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Tom O'Neil has the inside track on Oscars, Emmys, Grammys and all the award shows.

Category: Indie Spirits

Gold Derby nuggets: Emmys present and future | Natalie Portman Oscar-bound? | Tonys still without a date | 'Gone With the Wind' costumes saved

September 2, 2010 | 12:20 pm

Edie Falco Nurse Jackie Emmy Awards • In a provocative piece, Joel Keller wonders "when does a comedy stop being a comedy?" As a starting point, he uses this frank admission by "Nurse Jackie" star Edie Falco as she picked up the best comedy series actress Emmy: "Oh, this is the most ridiculous thing that has ever, ever happened in the history of this lovely awards show. I'm not funny!" For Joe, "The outcry that we're hearing about the show seems to stem from the fact that Falco, who won Emmys for playing the not-at-all-funny Carmela Soprano, beat out such comedic stalwarts as Tina Fey, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Amy Poehler. But just because she's a serious character in a lightly funny show doesn't mean she shouldn't be nominated in the comedy category." TV SQUAD

Alex Ben Block details one possible scenario for future Emmy Awards. "The major broadcast networks are serious about splitting the Primetime Emmys into two shows, and they have support among cable networks who share a frustration about HBO so thoroughly dominating the longform categories and the event's third hour. One show would honor all series and air on broadcast, while the other would recognize the TV movies and longform projects that run on cable, like HBO's 'Temple Grandin,' which went 5-for-5 at the Emmys on Sunday night. The broadcast version would use the time gained to become a more entertainment-oriented program." THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER

• Fresh off his third consecutive Emmy win for best drama series actor, Bryan Cranston ("Breaking Bad") is set to show everyone his comedy chops by hosting "Saturday Night Live" on Oct. 2. As Greg Braxton reports, "It will be the first appearance on the sketch comedy series for the actor, who starred as the buffoonish father in 'Malcolm In The Middle' before his stint on the hit AMC drama, where he plays a chemistry teacher who gradually becomes a drug dealer." SHOW TRACKER

Natalie Portman Oscars Black Swan Venice • Our pal Anne Thompson is navigating the Venice filmfest and reports on the speculation that "Black Swan" could be the vehicle that transports Natalie Portman back to the Oscars. "While critics may admire [Darren] Aronofsky’s achievement here, and online fan sites responded enthusiastically to Searchlight’s trailer -- the movie could play to the young Searchlight smart-house crowd, but it’s not a genre horror flick -- I wonder how 'Black Swan' will fare on the Academy side. It may be painful for older voters to watch. (Yes, the largely male Academy granted Jonathan Demme’s 'Silence of the Lambs,' Mel Gibson’s 'Braveheart' and Ridley Scott’s 'Gladiator' best picture honors. But this is a smaller-scale production.) Actors may laud Portman and [Vincent] Cassel." THOMPSON ON HOLLYWOOD

Greg Ellwood details the Oscar hopes of Dreamworks for the animated film "How to Train Your Dragon." As he reports, "the studio sent out a mailer inviting industry professionals to see 'Dragon' in 3-D again in screenings in key markets (we're keeping that private for all you gate crashers). The invite features beautiful art by Pierre-Oliver Vincent and reminds potential voters about this 'thrilling,' 'magical' and 'heartwarming' adventure. Oh, and while listing all the possible nominees in different categories, the studio has no qualms about trying to fill one of the ten best picture slots themselves. Who can argue with that?" HIT FIX

• After moving forward by one day last season, the Independent Spirit Awards is returning to the traditional time slot of Oscar eve for the upcoming kudofest. That means these awards, now in their 26th year, will be handed out on Saturday, Feb. 26. Last time round, the locale shifted from the beach to downtown L.A. but there is no word yet on where the next edition will be held.

