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David Poland

By David Poland

Indie World Domination?

Today, the IFP New York announced that its Gotham Awards – which used to actually be attached to an event on the indie film calendar, IFP’s NY Market – will be moving into the awards season with a Dec 1 awards show in New York.

Meanwhile, IFP West, which runs the Independent Spirit Awards, will announce their nominations, despite a near-three-month holding pattern until the actual awards, just the day before, on November 30.

So tell me… when did the renegades turn into a bunch of gussied up street walkin’ attention whores?

Make no mistake, critics groups across the land are happy to bend over deeply to take on a few celebrities at their various celebrations. Virgins are not roaming the awards landscape. But this is so overt! And combined with the notion that this is about celebrating the independent spirit… well, this is the independent spirit that led Harvey Weinstein into the $100 million movie business. And if that is what IFP wants to be about, they, like Harvey, will have to deal with a whole lot of serious competition.

The irony, of course, is that the Independent Spirit Awards have traditionally been an Oscar-chance killer, not a positive influencer. Academy members, like normal people, see that someone is getting their due and tend to look to other worthy people to support who have not yet been given the accolades of their peers.

What are the good folks at Focus Features thinking, putting Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind into the “Special Award” slot at the newly front-whor… uh, front-running Gotham Awards that their 21 Grams had last year at the Indie Spirits… which was one small factor in the film essentially tanking at the Oscars… nominations for Naomi Watts and Benecio del Toro, but not for the director or the screenplay, which was outgunned in the campaign by Dirty Pretty Things and Finding Nemo… two excellent scripts that should have easily been outgunned by 21 Grams.

Jim Carrey gives a sensational performance in Eternal Sunshine… award worthy. But is a nomination on Tuesday and a “special award” on Wednesday the road right to ScorseseVille, circa 2002?

Likewise, will Don Cheadle, who IFP is clearly hoping will be launched into – or be perceived as having been launched into – an Oscar nomination by being their Gotham Actor Award recipient, make the cut or be put on the shelf for having already been feted “enough” for his practically-every-frame Hotel Rwanda star turn?

And what is the IFP going to do for the rest of the independents that cost more than $16 million? How many films are going to start lying about their price tags in order to make that dubious cut? (I know of one film that seems to be leaning that way and may destroy its now-very-real Oscar chances by trying to have it both ways… even though its price tag is on the record in publication after publication.)

Of course, IFP already fails to recognize foreign language films outside of the foreign language category. Who do they represent? And why are they leading the way to the Hollywood mainstream when the mainstreaming of the indie business seems to be leading to a real crisis of purpose?

Does Dawn Hudson really want to be the Jack Valenti of indie?

I hope not. I have great respect for Valenti and what he’s done for the business, but he was there to do something for The Business, not to be the ambassador of film that was always his charming façade. When indies go that way, are they really going to be indies anymore?

I have a definite philosophy when it comes to these things… go where everyone else is not. The IFP has the platform to make a real difference for small films, but they seem so anxious to play with the big boys that they become just another log on a bunch of already raging fires. What is the point of that?

I love Lost in Translation… I am thrilled that Shohreh and Djimon got awards from someone… but if the Indie Spirits are to be the sandy kid sister of the Academy Awards, who is really going to care?

And though everyone will wander over to watch what’s up at The Gotham Awards this December 1 (like Christmas music in September), IFP seems comfortable becoming the Paris Hilton of industry events… no institutional memory of why the attention is so valuable and can be so useful… just a craving for it, no matter what you have to do and who is videotaping it.

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9 Responses to “Indie World Domination?”

  1. Sidney Fistow says:

    Dawn Hudson is not behind this. She has no control over what IFP New York does. This is purely Michelle Byrd’s doing. In the past Byrd has focussed much more on actively helping indie filmmakers while Hudson spends 12 months of the year trying on dresses for the awards. Perhaps Byrd needs more lustre to help fund her org’s altruistic efforts. It would be interesting to know how this played out behind the scenes btw. Hudson and Byrd since I’m sure Hudson doesn’t want to Spirits diluted by her more noble and righteous East Coast sister.

  2. Mark says:

    Don Cheadle deserves it.

  3. who cares says:

    Does anyone really pay attention to the Indie Spirit Awards? It’s a shameless circle jerk of poseurs and hypocrites rubbing each other under a tent on the beach. If a tsunami wave were to wipe it out would anyone even notice?

  4. bicycle bob says:

    no one except dave
    and the mothers of the under funded talent

  5. Mark says:

    Indies have gotten a bad rap lately. Its a shame.

  6. who cares says:

    The films that find themselves under the tent in Santa Monica are usually not what any sane person would qualify as ‘indie.’ A movie like ‘ETERNAL SUNSHINE’ does not get made without the deep pockets of a multinational corporation funding it. What’s so ‘indie’ about that?

  7. Mark says:

    Well, its not studio money. Thats indie.

  8. who cares says:

    mark, what do you mean, Universal money isn’t studio money?

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

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“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon