Wednesday, February 25, 2009

ISA Wrap Up

When all is said and done I have to say that even though I complained about the commercialism of the Independent Spirit Awards this year, the ISA’s were by and far the best awards show of the year. The ISA’s actually nominated films that deserved recognition, films that will be remembered long after this years Oscar ceremony fades from people’s memories.

To start with the best picture category at the ISA’s were The Wrestler, Frozen River, Rachel Getting Married, Ballast & Wendy and Lucy. I cannot speak for the latter two films but I have seen three of the five nominated films. They are all films I would own, films that made me sit and marvel at how they were made, films that gave me a creative spark and reminded me why film is so different from any other art form. The Wrestler walked away with the award for the evening and let me tell you, the story of a broken down ex-pro wrestler who can’t pull his life together was leagues better and more deserving than Slumdog Millionaire. The Wrestler was not a recycled story as so many of this years Oscar nominees were.

I was also upset by this years nominees for best director at the Oscars because I felt that the best directing jobs of the year were not the ones nominated. Again, the ISA’s got it right; I saw three of the director nominees for the ISA’s – Jonathan Demme for Rachel Getting Married, Courtney Hunt for Frozen River and Tom McCarthy for The Visitor. All three of the films that I saw relied heavily on phenomenal jobs by the director because the films required the actors breaking down and reaching a powerful all too human point that drove the plot of the film forward. They were complete worlds that could not exist without a strong and powerful director at the helm. Winner Tom McCarthy created one of my new favorite films of the year in The Visitor, and managed to walk the line between message film and humanistic story in a way that the message didn’t intrude on the story, an error that far too many filmmakers make.

The best screenplay award went to Woody Allen for Vicky Cristina Barcelona, a film that was almost entirely ignored by the Academy and Penelope Cruz’s acceptance speech for best supporting female in the film was more memorable than her Oscar acceptance speech.

Best male lead went to Mickey Rourke instead of Sean Penn because the ISA’s chose to recognize talent instead of political motivation. Mickey’s speech and reaction were genuine and memorable and let’s face it, what Mickey did in The Wrestler blew everyone of every age, gender and sexual orientation away; it was not just a phenomenal performance, but a rebirth and I hope that Mickey can get more roles with that kind of power.

However, that’s just my take on my favorite winners. I encourage you all to continue watching the movies you like and challenging what any organization or individual considers “the best”. The problem with awards is that a good film is art and that means while there are criteria for judging them in the end each opinion is subjective and it is really damn hard to judge one film against another – a fatal flaw in the awards system.

If you would like to see a full list of nominees and winners for the Independent Spirit Awards it can be viewed here: FIND.


Adam said...

Seriously, where was "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" at the Oscars? I thought it was one of the year's best films. At the very least, I think it should have gotten a writing nomination.

Anonymous said...

I always get crap for this but I kinda really hate when they get someone to play a character who they really aren't unless its for comedy purposes like Robert Downey Jr. in Tropic Thunder.

Yeah, I guess if they go by that criteria you'd never have Heath Ledger playing the American Joker or Hugh Laurie as House and a number of other great performances by foreign born actors. Its just why couldn't they find a talented gay actor to play Harvey Milk? It also irritates me when they change a character's gender/race in genre films as well. It also seems like every film that's released now that deals with terrorism the heavy is played by an Israeli actor instead of a middle eastern one which is almost as bad as all those Charlie Chan films where he was played by Irish actors and others of European descent.

Nothing against Penn or his work, but like you said his performance wasn't the best of this year and didn't deserve to win the award.