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David Poland

By David Poland

Indie-ish Spirit

Let’s be clear from the start… I embrace all the movies that the Independent Spirit Awards have selected for their Best Feature award… and I am a little disgusted that an award for independent spirit has become, almost, a studios-only thing. Two for Focus, two for Searchlight, one for Roadside Attractions, which with its $6m-plus indie success with Winter’s Bone is “the outsider” in this group with the two surviving studio Dependents.

But hey, if you’re making your first feature or made a movie for under $500,000, you get to be part of this “independent” event as well.

Four of Five of the ISA nominees making the Oscar BP list, which is very possible, doesn’t signal the health of the indie business, but the failure of FIND to find a way to get serious about supporting truly independent film. With due respect, it has become a joke.

Can we really take The King’s Speech winning Best Foreign Film at an award’s show seriously?

So, here is your list of Indie Spirit winners, to be given out a couple of nights before the Oscars…

Black Swan
James Franco
Natalie Portman or Nicole Kidman
Dale Dickey for Winter’s Bone
Can’t call Sppt Actor – could be Hawkes, Murray, or Ruffalo
Darren Aronofsky
Debra Granik, Anne Rosellini or Stuart Blumberg, Lisa Cholodenko for Screenplay
Matthew Libatique
Exit Through the Gift Shop

And congratulations to Lena Dunham for winning Best First Screenplay and probably the Best First Feature award… unless the profile of Get Low take over that Best First Feature vote.

Again, I don’t want to be unkind to the many deserving people that have been nominated for an award this morning. Awards are nice. I am thrilled that Black Swan is going to get some statues, with Portman and Libatique the only ones likely to be in serious competition to win on Sunday night. I want all the recognition for Get Low that it can have, even if the the feature nominating committee preferred Greenberg in every way, even making a sixth slot in Best Actress so it could get Greta Gerwig in… and not Julianne Moore… and not any of them dang foreigners that The American Independent Spirit Award ignores no matter what their contribution each year.

Couldn’t FIND create an award for the middle class of indie… maybe films that won’t ever be on 1000 screens or more. Keep the Show Us The Money awards if you need to… Dick Clark Productions – Creator of the Golden Globes myth – would not like it if you pulled them.

You know, the day (or night) at the beach is a lot of fun. It is another large gathering of people who work around each other all year long, year after year, and a pre-Oscar reunion for all of us who trudge through the award season. FIND dredges up the same crew, with some annual variations for new FIND insiders, to do their nominations, year after year, and then leaves it open to a voting group that has no qualifications except for the money to buy a pass to a bunch of “free” screenings, turning it from a vote of the insider elite to a popularity contest. Weak play on both sides of that equation.

It wouldn’t much matter, except that indie really needs the support right now. And unless you are one of the Chosen Ones, you won;’t get that from FIND at the Indie Spirits.

There is nothing quite as sad as a great earned opportunity (what FIND has built in the ISAs) turned into another brick in the wall. But I guess I shouldn’t use that metaphor… The Wall would not qualify for an ISA, except as a Foreign Film.

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16 Responses to “Indie-ish Spirit”

  1. So how about you pick your personal 5 nominees from this ignored middle class.

  2. Don R. Lewis says:

    I love the indie spirit awards for their *sorta* opposite-of-the-Oscars stance (“unheralded” films, no speech cut offs, drinking, swearing, new faces, funny intros) but yeah. These nominees don’t make a ton of sense in a true indie spirit kind of way. And, not to be a dick, does any indie spirit award winner ever use their award to open their film wider or sell more DVD’s?

    If something like DADDY LONG LEGS or LOVERS OF HATE won best indie picture, it would be a huge help. When RABBIT HOLE wins it, they’ll all be happy that day and push right on past to the bigger event that matters more the next night. RABBIT HOLE won’t put “winner of the indie spirit award for best picture” on their posters or DVD’s. At least I doubt it and have never seen it before.

    So I guess my point (and I guess maybe sorta DP’s also) is….why bother to bring these high profile indies together for nominations? While I enjoy the show and enjoy seeing friends and colleagues get nominated, the big films still sweep.

    Buuuut….who aside from film festival folks and filmmakers would watch a “low tier” of indies award show? I mean, it’s practically impossible to get people to show up for awards ceremonies at smaller film fests, where would you even have these awards and who would go?

  3. Joe Leydon says:

    Excuse me, but no Best Actor nomination for Robert Duvall?

  4. Samuel Deter says:

    Maybe… just maybe… these films are actually the best indies out there. Or what? because Nicole Kidman produced and stars in Rabbit hole the film is suddenly too “high profile”? But if Melissa Leo had starred it in, oh then, it would be ok?

    So for that matter replace James Franco for Brian Geraghty, Natalie Portman for Greta Gerwig and Greta Gerwig for a more obscure actress and congratulations everyone! Let’s celebrate Independent Cinema!!!

  5. David Poland says:

    Samuel –

    Rabbit Hole is actually one of the least iffy choices… and btw, not nominated for Best Picture, apparently in lieu of Greenberg. In Best Director, Greenberg director Noah Baumbach was out and John Cameron Mitchell was in.