Tony Awards logo • The Tony Awards has yet to set the date for the 65th edition of these top theater kudos next spring. The problem is that the traditional venue -- Radio City Music Hall -- is unavailable -- due to an extended booking by Cirque de Soleil. Until the new site is found, the eligibility period can't be defined either, though it is said to be either April 21 or April 28. However, as Patrick Healy notes, "given the way Broadway tends to work, an April 21 cut-off could complicate plans for those bringing in springtime shows. Producers like to have as much of April as possible for rehearsals and preview performances to get shows in the best possible shape. That final week of Tony eligibility is typically a traffic jam of opening nights, with producers stampeding to put their shows into the running for Tonys." ARTS BEAT

David Bianculli does a crackerjack job detailing where and when you can tune in to see this year's Emmy winners on the tube. However, as he notes, "there are no scheduled repeat telecasts right now for HBO's 'Temple Grandin' or 'The Pacific.'" Rather, the telefilm champ is already out on DVD while the mini-series winner will be released Nov. 2. TV WORTH WATCHING

Jen Chaney takes the Emmys pre-show on NBC to task for having host Billy Bush and commentator Ryan Patterson criticizing the fashions worn on the red carpet and transmitting the live feed in the awards venue. As Chaney points out, "Kathy Griffin voiced her empathy for January Jones in particular, telling E!: 'They showed her on the freaking JumboTron and then they were talking smack about her.' When Griffin thinks you've been unnecessarily rude, you know you've really been unnecessarily rude." WASHINGTON POST

Gwtw-green-dress • The academy didn't start handing out Oscars for costume design till 1948. Had they been in that business in 1939, no doubt Walter Plunkett would have been a strong contender for his creations for "Gone With the Wind." Several of the iconic costumes worn by Oscar champ Vivien Leigh, including this green curtain dress, are owned by the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas. A recent appeal for funds to restore these dresses in advance of the film's diamond anniversary in 2014 yielded $30,000. In a statement, the Center's film curator Steve Wilson said, "These generous donations confirm that the film's legions of fans do, in fact, care." He added that the donations will allow the Ransom Center to restore the dresses and purchase protective housing and custom-fitted mannequins to allow for them to be exhibited according to conservation best practices and standards. Plunkett contended for 10 Oscars for his later work, winning for "An American in Paris" in 1951. YAHOO

Top photo: Edie Falco at the 62nd Annual Emmy Awards. Credit: ATAS

Second photo: Natalie Portman in "Black Swan." Credit: Fox Searchlight

Third photo: Tony Awards logo. Credit: Tony Awards.

Bottom photo: Vivien Leigh in "Gone With the Wind." Credit: MGM/UA

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Gold Derby nuggets: Big bash for banned Oscars nominee | Mixed reviews for Indie Spirits

March 6, 2010 |  5:12 pm

The Hurt Locker posterMike Fleming of Deadline reports: "Sunday's Oscar viewing party for 'The Hurt Locker' producer Nicolas Chartier has officially become a hot ticket. I'm told the bash had to be relocated to the Malibu home of reality TV/film producer Mike Fleiss when the guest list tripled. Three hundred people are now expected to attend or stop by. Fleiss is co-hosting the bash with WME Global chief Graham Taylor and his wife Lynnette Howell, the producer of 'Blue Valentine' and 'Half Nelson.' " 

Peter Bowes of the BBC talks to first-time Oscars director Hamish Hamilton. " 'There are so many emotions going through my head,' says Mr. Hamilton, who admits to being nervous about the big night. 'I'm genuinely excited, genuinely thrilled, really prepared, and I feel like I'm peaking at the right time. I'm also incredibly honored, but I'm feeling the weight of the world and Hollywood on my shoulders.' The job comes with a formidable responsibility to orchestrate a show with a global audience of hundreds of millions. 'It can make you shiver,' he says." 

• Gold Derby on TV: Tune in to KTLA's red-carpet Oscar show on Sunday between 3 and 5 p.m. PT. You'll find me teaming up with Sam Rubin and Jessica Holmes, but not on the actual red carpet. I've got a busted foot that's in a cast, so I plan to hang back in a comfy chair in the studio and get beamed into the show. On early Sunday morning, I'll be on KNBC with Ted Chen at 7 a.m. Over the next few days I'm on TV Guide Channel giving you the career dish on Oscarcast co-host Steve Martin: March 6 (10:30 p.m. ET/PT), March 7 (noon, ET), March 9 (2 p.m. ET/PT), March 14 (midnight ET/PT).

• For Sasha Stone of Awards Daily, "It’s time to do our final No Guts, No Glory for the year. Up to three, and here’s to making it count. Don’t pick alternates (like 'Avatar' for Best Pic) but real and true upsets. Here are mine. And by the way, as soon as I type them I know they won’t come true. 1. 'In the Loop' upsets in the Adapted Screenplay category. 2. 'Star Trek' wins in both Sound categories. 3. 'The Blind Side' wins Best Picture." 

