October 23, 2006

Putting the 'Die' in 'Indie': IFP Issues Gotham Award Noms

When three Best Feature nods have a combined $144 million budget, it might be time to change the rules

By S.T. VanAirsdale

I don't know about you, but overall, I think the 2006 IFP Gotham Award nominations look pretty damned great (scroll down for the full list). Clearly, this was the year IFP executive director Michelle Byrd and her selection committee decided to lure the event back from the brink of irrelevance, eschewing once and for all the moderately budgeted mini-major exercises of recent years. Brokeback Mountain? Gone. Capote? Gone. Indeed, 2006 is synonymous with a gutsy, gritty, restorative call-and-response for the ages.

As in IFP shouting, "Hollywood, come on my face." And the studios obliging before the poor institution could get its eyes closed.

Indeed, Martin Scorsese's $90 million crime saga The Departed, Sofia Coppola's $40 million period epic Marie Antoinette (above) and Todd Field's $14 million suburban melodrama Little Children each scored a nod for the year's best feature, joining the slightly more modestly budgeted Half Nelson and Old Joy (less than a million bucks combined) at the head table Nov. 29. This doesn't require much more analysis than we've indulged in the past -- trickle-down economics + unapologetic starfucking = fresher crudites at the afterparty -- but I think it does require a look at the IFP mission statement to see how things are squaring up so far:

IFP (Independent Feature Project) was founded in 1979 on a belief that a truly vital American cinema must include the personal, idiosyncratic, and sometimes controversial voices of filmmakers working outside of the established studio system. As a not-for-profit organization, its mission is to foster a more sustainable infrastructure that supports independent filmmaking and ensures that the public has the opportunity to see films that more accurately reflect the full diversity of the American culture.

The goal of IFP's programs is to provide a national and international platform that facilitates a nexus between the creative and the business of filmmaking. The organization does this through programs that: aid in the professional development of its members, proactively and directly support individual projects, seek to cultivate and expand the audience for independent film, and advocate for policies that protect and solidify the position of independents within the larger business and artistic landscape.
As the climate for making and releasing independent work gets more challenging, it is imperative that IFP continues to serve as a destination for those seeking to develop, nurture and embrace independent thinking and expression.

Hmm. Well, to be honest, this will absolutely be the first and last awards show where the cast of A Prairie Home Companion competes head-to-head against the cast of Shortbus (in the ensemble category), and I can't say I have any complaints about Choking Man, In Between Days and Wristcutters: A Love Story -- all shamefully underseen titles that have yet to score distribution -- sharing a press release with The Departed, Marie Antoinette and Babel (left). (Oh, didn't I mention Babel? Brad Pitt is well-represented this year; everyone remain calm.)

Nevertheless, even if we didn't take the Gothams as seriously as we take, say, Nickelodeon's Kids' Choice Awards, there would seem to be something a little... off about inviting a Scorsese/Nicholson/Damon/DiCaprio vehicle (co-produced by Pitt, of course) to this particular dance. Or Marie Antoinette, for that matter: Does Sofia Coppola's film "more accurately reflect the full diversity of the American culture" than something like Quinceanera or The Motel or Man Push Cart (though it should be noted that MPC director Ramin Bahrani did score a Breakthrough Director nod)? I mean, that might be a rhetorical question, but this isn't: Why does IFP even bother with the smaller films? "It's fairly subjective," Byrd told indieWIRE's Eugene Hernandez earlier this afternoon. "It is essentially saying that this is a film that has the imprint of a specific voice. ... From my point of view, all of the films on the list do have that, irrespective of their budget sizes. Part of what we are trying to do is celebrate the art and craft of filmmaking."

What the fuck does that mean? "Warner's is paying $250,000 per for Departed and Little Children tables"? Or, "Sofia Coppola said she'd bring her dad"? I mean, I could live with either of those. I can't live with IFP throwing bones at Ryan Fleck and Kelly Reichardt, or this compulsion to piss on my shoe and tell me it's raining. Or I should say: I can live with it, and I will live with it, but Jesus Christ, what a fucking tired Hollywood bore. Try not to hate yourself in the morning.


