Sunday, February 24, 2008

film people, independent spirit awards, mylittleplace . . .

so, i love these awards. i know a lot of these people, which delights me, because it's fun to see people you know on t.v.! (well, i've *met* many of them -- call this my gooberish form of identinformation).

i gushed like a schoolgirl when i met Philip Seymor Hoffman a couple of years ago at the Sundance Filmmaker's Labs. i told him, "you are the sh*t, the absolute sh*t! did you know that?", and he said, sort of laughing even as he wondered if he maybe shouldn't call security, "well now i do."

i met Dan Klores, producer of the winning documentary Crazy Love, at the Sundance Film Festival a few years back, when he and his producing partner brought Ring of Fire: The Emile Griffith Story. the first few seconds of the film suffered technical difficulties (sound) and they came storming out of the theater demanding with great fury and bluster that we start the screening over. Sundance does not do this, as a general rule -- it's often more distracting than simply playing through -- but the decision always belongs to the theater manager (me, in this case) and, mainly, to the projectionist. i went to ask Brad, our projectionist extraordinaire, what to do, and he said that we should not stop the screening. but the two angry producers barged into the booth, stood poised to strangle poor Brad, and i had to step physically between them because they were near to blows. it was so ugly, and it was our first screening at that year's festival. nightmare. but so when Klores came with Crazy Love, he was lovely (and, to be clear, he had not been the main aggressor on the previous occasion). i'm happy for him; Crazy Love is a good documentary, about a famous case in which a lover throws acid into the face of his beloved after a breakup; the film follows their long time "relationship," which is p-r-i-t-t-y bizarre.

at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival, i met Dawn Hudson, Executive Director for Film Independent (she accompanied the filmmakers of Secrecy, a fabulous documentary, and i got to chat with her). so it was fun to watch her deliver her short presentation (and she looked lovely). and i'm going to join (darn it!).

and i met Laura Dunn, director of The Unforeseen, when she brought that film to Sundance.

there are others. and while it's a little goofy, i enjoy knowing (and knowing that i know) people in the independent film community; it used to feel like another world, but i'm happy to be a tiny little part of it. it is a creative and giving group of artists (so those speeches are not pure b.s.).

so, moving on: if you missed the show, you can go here to see a detailed list of winners (and links to video and other stuff). but for the basics:

best feature: Juno

best male lead: Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Savages -- remember? i told you to go see it in my PRE/TEXT review of Sundance 2007)

best female lead: Ellen Page (Juno)

best director: Julian Schnabel (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly)

fest cinematographer: Janusz Kaminski (The Diving Bell andthe Butterfly)

best screenplay: Tamara Jenkins (The Savages)

best supporting male: Chiwetel Ejiofor (Talk To Me)

best supporting female: Cate Blanchett (I'm Not There)

best first beature: The Lookout (i met lead actor Joseph Gordon Leavitt at the Sundance Filmmaker Labs, where he delivered an incredibly powerful performance in a reading of the Hany Abu-Assad's screenplay-(then)-in-development, Paradise Now. Leavitt is a delight and a true talent).

best first screenplay: Diablo Cody (Juno). come on. DIABLO CODY? and you guys get angry with me for wanting to change my name? i may have to take up an earlier suggestion (Andelora Kyburz ?? who suggested that? i love it). anyhow. very cool name. but, dear Diablo (who clearly does not need my advice): maybe give up the move of pushing your hair behind her ear every time the camera is on you because, Dialbo, you have a supercool bob . . . let it hang (says the former hairdresser-turned English prof-turned actor/writer/filmmaker [ha] who won 2 major awards for her bob-cutting technique).

best documentary: Crazy Love

best foreign film: Once (i told you about it in October 2007, even then coming late to the party).