Independent Spirit Awards LogoAnne Thompson of Thompson on Hollywood bemoans the shift in locale for the Indie Spirit awards. "I wasn’t able to take my sunny beachside pictures of the indie gang because it was dark on the rooftop at L.A. Live, a monstrously large modern complex near the L.A. Convention Center. On a Friday night, many people had to escape early from work, hitting heavy traffic heading downtown -- I had spectacularly bad luck, hitting an accident bottleneck on the Santa Monica Freeway -- and some folks were tired. (In fact, three grown men -- Scott Cooper, Lee Daniels and Geoffrey Fletcher -- broke down and cried during the course of the evening.) There was competition too: many Spirits attendees blew off the IFC after-party across the street in favor of WME and/or CAA pre-Oscar fetes."

• However, for Steven Zeitchik of 24 Frames, "Concerns that the casualness of the event would be lost without the Santa Monica beachside setting turned out to be misplaced, as the usual preshow mingling, and in-show strolling and table-hopping, unfolded pretty much as it always has. Fears, meanwhile, that a popular Friday night slot would have the Spirits a sparsely populated second choice for Oscar weekend partiers proved overblown as well. Although some attendees rushed from or to agency parties -- a William Morris Endeavor Entertainment fete at Ari Emanuel's house and a party thrown by CAA's Bryan Lourd -- the event still felt packed with industry insiders and stars. Of the major nominees, the Coen brothers and Joseph Gordon-Levitt were among the few that didn't show. (Jeff Bridges, Carey Mulligan, Woody Harrelson and Mariah Carey were among those who did.)" 

• A trio of intrepid USA Today reporters -- William Couch, Arienne Thompson and Joshua Hatch -- present an assortment of Oscars facts and figures in this interactive illustration. As the introduction notes, "This year’s Academy Award acting nominees cover the spectrum from been-around-forever veteran (Christopher Plummer) to never-acted-before newcomer (Gabourey Sidibe). Yet, you may be surprised to learn that they all share connections in their personal and professional lives that bind them together, no matter how long their résumé." 

Eriq Gardner of the Hollywood Reporter counts down "the 10 most interesting Oscar-related lawsuits ever" with the top case being when "Disney sues the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, alleging that the infamous Rob Lowe-Snow White duet at the 1989 Oscars was unflattering to the beloved character and lacked permission." 

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Photos: (Top) "The Hurt Locker" poster. Credit: Summit   (Bottom) Independent Spirit Awards logo. Credit: Film Independent

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'Precious' sweeps Indie Spirit Awards ... Oscars next? (Hey, where was 'The Hurt Locker'?)

March 5, 2010 | 11:50 pm

With winners like best actor Jeff Bridges ("Crazy Heart") and Mo'Nique ("Precious"), the Independent Spirit Awards looked a lot like the Oscars. But that's not unusual. When Oscar front-runners compete at the Indie Spirits, they usually win. Recent examples: Penelope Cruz ("Vicky Cristina Barcelona"), Alan Arkin ("Little Miss Sunshine"), Philip Seymour Hoffman ("Capote"), Charlize Theron ("Monster").

Now and then there are rare exceptions – like last year when Mickey Rourke ("The Wrestler") beat Sean Penn ("Milk") – but that may have occurred in part due to griping that "Milk" wasn't really an indie since it was produced for more than $20 million.

Precious indie spirits independent spirit awards

Missing from the nominees this year was the most notable indie of 2009 — "The Hurt Locker" — but that's because it competed at last year's Indie Spirits where it fared poorly. It wasn't nominated for best film, director or screenplay, only for two acting spots (Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie). Both lost. Considering how solid "The Hurt Locker's" awards sweep has been since, it really makes you wonder how much of that is due to a bandwagon effect gathered as "The Hurt Locker" juggernaut crashed through, first, the film critics awards, then the guild prizes, then tying "Avatar" for the most Oscar nominations. Would other award groups weigh it as lowly as the Indie Spirits did last year if not affected by what other awards do?

However, with "The Hurt Locker" out of the way, "Precious" got its due. At the start of derby season, back in November, it was widely considered to be the standout indie of the year. Some Oscarologists even pegged it to win the Oscar for best picture. Now it reaped five impressive Indie Spirit victories, including best picture, director, screenplay, actress (Gabby Sidibe) and supporting actress. That's one short of the record (six) held by "Fargo," "Sideways" and "Stand and Deliver."

