Thursday, January 15, 2009

Recognizing the Small & Different

Call me bitter, but I am really upset that Charlie Kaufman is nominated for an Independent Spirit Award in the Best First Feature category.

Traditionally this category is one of my favorite awards in any award show. The ISA’s are the one organization that still truly honors filmmakers that make startling and different films, films that no one has ever heard of and Best First Feature is an award that has honored filmmakers that were just starting out in their careers; these directors have included Ali Selim, Zach Braff, Patty Jenkins, Peter Care, and more people that you’ve heard mentioned but perhaps didn’t know what film they made or who they are.

The problem I have with Charlie Kaufman being nominated for Best First Feature at the ISA’s isn’t that Synecdoche, New York isn’t his first feature – it is unarguably his directorial debut – but my objection is the fact that Charlie Kaufman is already a very big name in the film industry. Kaufman is an acclaimed and award winning screenwriter for films like Adaptation, Being John Malkovich and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Anyone who knows contemporary film knows Kaufman.

While I am glad Kaufman is directing if that is really something he wants to branch into, I feel like he is taking away a chance for a lesser filmmaker to be recognized.

Perhaps though my frustration is more with the ISA’s than Kaufman’s nomination in the First Feature category. I do believe that the ISA’s are one of the most honorable and worthy awards you can be nominated for, one of the organizations still trying to recognize the different and the small, the films that no one else sees; however, I do feel that slowly and surely what used to be independent film is now mainstream (though small) and the ISA’s are losing some of the distinctions they used to have from awrd shows like the Oscars. Last year Juno was nominated for Best Feature at the ISA’s and for Best Picture at the Oscars.

I love my ISA’s and want them to continue recognizing the diverse group that they do but I do wish that we could have a show that even though it is the day before the Oscars it didn’t honor the same films and people as the Oscars.


Adam said...

I don't feel as strongly as you do on the subject. Having seen "Synecdoche, New York," I can attest to the fact that it's a very well-directed film from a technical standpoint, if not the best from a structural standpoint. Of course, that assumes that there even is a structure to begin with, which is debatable. So, I guess that I'm ok with it being nominated for "Best First Feature," although I understand your reasoning.

It seems that the trend over the past several years is to pick one small indie film and anoint it as "the little movie that could" and give it all kinds of acclaim. Think about it, Sideways, Little Miss Sunshine, Juno, and now Slumdog Millionaire have all had this halo put over them. That tends to annoy me, particularly when I don't feel that they deserve it. Out of all those films, (excluding Sideways, which I haven't seen and can't pass judgment on) I think Little Miss Sunshine is arguably the most deserving of the accolades it received. This year, I've been annoyed by the landslide of accolades that Slumdog Millionaire's been getting. It's not that it isn't one of 2008's best films. It is. I just don't see it getting all of these "Best Picture" awards. It's clearly the Oscar front-runner and the nominations aren't even in yet. Remarkable.

Anonymous said...

I saw Sideways and it falls into the category of those other films you mentioned above.

I'm guessing there thinking that although Kaufman is a name to cinephilies like us, he's not to the average film goer out there.