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Kim Voynar

By Kim Voynar

The First! Crix Awards and (yawn) Indie Spirit Nominations

Been pondering and Facebook posting about this all morning while waiting out the world’s longest dental appointment for my four kids, so now that I’m finally home and ensconced under a warm blankie and a cuppa tea, I thought I’d jot a few things down. The big news of the day in the film world are the Independent Spirit Awards nominations, which are somewhat … befuddling, and the NYFCC awards (First! We’re first!) which are less befuddling, but also pretty much a total, mostly predictable snoozer. I’ll get back to the Indie Spirits in a minute, but first, let’s take a look at those New York Film Critics Circle awards … you know, the ones the group decided to get out super-duper early this year? Here’s the rundown:

Best Picture The Artist
Best Cinematography Emmanuel Lubezki, The Tree of Life
Best Screenplay Steven Zaillian & Aaron Sorkin, Moneyball
Best Director Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist
Best Foreign Language Film A Separation
Best Actor Brad Pitt, Moneyball & The Tree of Life
Best Actress Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady
Best Supporting Actor Albert Brooks, Drive
Best Supporting Actress Jessica Chastain, The Tree of Life, The Help, and Take Shelter
Best First Feature Margin Call
Best Non-Fiction Film Cave of Forgotten Dreams

So, there’s a few good things about the NYFCC picks. I’m glad to see they’re not fawning over The Descendents, which I personally am pretty “meh” on. I’m glad to see Moneyball get a couple nods; not sure it’s the best screenplay of the year, but we can agree to disagree on that. And it’s hard to argue with Emmanuel Lubezki for cinematography, because Tree of Life is just absolutely stunning in its visual imagery. And hey, good for Albert Brooks, maybe this will give him a well-deserved boost. But Cave of Forgotten Dreams (which I like okay, don’t get me wrong … ) over Being Elmo? Over The Interrupters? I think not. And best first feature … eh. I can’t really argue against Margin Call, but rather I’d argue for some other films that (to me) are maybe more deserving: Martha Marcy May Marlene. Pariah.

For me, I guess it’s more a matter of this: Isn’t the point of being “first” to set the standard, to reach beyond the norm? This is a pretty unadventurous list, and for me Kirsten Dunst is still the best leading lady performance of the year for Melancholia. Which, by the bye, is also one of the best films of the year, though you’d not know it to look at this list. Anyhow.

Onto the Independent Spirit Award nominations, which might make you ponder just what the point is of an awards show honoring independent film in which many of the more visionary, truly independent films of the year have been left out of the mix. I have to preempt this by saying that I know personally and greatly respect many of the people who served on the Independent Spirit Awards nominating committees this year. I think you are all awesome, amazing, smart people. But.

First, I know we have the “John Cassavetes Award” for films made for under $500K. And that’s great. But for me, if you’re going to have awards truly celebrating innovation and greatness in independent films your “Best Feature” category should be reserved for films budgeted at UNDER $500K, and then have a special category off to the side to give a nod to independently financed films made for $500K+. I mean, criminy. I know countless indie directors and producers, myself included, who would be in ecstasy to be working with a budget of $500K. At any rate, in the John Cassavetes category this year, we have: Bellflower, Circumstance, Hello Lonesome, Pariah, and The Dynamiter (that one was a surprise, at least to me). Missing from this list, for me, are The Oregonian, The Off Hours, Green, Think of Me, Without and Like Crazy.

Under “Best Feature”, the nominations went to: 50/50, Beginners, Drive, Take Shelter, The Artist, and The Descendants. Many — okay, some — of these, I have no issue with as Oscar nominees. But for what the Independent Spirits are (ostensibly) representing? Not so much. I won’t argue with Beginners or Take Shelter, but where the hell is Martha Marcy May Marlene? Like Crazy (yes, again)? Terri? The Future? Submarine (which also, by the bye, had fantastic production design)? Meek’s Cutoff? Pariah? Melancholia (and yes, I know it’s nominated as a foreign, but still)? Moneyball? I Saw the Devil? Hysteria? I mean, I have nothing against The Artist, but does it really need love from the Spirit Awards? Ditto Drive. The Descendants is meh, really not worth all the fawning it’s getting.

The cinematography noms, apart from the nods to Ben Kasulke (The Off Hours) and Joel Hodge (Bellflower), are most notable to me for the glaring absence of Jody Lee Lipes for Martha Marcy May Marlene, one of the most gorgeously shot films I saw all year. Also Mogae Lee, for I Saw the Devil, which had some fantastically shot scenes (and also, for the record, one of the best scores of the year, and superlative editing).

As for the acting noms, well. Very glad to see Lauren Ambrose in there for Think of Me, Elizabeth Olsen for Martha Marcy May Marlene, and Adepero Oduye for Pariah. Nothing at all against Michelle Williams, but I’d rather have seen her in there for Meek’s Cutoff or Take This Waltz for the Spirits. I’d have loved to have seen Joslyn Jensen in there for her breakout performance in Without. And Felicity Jones for Like Crazy. And Kirsten Dunst for Melancholia. And perhaps even Juno Temple (both for Dirty Girl and Kaboom. On the guy side of things, I’d really have liked to see some recognition for both Min-sik Choi and Byung-hun Lee for I Saw the Devil, for Ewan McGregor for Beginners, Anton Yelchin for Like Crazy.

Now let’s look at the director nominations. One thing that immediately strikes me is the utter absence of female names on that list. No Dee Rees for Pariah. No Megan Griffiths for The Off Hours. No Miranda July for The Future. No Lynne Ramsay for We Need to Talk About Kevin. No Sophia Takal for Green. Even in the first-feature category, not a single woman. I mean, seriously folks? Plenty of very solid female-directed films to choose from, you couldn’t have tossed our gender at least one bone there? We did manage to get some love for the chick directors in the Cassavetes cateogory, at least, so I guess I should be grateful for small favors.

What films do you think were overlooked by the Spirit nominations? And does it even feel like a celebration of truly independent cinema at all to you? Maybe we need a new award, like how AJ Schnack started doing the Cinema Eye Awards to put a better spotlight on documentaries. The Truly Independent Awards That Don’t Care About Being a Precursor to Oscars? Maybe.

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One Response to “The First! Crix Awards and (yawn) Indie Spirit Nominations”

  1. Danella Isaacs says:

    Great last couple of lines. The lack of love for MEEK’S CUTOFF (and the fearless and talented Kelly Reichardt) is stunning. She’s a true American indie auteur. Many of these folks are Hollywood through-and-through (or aspiring to be.)

Quote Unquotesee all »

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