Meantime, "The Hurt Locker" still got its own separate due from the rival awards for indie film bestowed on the opposite American coast early this derby season, the Gotham Awards, which broke off from the Indie Spirit Awards in 2006.  Back on Nov. 30, it won trophies for best film and ensemble.

However, the Gothams chose to snub "Precious." Thus the curious game continues between these competing awards that, year after year, pick one of two top indies to the exclusion of another. Doesn't that make you wonder how they would vote if not influenced by other awards?


BEST FEATURE: "Precious"
BEST DIRECTOR: Lee Daniels, "Precious"
BEST ACTOR: Jeff Bridges, "Crazy Heart"
BEST ACTRESS: Gabby Sidibe, "Precious"
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Woody Harrelson, "The Messenger"
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Mo’Nique, "Precious"
BEST FIRST FEATURE: "Crazy Heart"
BEST SCREENPLAY: Scott Neustadter, Michael H. Weber, "(500) Days of Summer"
BEST FIRST SCREENPLAY: Geoffrey Fletcher, "Precious"
BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY: Roger Deakins, "A Serious Man"
BEST DOCUMENTARY: "Anvil!"
BEST FOREIGN FILM: "An Education"
JOHN CASSAVETES AWARD: "Humpday"
ROBERT ALTMAN AWARD: Director and Cast of "A Serious Man"
PRODUCERS AWARD: Karen Chien ("The Exploding Girl," "Santa Mesa")
SOMEONE TO WATCH AWARD: Kyle Patrick Alvarez, "Easier With Practice"
TRUER THAN FICTION AWARD: Bill Ross, Turner Ross, "45365"

Photo: "Precious." Credit: Lionsgate

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Gold Derby nuggets: Grammys & Super Bowl boost record sales | Oscars best picture race staying at 10

February 10, 2010 |  5:33 pm

Pink Grammy AwardsTodd Marten reports, "a little TV exposure continues to go a long way. Country trio Lady Antebellum tops the chart for the second straight week, leading in a week that saw big increases for acts that appeared on the Jan. 31 Grammy Awards. Artists such as Pink, Green Day, Taylor Swift and the Dave Matthews Band all saw large sales jumps, and the Who's appearance on Sunday night's Super Bowl seems to already be paying dividends." In particular, "the biggest beneficiary of the Grammys, in terms of a sales increase, was pop star Pink. Her 'Funhouse' (LaFace) was up 235% over the prior week, selling a total of 31,000 copies. To date, it's sold 1.5 million, while the cut she performed on the Grammys in all its acrobatic glory, 'Glitter in the Air,' sold 114,000 downloads this week, which is the biggest sales week for the track. It sold about 9,000 last week, and 1.5 million to date." POP & HISS

Andrew Gans reports Katori Hall's 'The Mountaintop,' which received a Olivier best play nomination on Tuesday, "will arrive on Broadway in fall 2010. Jean Doumanian Productions in partnership with Sonia Friedman Productions will produce the acclaimed play, which will be directed by Kenny Leon ('Fences,' 'A Raisin in the Sun'). Casting will be announced at a later date." Set on April 3, 1968, 'The Mountaintop,' according to press notes, "is a gripping reimagining of events the night before the assassination of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., as he retires to Room 306 in the now famous Lorraine Motel in Memphis, after delivering his legendary ‘From the mountaintop’ speech to a massive church congregation. When room-service is delivered by a young woman, whose identity we puzzle over, King is forced to confront his past, as well as his legacy to his people." PLAYBILL

Sasha Stone has penned a must-read analysis of the state of the Oscars best picture race. Sasha says, "there are still four movies with the right stuff to win: 'The Hurt Locker' sitting pretty with a PGA and a DGA win ('Saving Private Ryan' did not win with those two under its belt). 'Inglourious Basterds' has the actors vote with the SAG. 'Up in the Air' which has more acting nominations than any other film in the race, and 'Precious' which landed the coveted editing nomination. My work thus far, which might amount to nothing more than a wild guess that turns out to be wrong, tells me that only one of these four films can win." AWARDS DAILY

