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Kim Voynar

By Kim Voynar

Random Thoughts: Of Oscars and Indies

I’m not crazy about the news of Anne Hathaway and James Franco co-hosting the Oscars. Like them both as actors, they’re both smart and certainly capable of being funny, though the SNL hosting history doesn’t impress me as much as it seems to have impressed most everyone else. SNL and Oscars are two completely different animals.

For me, the Oscars host (or hosts) just really needs to be someone who’s primarily a comedian. Someone who’s capable of walking that line between being funny and pushing the star-studded crowd to the very brink of not being sure if it’s okay to laugh at themselves or not. Hugh Jackman was an exception — he’s such a natural live performer that he pulled it off pretty well.

I really liked Steve Martin and Billy Crystal as Oscar hosts, and my pick for this round would have been Tina Fey. But so it goes. I do agree with what David wrote on the Hot Blog about the importance of the writing, especially with two people are are actors and not stand-up comedians in the hot seat. And I’m very much on the fence about the appropriateness of having a likely nominee as a host.

As for the show itself — longer, shorter, no performances of songs, more songs, show the shorts, don’t show them … whatever. Honestly, whatever they do, someone’s going to bitch about it. It is what it is: Hollywood’s big self-congratulatory back-patting fest that’s gotten overgrown in significance as if we’re talking about the Nobel Peace Prize or something.

It’s a nice excuse for everyone to get dressed up and show off the latest gorgeous dresses and be asked who designed their dress and loaned them a million dollars in jewelry. It’s nice to celebrate the movies, and honor those films and performances that were a cut above the mean, sure. And if it helps a film like Winter’s Bone or Inside Job or The Kids Are All Right get a bigger box office take at the end of the day, well, huzzah.


Speaking of indie films …

I’m not sure what the point is of the Independent Spirit Awards anymore. I know and respect many of the nominating committee members, but this year’s noms felt even more predictable and pre-Ocar than usual to me.

Admittedly, there are actually quite a few actual indies on the overall nominations list. But the Best Feature Noms are heavy on the studio-indie labels and otherwise predictable. Ditto with the Best Director nominees. You have to dig down to “Best First Feature” to get to films like Get Low and and Tiny Furniture. And I dunno, “Best First Anything” always sounds to me a bit like “E for Effort.” You were good enough to be a “Best … for a newbie” but not a “Best-best.”

If you burrow all the way down to the John Cassavetes Award you get to what should really be the meat of the ISAs: films like Daddy LongLegs and The Exploding Girl and Lovers of Hate (kind of surprised Trash Humpers isn’t on the list for this one, actually). Then we have Screenplay and “Best First Screenplay” (see above rant under “Best First Feature,” later rinse repeat) and then a slew of mostly predictable, likely Oscar-nom heavy acting nominations. Ronald Bronstein’s a nice surprise there, and some nice noms for Mother and Child and Get Low. And glad to see Jennifer Lawrence get some recognition as she’s likely to get screwed when it comes to Oscars, but other than that, meh.

As for Best Foreign. Well. Biutiful, for me, is notably absent, as is Father of My Children. And if we’re going to have The King’s Speech as a Best Foreign nom and not Best Feature (really?), well, where the hell is Mike Leigh and Another Year? And where’s Lesley Manville in the acting noms? Happy for Greta Gerwig and all, but Manville’s performance in Another Year is one of the best of this year, period.

No real complaints about the doc nominees, nice to see both Sweetgrass and the under-appreciated Thunder Soul in there. But I’d have liked to see The Way We Live on there, even if it is Oscar-shortlisted. And it would have been nice to toss a little love to the Joan Rivers doc.

Maybe what the ISAs really need to do is break down their Feature awards not by “Best” and “Best First” but by budget, or studio-financed versus truly indie, or something. Give more of the smaller, low budget films without the money to buy a lot of promotion and schmoozing a shot.

For my money, the nonfiction Cinema Eye Awards are more about indie film than the Spirits. Look at the Cinema Eye nominees for “Outstanding Achievement in Nonfiction Feature Filmmaking. 2011 marks the fourth year of the Cinema Eye Awards, and every year they’ve had a pretty excellent slate of nominees. Not necessarily the biggest moneymakers, but most assuredly some of the best made docs of their years.

This is what the independent film world needs more of: an opportunity for well-crafted films with tiny budgets to have some recognition. Less emphasis on luring celebs and televising the event, more focus on the art of independent film. That’s what I’d like to see, anyhow.

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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