The 2006 Gotham Award Nominations

Best Feature

The Departed
Martin Scorsese, director; Brad Pitt, Brad Grey, Graham King, producers (Warner Bros.)

Half Nelson
Ryan Fleck, director; Jamie Patricof, Alex Orlovsky, Lynette Howell, Anna Boden, Rosanne Korenberg, producers (ThinkFilm)

Little Children
Todd Field, director; Albert Berger, Ron Yerxa, Todd Field, producers (New Line Cinema)

Marie Antoinette
Sofia Coppola, director; Ross Katz, Sofia Coppola, producers (Sony Pictures)

Old Joy
Kelly Reichardt, director; Neil Kopp, Lars Knudsen, Jay Van Hoy, Anish Savjani, producers
(Kino International)

Best Documentary

Deliver Us from Evil
Amy Berg, director; Amy Berg, Frank Donner, Hermas Lassalle, Matthew Cooke, producers (Lionsgate)

Following Sean
Ralph Arlyck, director; Ralph Arlyck, Malcolm Pullinger, producers (Shadow Releasing)

An Inconvenient Truth
Davis Guggenheim, director; Laurie David, Lawrence Bender, Scott Z. Burns, producers
(Paramount Classics & Participant Productions)

Iraq in Fragments
James Longley, director; James Longley, John Sinno, producers (Typecast Releasing in association with HBO Documentary Films)

Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple
Stanley Nelson, director/producer (Seventh Art Releasing)

Best Ensemble Cast

Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Gael Garcia Bernal, Koji Yakusho, Adriana Barraza, Rinko Kikuchi, Said Tarchani, Boubker Ait El Caid (Paramount Vantage)

For Your Consideration
Bob Balaban, Jennifer Coolidge, Christopher Guest, John Michael Higgins, Eugene Levy, Jane Lynch, Michael McKean, Catherine O'Hara, Parker Posey, Harry Shearer, Fred Willard
(Warner Independent Pictures)

Little Miss Sunshine
Greg Kinnear, Toni Collette, Steve Carell, Paul Dano, Abigail Breslin, Alan Arkin
(Fox Searchlight Pictures)

A Prairie Home Companion
Woody Harrelson, Tommy Lee Jones, Garrison Keillor, Kevin Kline, Lindsay Lohan, Virginia Madsen, John C. Reilly, Maya Rudolph, Meryl Streep, Lily Tomlin, L.Q. Jones, Sue Scott, Tim Russell (Picturehouse)

Sook-Yin Lee, Paul Dawson, Lindsay Beamish, PJ DeBoy, Raphael Barker, Peter Stickles, Jay Brannan, Justin Bond (ThinkFilm)

Breakthrough Director

Ramin Bahrani for Man Push Cart (Films Philos)
Laurie Collyer for Sherrybaby (IFC Films)
Ryan Fleck for Half Nelson (ThinkFilm)
So Yong Kim for In Between Days
James Marsh for The King (ThinkFilm)

Breakthrough Actor

Abigail Breslin in Little Miss Sunshine (Fox Searchlight Pictures)
Shareeka Epps in Half Nelson (ThinkFilm)
Melinda Page Hamilton in Sleeping Dogs Lie (Roadside Attractions / Samuel Goldwyn Films)
Rinko Kikuchi in Babel (Paramount Vantage)
Channing Tatum in A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints (First Look Pictures)

Best Film Not Playing at a Theater Near You

Choking Man
Steve Barron, director; Joshua Zeman, Zachary Mortensen, producers

Colma: The Musical
Richard Wong, director; Paul Kolsanoff, Richard Wong, Angel Vasquez, producers

In Between Days
So Yong Kim, director; Bradley Rust Gray, producer

The Great Happiness Space: Tale of an Osaka Love Thief
Jake Clennell, director/producer

Wristcutters: A Love Story
Goran Dukic, director; Adam Sherman, Chris Coen, Tatiana Kelly, Mikal P. Lazarev, producers


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