Mark Lisanti makes merry with the preferential ballot for best picture at the Oscars. Among the special conditions he has dreamed up: "If 'The Hurt Locker' is in the number one slot, it may be placed in either the 'Hey, Did You Know This Was Directed By A Woman? Crazy!' pile, or the 'Hey, Have You Heard That The Director, A Lady, Used To Be Married To Jimbo Cameron?' pile." MOVIELINE

Melena Ryzik notes, "now that there are two fewer late night show outposts, the looser daytime shows are getting more play. But actors appearing on those shows run the risk of indulging in rampant silliness. See: Jeremy Renner -- the bad boy star of 'The Hurt Locker' --  sing a self-written soap opera-style ballad on 'The View' and James Cameron speaking in Na’vi on 'The Oprah Winfrey Show.' (O.K., Mr. Cameron would probably speak in Na’vi wherever he went. Even 'Star Trek' nerds don’t parrot Klingon this much.) But who knew that the demise of the Conan O’Brien 'Tonight Show' would have ripple effects into statuette land? Some people, probably. It’s called synergy, folks!" THE CARPETBAGGER

• However, says Anne Thompson, "I’m not sure that putting James Cameron on 'Oprah' is the best way to win the hearts and minds of Academy voters. The movie couldn’t be a bigger hit. The trick is to convince people that 'Avatar' isn’t just a great technological achievement but a movie to be taken seriously. That’s why I wonder: if Academy members vote for 'The Hurt Locker' for best picture wouldn’t they consider giving Cameron best director? Who else could have accomplished what he did on 'Avatar'? It’s a director’s vision, a director’s achievement." THOMPSON ON HOLLYWOOD

Oscar nominations 2010 Avatar The Hurt Locker The Blind Side Up in the Air UpSteve Pond reports we better get used to this expanded playing field at the Oscars after an interview with academy president Tom Sherak who "said that the Academy was happy with the results of the expanded field … for now. 'I don’t know if it’s a success yet,' he said. 'But so far, yes, we’re happy. I don’t think there’s any question about that. So far. And I expect we’ll do it for another year.' He laughed. 'Some people have said, ‘Well, they got lucky.' I love that comment. In fact, the voters gave us everything we were hoping for when we made the change, except a foreign film or a documentary.' On that count, Sherak says he’s determined to find a way to get those films into the Best Picture race, and to increase their visibility. 'There are things in the works to address that,'he said. 'I don’t know how much I can achieve, but I’m going to keep working on it.'" THE ODDS

• To find out whether the Gold Derby awards are expanding as well, drop into the chat room Thursday night (Feb. 11) at 8 p.m. EST for the announcement of the nominations. All forum members can vote for the best of 2009 through midnight EST on Feb. 28. Winners will be announced the night before the Oscars on Saturday, March 6 at 8 p.m. EST.

Dave Karger turns his attention to the Spirit Awards. After noting that he expects "Crazy Heart" and "Precious" to dominate the March 5 ceremony,  Dave makes mention of three underdog contenders: male lead Adam Scott ("The Vicious Kind"), female lead Gwyneth Paltrow ("Two Lovers") and first feature "A Single Man." ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY

• "Precious" star Gabourey Sidibe must be happy that "Up in the Air" is not contending at the Spirit Awards; after all, her first encounter with that film's leading man George Clooney left her all wet. As she explains, "It's raining at the Golden Globes, that's where I met him (Clooney). So everyone's got umbrellas and George is standing too close to me and his umbrella is getting me wet because it's underneath my umbrella. I'm finished taking my press photos and I'm completely wet and it's all because of George Clooney." IMDB

Top photo: Pink at the Grammys. Credit: Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times

Bottom photo: Academy Award statuettes. Credit: AMPAS

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Everybody loses: Gotham Awards vs. Indie Spirits ('Hurt Locker' vs. 'Precious')

December 1, 2009 | 11:47 am

Just as we expected, Independent Spirit Awards lavished nominations upon "Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire" today, thereby addressing the film's ridiculous snub by the other, rival prize for independent films, the Gotham Awards, which gave their top trophy last night to "The Hurt Locker."

The Hurt Locker Precious Gotham Awards Indie Spirit newsThis year's clash between the two awards — bestowed by rival factions of an organization that split in 2006 — marks the height of absurdity in awards land. Each side is embracing one of the two top indies — "The Hurt Locker" or "Precious" — to the exclusion of the other. In the end, both awards look foolish and everybody loses.