    And my problem isn’t with the choices, but the concept. The show has become a studio event – as Searchlight and Focus are studio-based businesses with studio oversight and big budgets for “indie” – and busily mimics the Oscars while narrowing the definition of what “indie” is to American product that has either been the most heavily sold or the least heavily sold.

    And while we all whine about how corrupt National Board of Review and The Golden Globes’ 84 member vote is, ISA’s are nominated by 13 people… in a closed room… and the entire group is made up of FIND family.

    But yeah, these might be the best 5 indie films.

  6. Joe Leydon says:

    I’m sorry, I still can’t get over the Robert Duvall snub. Not to take anything away from the fellows who did get nominated, but WTF?

  7. David Poland says:

    Craig… I don’t want to make it about my taste. And I don’t want to tear down those who are nominated. I don’t think it’s fair to piss in personal corn flakes, but I think it is fundamental to be straight-forward about institutional flaws.

    But Oscilloscope had 6 non-doc releases this year… and got two nods, 1 Foreign Film and 1 Cassevetes.

    Magnolia’s 3 biggest grossers were not Made In the USA.

    Strand doesn’t exist at ISA.

    IFC’s 8th and 19th most popular films of 2010 got nominations.

    Greenberg has as many nominations as Sony Classics. And most of those SPC nods are for a film by a FIND insider.

    So yeah… the biggest budgeted “indies” have the vast majority of the significant nominations. And the rest of the “indie” world, with the exception of a few anointed, barely exist.

    Is this representative of Indie 2010 and what we hope is indie in the future?

  8. David, I didn’t necessarily want to you to make it about your taste either and I know you meant no harm against the actual nominees. It’s just that I’m pretty ok with these choices. They’re low hanging fruit, but they’re tasty for the most part.

    Plus, I think the choices would have a different appeal if Oscar didn’t hog 10 nominees which will likely include 4 of the above.

    Sure, there’s probably a middle between the Cassavetes award and the Best Feature contenders, but how much attention are you going to draw to these films if you don’t include stuff like The Kids Are All Right?

    FIND seems to be stuck in this uncomfortable middle ground made all the more uncomfortable by the expansion of Oscar. They can go truly indie and remain a below radar niche, or they can go more mainstream and get some attention.

    Is it truly representative of “indie” ? No probably not.

  9. David Poland says:

    This problem existed for years before the 10. Ironically, this year’s list is actually even more overloaded with wider-release product than usual. Most of the time, there is at least one title coming from a smaller indie.

    I have no problem with most of these titles either. And I am not saying that FIND should not recognize them. But I would be a lot happier if the casts of these five films came to the show to be honored and to honor up-and-coming talent rather than for it to be Baby Oscar.

    I would love it if I could experience the ISAs, in the room or at home, and feel like I had really dipped into what the year in indie was all about. Instead, things are more insular then The Oscars with rules that are significantly less open to something unusual happening… like a doc or foreign language film for Best Picture… like a film that wasn’t the most popular in a group winning an award.

    Hand Danny Boyle an award and let’s spend the time on who Danny Boyle sees coming up behind him… or who Darren Araonofsky is excited about in micro-budget… or spin from Black Swan to Mesrine and Beautiful Girls. Let’s acknowledge The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and it’s counterparts that have caused such a stir. Let’s fucking embrace Carlos and get a taste of Haynes’ Mildred Pierce as a special moment in the day, discussing a new way great indie voices are working, in long form.

  10. LexG says:

    Did KUNIS get a Special Award for Sexiest Back Tattoo Ever?



  11. hcat says:

    unloved or unseen?
    its absence begs my question
    of Where is Somewhere?

  12. Peter says:

    Is there any reason why Carlos is not nominated for Indie Spirit Award? Is it because of the movie showing on Sundance channel and for French TV? I know about the rule for the Oscar, but I can’t never tell with the Indie Spirits.

  13. Samuel Deter says:

    David, I see your point now. I agree.

    Also, I just read the Oscar roundtable. I can’t actually believe Bona said this…

    “Now days, high schoolers, college kids and adults are flocking to cartoons and, even worse, supposedly serious film critics are treating these things as if they were real movies. It’s disheartening.”

    I wonder what Brad Bird has to say about it hehe

  14. francisco flores says:

    Not saying this is a good idea, but I believe there are eligibility rules that prevent the ISA nomination of pictures whose financing is primarily from non-U.S. sources (e.g., CARLOS).

  15. John says:

    Why are the Independent Spirit Awards listing their nominations so far in advance of the actual ceremony? It seems like releasing the noms in November for a February 26th event seems either premature or designed solely to get heat for other award shows.

    That being said, the horror fan in me loves that THE LAST EXORCISM was nominated for two awards.

  16. cadavra says:

    Okay, here’s my simple solution. If your film is picked up by either a studio dependent (Focus, Searchlight, SPC) or a large indie (Lionsgate, Summit), you’re disqualified. The loss of a couple of awards is a more than fair trade-off for the opportunity of playing hundreds, perhaps 1000+ screens, not to mention increased chances of Oscar nominations.

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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