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David Poland

By David Poland

Indie Spirit Nods

Why is it that the only real surprises at the Indy Spirit nominations (brought to you by Sony Pictures Classics this year) were what films qualified and what odd choices were made by committees to shoehorn things in?
The questions that emerge from this morning’s annoucements are, as usual, about the mainstream features that are in the mix and virtually guarenteed to win because of the ISA voting methods, which are open to anyone who joins FIND. As a result, the most popular choices almost always win. Unless Rachel Getting Married pulls off a big surprise, this will be the first year in many with no Oscar BP nominee in the Indie Spirit race.
This year, the big questions are, why is Hurt Locker (a great take on the Iraq War movie and a possible breakout for Summit when it is releaed in Spring 2009) in this year’s race? The simple answer is that it screened at Toronto and that is all that is required to be a nominee. But what possible value is there to anyone in having a film that no one will be able to see again until Sundance 2009 in a competition for last year’s best?
And that brings up the other big question… Milk is nominated for 4 awards, so it must have qualified… but no Picture or Director. Huh? Is the film being penalized by a committee for being at the center of a FIND controversy or alternatively, is it being left out because Focus doesn’t want to be a film that wins Saturday and loses on Sunday?
Of course, that bit of paranoia brings up why Vicky Cristina Barcelona isn’t up for BP or Director either.
In the end, I think that the choice was made to make the Indie Spirits as indie as possible with the foreknowledge that any mainstream movie in the big categories will win… which may also explain the exclusion of The Visitor, which already made its money.
Again, all love to Frozen River and Ballast and my beloved Rachel Getting Married. But I would love to get through one ISA nomination list without wondering why the puzzle pieces don’t seem to fit right.

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10 Responses to “Indie Spirit Nods”

  1. mutinyco says:

    The nominations follow precisely the whole neo-realism/social-realism hard-on the indie community has developed over the past year or so. Boring.
    BTW/ Variety had this funny typo: Dustin Lance, “Black Milk

  2. LYT says:

    Isn’t it possible to love the acting in Milk without thinking that the direction and production are among the year’s best?

  3. Agree, DP. Every year I see less and less great festival/small release films on the list and more and more sorta-indie big films. I mean, I get why they do it, they want the industry to give a shit about the ceremony. It’s the whole FIRST(!) mentality. Indie Spirit Awards were the FIRST(!) to nominate “Milk.” The FIRST(!) to nominate “Rachel getting Married.” Etc.
    But for an industry who sounded the death knell for “independent film” a few months ago, there’s sure alot of those DOA indie films all over this big industry event. And, I’m glad to see a few people I’ve met at festivals on there like Barry Jenkins and Lynn Shelton. But on the flipside, I wish those people and other peoples films had better representation within the big award categories.

  4. David Poland says:

    Yes, Luke… but for individuals more so than committees.

  5. yancyskancy says:

    Odd to me that The Visitor got nominated for practically everything except the categories in which it has the best Oscar nod chances – Actor and Sup. Actress.

  6. Dignan says:

    Jenkins was nominated for Male Lead. No screenplay nomination for McCarthy though. That’s a puzzler.

  7. yancyskancy says:

    Odd, I thought I doubled checked before I wrote that about Jenkins. Guess the eyes are going.
    Was Foot Fist Way eligible this year? I know it’s dated 2006. Not that Danny McBride had a chance, but that’s a heckuva performance.

  8. TMJ says:

    LYT –
    Absolutely. MILK is an actor’s showcase. Great work from Hirsch, Franco, Brolin and, of course, Penn. But why Van Sant needs to frame his actor’s in extreme close up (and leave Brolin at the bottom of his picture) is beyond me. Also, Tosca and the second appearance of Wheelchair Boy prevent MILK from being truly great (in my humble opinion).

  9. jeffmcm says:

    I’m not quite clear on why it’s considered odd that Vicky Cristina Barcelona isn’t on the list for Picture or Director except the obvious – that it was a good movie but not Top 5 good. What am I missing?
    Also, am I right that Slumdog isn’t on here because it’s not an American-made film?

  10. sloanish says:

    As long as Ballast wins, the puzzle will look just fine.

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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?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“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