable.
    And I voted. I tried as hard as I could to see all the nominated films, but without screeners and with many of the smaller films barely given a release (even here in Los Angeles) – if they weren’t available on Netflix yet, I couldn’t see them all. I’m sure I wasn’t alone. And thus, the movies that the most people see are the ones most likely to get votes, and the movies with Oscar nominations are the ones most likely to have been seen. It’s sad, but true.
    As much as it pains me to say as a fan of democracy, the IFP doesn’t need to restrict the films that can be considered, they need to restrict their electorate, like the Academy. Their nomination process allows for some very diverse, very independent films to receive recognition – the next step does not.
    Oh, and did anybody else notice that nominee Jamie Foxx failed to show up today? I’m sure he’s in town. Does he only go to award shows where he knows he’s gonna win?

  9. Joe Leydon says:

    OK, Dave: Are you gonna set up a new thread so we can swap and share comments throughout the Oscarcast while you’re off at Paris Hilton’s party?

  10. Mark says:

    Paul G should have been Oscar nominated. But hes getting more press for being snubbed. Maybe he’ll get best supporting for Cinderella Man.

  11. Bunny Wailer says:

    Even long after the fact, IFP-LA’s decision to totally snub “Super Size Me” bewilders to no end.

  12. snoop says:

    Giametti was snubbed for Big Mamas House. Fizzack ze osgars.

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This is probably going to sound petty, but Martin Scorsese insisting that critics see his film in theaters even though it’s going straight to Netflix and then not screening it in most American cities was a watershed moment for me in this theatrical versus streaming debate.

I completely respect when a filmmaker insists that their movie is meant to be seen in the theater, but the thing is, you got to actually make it possible to see it in the theater. Some movies may be too small for that, and that’s totally OK.

When your movie is largely financed by a streaming service and is going to appear on that streaming service instantly, I don’t really see the point of pretending that it’s a theatrical film. It just seems like we are needlessly indulging some kind of personal fantasy.

I don’t think that making a feature film length production that is going to go straight to a video platform is some sort of “step down.“ I really don’t. Theatrical exhibition as we know it is dying off anyway, for a variety of reasons.

I should clarify myself because this thread is already being misconstrued — I’m talking about how the movie is screened in advance. If it’s going straight to Netflix, why the ritual of demanding people see it in the theater?

There used to be a category that everyone recognized called “TV movie” or “made for television movie” and even though a lot of filmmakers considered that déclassé, it seems to me that probably 90% of feature films fit that description now.

Atlantis has mostly sunk into the ocean, only a few tower spires remain above the waterline, and I’m increasingly at peace with that, because it seems to be what the industry and much of the audience wants. We live in an age of convenience and information control.

Only a very elite group of filmmakers is still allowed to make movies “for theaters“ and actually have them seen and judged that way on a wide scale. Even platform releasing seems to be somewhat endangered. It can’t be fought. It has to be accepted.

9. Addendum: I’ve been informed that it wasn’t Scorsese who requested that the Bob Dylan documentary only be screened for critics in theaters, but a Netflix representative indicated the opposite to me, so I just don’t know what to believe.

It’s actually OK if your film is not eligible for an Oscar — we have a thing called the Emmys. A lot of this anxiety is just a holdover from the days when television was considered culturally inferior to theatrical feature films. Everybody needs to just get over it.

In another 10 to 20 years they’re probably going to merge the Emmys in the Oscars into one program anyway, maybe they’ll call it the Contentys.

“One of the fun things about seeing the new Quentin Tarantino film three months early in Cannes (did I mention this?) is that I know exactly why it’s going to make some people furious, and thus I have time to steel myself for the takes.

Back in July 2017, when it was revealed that Tarantino’s next project was connected to the Manson Family murders, it was condemned in some quarters as an insulting and exploitative stunt. We usually require at least a fig-leaf of compassion for the victims in true-crime adaptations, and even Tarantino partisans like myself – I don’t think he’s made a bad film yet – found ourselves wondering how he might square his more outré stylistic impulses with the depiction of a real mass murder in which five people and one unborn child lost their lives.

After all, it’s one thing to slice off with gusto a fictional policeman’s ear; it’s quite another to linger over the gory details of a massacre that took place within living memory, and which still carries a dread historical significance.

In her essay The White Album, Joan Didion wrote: “Many people I know in Los Angeles believe that the Sixties ended abruptly on August 9, 1969, ended at the exact moment when word of the murders on Cielo Drive traveled like brushfire through the community, and in a sense this is true.”

Early in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, as Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt’s characters drive up the hill towards Leo’s bachelor pad, the camera cranes up gently to reveal a street sign: Cielo Drive. Tarantino understands how charged that name is; he can hear the Molotov cocktails clinking as he shoulders the crate.

As you may have read in the reviews from Cannes, much of the film is taken up with following DiCaprio and Pitt’s characters – a fading TV actor and his long-serving stunt double – as they amusingly go about their lives in Los Angeles, while Margot Robbie’s Sharon Tate is a relatively minor presence. But the spectre of the murders is just over the horizon, and when the night of the 9th finally arrives, you feel the mood in the cinema shift.

No spoilers whatsoever about what transpires on screen. But in the audience, as it became clear how Tarantino was going to handle this extraordinarily loaded moment, the room soured and split, like a pan of cream left too long on the hob. I craned in, amazed, but felt the person beside me recoil in either dismay or disgust.

Two weeks on, I’m convinced that the scene is the boldest and most graphically violent of Tarantino’s career – I had to shield my eyes at one point, found myself involuntarily groaning “oh no” at another – and a dead cert for the most controversial. People will be outraged by it, and with good reason. But in a strange and brilliant way, it takes Didion’s death-of-the-Sixties observation and pushes it through a hellfire-hot catharsis.

Hollywood summoned up this horror, the film seems to be saying, and now it’s Hollywood’s turn to exorcise it. I can’t wait until the release in August, when we can finally talk about why.

~ Robbie Collin