"The Hurt Locker" isn't eligible at the Indie Spirits this year so it won't be going head to head with "Precious" on awards night, but it was eligible last year and failed to be nominated for best picture. How clueless is that? Jeremy Renner and Anthony Mackie received lead- and supporting-acting bids, so we know that it was on voters' radar. They just didn't think it was worthy of consideration for the top prize. Instead, nominees were "Ballast," "Frozen River," "Rachel Getting Married," "Wendy and Lucy" and the winner, "The Wrestler."

In recent months, "The Hurt Locker" has built up deafening buzz. The Gotham Awards — based in Manhattan — saw their chance to swoop in and give "The Hurt Locker" the kudos love it should have received from their Los Angeles counterpart, but, strangely, the Gothams decided to snub the other top indie film in the process: "Precious."

Get the picture? Can you guess what's going to win the Indie Spirit Award this year? Does it even matter that there are four other nominees: "(500) Days of Summer," "Amreeka," "Sin Nombre" and "The Last Station"?

This game of tug-of-war (or, rather, snub and makeup hug) between the indie awards goes on all the time. The Spirits voted "Juno" best picture of 2007, for example, after it failed to nab a top nom at the Gothams.

Is this a good thing or a bad thing? On one hand, it's outrageous to watch these awards take turns pointing out how foolish their rival is, but maybe it's a good thing because, in the end, more worthy indie films get recognized.

Continue reading »

Gotham Awards vs. Indie Spirits: Battle of the indie kudos!

December 2, 2008 | 12:52 pm

The battle between the two top awards bestowed for independent films — the Indie Spirits and the Gothams — continues anew with today's announcement of Spirit nominations in Los Angeles coming just hours before the Gotham Awards are bestowed on the opposite coast. I will be attending tonight's kudofest and bringing you live coverage, so remember to check back with this blog later for breaking news and backstage tattle.

The Gothams and Spirits used to be handed out by the East and West Coast branches of the same organization, the Independent Feature Project, but the Californians broke off from New York and three other IFP groups in 2006 and renamed their branch FIND (short for Film Independent).

Indiespirit_awards_trophy_2

Such geographic squabbling isn't unusual in ego-mad showbiz. That's how we ended up with two separate TV academies on different coasts bestowing the same Emmy Award, which they own jointly. And the Writers Guild of America is actually two separate groups — East and West Coast — joined in name only. Each branch has a separate governing body.

Sometimes the Gothams and Spirits hail the same films, like best-picture winner "Sideways," but they often go their separate ways. Last year, the Gothams went with "Into the Wild" for best film and the Spirits chose "Juno." This year, three of the nominees coincide — "Ballast," "Frozen River" and "The Wrestler" — while the Spirits lineup also includes "Rachel Getting Married" and "Wendy and Lucy" as the Gothams opted for "Synechdoche, New York" and "The Visitor" to round out the list.

While "Milk" was not ready in time to be screened for the Gotham jury, it failed to make the final five films up for best picture or best director at the Spirits, though it picked up four other nods, including noms for lead Sean Penn and supporting player James Franco. "Ballast," "Frozen River" and "Rachel Getting Married" all got six noms apiece, while "The Wrestler" has three nods and "Wendy and Lucy" picked up a pair of noms.

The Spirits will be feting "Synechdoche, New York" with a special prize for first-time director Charlie Kaufman and his ensemble cast led by Oscar winner Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Continue reading »

Giddy-up! The 2008 award derby trots ahead!

December 1, 2008 | 10:18 am

Derbyhorses154

Here are key dates of major kudo news coming up on the derby track:

Dec. 2 - Gotham Awards declares winners
Dec. 2 - Indie Spirits announces nominees
Dec. 4 - National Board of Review announces winners
Dec. 9 - Los Angeles Film Critics Assn. winners unveiled
Dec. 9 - Critics Choice announces nominees
Dec. 10 - New York Film Critics Circle declares winners

Illustration by Ty Wilson


Gold Derby nuggets: Oscars voters get 'The Visitor' DVD | Indie Spirits try to upstage Gotham Awards again | Early reports on 'Benjamin Button'

November 15, 2008 |  6:51 pm

The_visitor_dvd

• Today an academy member told me that he got a DVD screener of "The Visitor" that was shipped to the full general membership. Last week they all got "I've Loved You So Long." "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" arrived around Oct. 24, "Frozen River" in late September. Oh, yeah, and the "Burn After Reading" DVD that voters got a few weeks ago! I forgot to mention that one. But that's all that's arrived so far.