John Cassavetes Award: August Evening

Robert Altman Award: I'm Not There

Acura Someone to Watch Award: Ramin Bahrani, Director of Chop Shop

Piaget Producers Award: Neil Kopp, Producer of Paranoid Park and Old Joy (the latter starring the amazing Daniel London, with whom i worked in a little scene at the labs. i know; i'm a little "Kevin Bacon'ish" here, but it's my small joy to feel somehow connected to all of this creative energy).

IFC Truer than Fiction Award: Laura Dunn, Director of The Unforeseen

okay, so you have the winners. what do i think? . . . Juno is a lovely film. a little precious, at times, but the dialogue is fun and the performances quite good (Page channels Cody's infectious spirit, to be sure). Diving Bell is the more deserving "best film" for me, but maybe "independent spirit" belongs to Juno. i'm no expert. but so, if the winners for Diving Bell had only charmed us as Diablo Cody has charmed all of Hollywood -- and me; she's lovely and clever and delightful. but no. i mean . . . oh, my. first, Januz Kamiski wins his award for cinematography for The Diving Bell and the Butterfly and he -- hopefully in some "i'm freaking out in the moment" mode -- proceeds to complain about the low pay he got while working on the film. then, he less-than-graciously (although surely intending humor) tells all the other young filmmakers in the audience not to approach him with lowball offers. acch. but . . . the things he could have said . . . the magic of that film . . . lost in his delivery (and hey, awards shows provide opportunities to promote a film further . . . to gain a wider audience and to further enchant its existing fans . . . ). so, i mean, fine. you win, you're excited, and you say whatever is on your mind. but ayiee . . . this beautiful film, this amazing story, and the fabulous work of screenwriter Ron Harwood and director Julian Schnabel (who took the best director award and also, sadly, spaced out on his speech). Kaminski's q & a in the press room is a bit more interesting. one reporter asks about the potential for/future of avant garde film in Hollywood (or in mainstream cinema), and Kaminski reminds them of the first 10 minutes of Saving Private Ryan (which he shot), arguing that avant garde work is possible in Hollywood but that good stories supporting new approaches are few.

so but then, Julian Schnabel happily and more-than-deservedly receives his award for Best Director. Javier Bardem delivers the award (you recall Bardem from Schnabel's soul-wrenching film, Before Night Falls). and so because 1/2 of the Independent Spirit Awards featured loving references to Javier (i'm going with the first name basis. it's a fantasy), Schnabel takes time to talk about how mind-blowing was his experience working w/ Javier. so, nice, but he never once mentions Jean-Dominique Bauby, whose memoir the film lovingly shares. not one mention of Bauby's imagination and courage and sadness and inspiration. i found this tragic and rhetorically unwise; again, the awards shows provide a stage . . . and Bauby is the thing. buuuu-u-u-t, Schnabel is a grand autuer, and ego has got to figure into his presentation, and so i suppose it made sense, and maybe he spaced it. still, i wish . . .

listen, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly more than earned and deserved its award(s). it's easily the best film. but, to be fair (that is, i have not seen all of the feature nominated films -- now, we're talking Academy Awards), subject matter and childish fear keeps me from No Country for Old Men, and, my love of Paul Thomas Anderson's ingenious body of work notwithstanding, i don't think i can watch Daniel Day Lewis' bulging forehead vein on capitalism for 2 1/2 hours (i will honestly wait for the dollar theater viewings, which is probably lame, but there you go). or, i'd been so busy with holiday and family stuff before and then fighting my post-festival flu after the releases of these films that i simply have not made time. i still have a little. look for me to talk about these films soon (i know. you. can. not. wait).

finally, i finally saw Lars and the Real Girl last night. sweet. Gosling's performance a delight. so was Paul Schneider (hey. i met him when he came to this year's festival with Pretty Bird). he has a way of pausing within his dialogue that feels so authentic. he is fabulous.

enough. right? enough. but when you're living so close to something you desire, you have to run with your "bragging rights" and this is what i've got, however sort of pathetic. and i'm okay with it.

so now, i'm gearing up for the gowns and speeches and hope and drama and longing. i'd say it's all so silly, but it's not.

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