• The Indie Spirits are mounting a new attack on the Gotham Awards. They plan to announce their nominations on Dec. 2 — that's the same day that the Gothams will present awards to winners. And that's the same ploy the Spirits pulled last year while trying to upstage the rival trophy show. Remember, the two kudos bestowed to indie films on different coasts (Spirits in L.A., Gothams in Manhattan) used to be doled out by the East and West Coast branches of the same organization, the Independent Feature Project, but the Californians broke off from New York and three other IFP groups in 2006 and renamed their branch FIND (short for Film Independent). The fact that the New Yorkers dared to launch their own awards separate from the Spirits was one of the key issues that busted up the original organization.

• Have a good curious chuckle while Anne Thompson strenuously denies that she's publishing a review of "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" while in fact doing so at Variety.com, even if it is from a non-journalist. Over the last few days I've heard top Oscar consultants denounce Thompson vehemently for pulling similar ploys throughout this derby season. To read Thompson's tattle (a rave), CLICK HERE. Now, in order to provide balance in the gossip department, you can read a less enthusiastic "review" ("I wasn’t as moved by this film as I wanted to be") at Pop Culture Nerd's blog, CLICK HERE.

Photo: Anchor Bay


Indie Spirit: Oscar's consolation prize

February 23, 2008 |  8:06 pm

The purpose of the Independent Spirit award is to salute what past ceremony host Samuel L. Jackson once called "the strange, the weird, the eclectic, the visionary, the new blood." Ideally, it's supposed to help offbeat, low-profile quality films that could use the boost so that someday, maybe, they could compete in the big Oscar league.

Indiespirit5

Back when the Spirits took flight, they tried hard to keep that focus. Its first best-picture winner in 1985, "After Hours," wasn't nominated for a single Oscar. But then "Platoon" won best pic at both awards the next year and thereafter the Spirit award aimed more and more at academy-friendly films, probably to increase its profile. Another early Spirit best-pic winner, "River's Edge," was snubbed at the Oscars, but the other champs usually made it into the lower-rung Oscar categories like screenplay ("sex, lies and videotape") and acting ("Rambling Rose"), but usually not in the top Oscar race.

Then a few like "Pulp Fiction" and "Fargo" broke in and suddenly it was not uncommon to see the Spirit's best picture in the Oscar's equivalent race, like "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon." Now the pairing seems automatic. The last four top winners at the Spirits were all nominated for best picture at the Oscars: "Lost in Translation," "Sideways," "Brokeback Mountain" and "Little Miss Sunshine. Now "Juno" may make it five in a row. "Platoon" is the only film to win both.

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Forecast at the Indie Spirits: Rainn, Angie, Brad . . .

February 18, 2008 |  8:45 am

What do you do when your kudos are called the Independent Spirit Awards but the studios have come to dominate the nominations? You create a category for features that cost less than half a mill and name it for indie icon John Cassavetes. That is just the latest quirk in the 23-year history of these decidedly offbeat awards. And with these honors due to be handed out Saturday (live on IFC and taped delay on AMC), now is a good time to take a closer look at them.

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The nominations were announced almost three months ago — on Nov. 27 — so you are forgiven if you have forgotten who and what is in the running. Four films lead the pack with four nods apiece: "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly," "I'm Not There," "Juno," and "The Savages." The $20-million budget cap kept indie-spirited films like "No Country for Old Men" and "There Will Be Blood" out of this race. (Without this rule, rival kudos, the Gotham Awards, gave the Sean Penn-helmed adventure "Into the Wild" their best film prize last fall.) And as only movies made with Yankee dollars are eligible, French language "Diving Bell" was in while Canuck contender "Away From Her" was out.

As per the organizers, Film Independent, the 14 people on the nominating committee were looking for: "(1) uniqueness of vision; (2) original, provocative subject matter; (3) economy of means; and (4) percentage of financing from independent sources." In addition, there was a seven-person documentary committee and a nine-member foreign feature panel, neither of whose choices matched up with the eventual Oscar contenders. Winners were decided by the general membership of FIND, with voting privileges available for as little as $95 a year in dues. The Gothams and Spirits used to be bestowed by the East and West Coast branches of the same organization, the Independent Feature Project, but a few years back, the Californians broke off from New York and three other IFP groups.

The awards ceremony takes place under a tent on the beach in Santa Monica. While it is mere miles from the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, home to Sunday night's Oscars, it is a world away. There are no stylists, no orchestra to play you off as you ramble on with your acceptance speech, and, infamously, no toilets. As Variety once reported : "Many celebrities mused that they could think of no other Hollywood awards show where the guests had to wait in line for Porta Potties while facing hordes of autograph-seeking fans."

Among the bold-faced names expected are best-actress nominee Angelina Jolie ("A Mighty Heart") and her consort Brad Pitt who is nommed for producing the film. While "No Country" was not eligible, its kudos king Javier Bardem is due to present. Hosting the festivities will be "The Office" star Rainn Wilson, who told Christy Lemire of AP earlier this week, "It's kind of a ramshackle, crazy awards show that's really about cutting-edge cinema, and it's really for movie fans and actor fans."

Though foreign-financed films are ineligible for most races, likely winners include Canada's Ellen Page ("Juno") for best actress and Aussie Cate Blanchett ("I'm Not There") for supporting actress. None of their Oscar competition is in the running here. Best actor could well be "The Savages" star Philip Seymour Hoffman who picked up the same prize two years ago for "Capote." His "Savages" costar Laura Linney was nominated then for "The Squid and the Whale" but surprisingly snubbed this year. However, being left off that list put her on Oscar's radar.

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Gotham Awards vs. Indie Spirits: Smackdown of the indie kudos!

November 27, 2007 | 11:22 am

The clash between the two top awards bestowed for independent films — the Indie Spirits and the Gothams — would sure make for a dishy indie movie.

The timing of the announcement of Spirit nominations this morn in Los Angeles was not coincidental. In case you didn't notice, the Gotham Awards will be bestowed tonight by the Spirit's rival awards group out on the opposite coast — in Brooklyn, New York. I will be attending tonight and bringing you live coverage, so remember to check back with this blog later for breaking news and backstage tattle.

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The Gothams and Spirits used to be bestowed by the east and west coast branches of the same organization, the Independent Feature Project, but the Californians broke off from New York and three other IFP groups in 2006 and renamed their branch FIND (short for Film Independent).

Such geographic squabbling isn't unusual in ego-mad showbiz. That's how we ended up with two separate TV academies on different coasts bestowing the same Emmy Award, which they own jointly. Believe it or not, the Writers Guild of America is actually two separate groups — east and west coast — joined in name only. Each branch has a separate governing body.

Sometimes the Gothams and Spirits hail the same films, like best-picture winner "Sideways," but they usually try to go their separate ways. Perhaps that is what's behind the Spirits' strange snubs today of "Into the Wild," "Away from Her," "Lars and the Real Girl" and "Gone Baby Gone." None of those noteworthy indies got any nominations from the Spirits.

Turns out that the only one of those films eligible for Spirit recognition was "Lars." Its snub is suprising considering that star Ryan Gosling won best actor last year for "Half Nelson." "Into the Wild" and "Gone Baby Gone" weren't eligible because they cost more than $20 million to produce. "Away from Her" is a Canadian production. It wasn't submitted for Spirits consideration, but, if it had been, it would've had to compete in the foreign-film race.

The only film nominated for best picture by both the Gothams and Spirits is "I'm Not There," which romped today at the Spirits' noms.

The Spirit nominations had lots of wacky twists. The only actor nominated for "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead" is the one who received the least praise from film critics: Marisa Tomei.

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Shareeka on Indie Spirits, Sean Penn & Port-a-Potties

February 25, 2007 | 12:48 am

We conducted lots of fun interviews with winners backstage at the Indie Spirits Awards that will be posted within hours at our video gallery, but this one is such a hoot that, frankly, it just can't wait. While dishing with best actor and actress champs Ryan Gosling and Shareeka Epps ("Half Nelson"), I asked Shareeka what she thought of the whole, wild scene on the beach at Santa Monica — specifically how funny it is to see the celebs reduced to using Port-a-Potties — and she gave us a "hilarious" response. CLICK HERE to watch the Windows Media Video CLICK HERE for the Quicktime video. (Note: You may need to hold down your computer's Control key while clicking, then wait a few moments for the file to download.)

Shareeka

(L.A. Times video by Manuel Quinttanilla)


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