Steven Soderbergh's crime-drama "The Limey" and Alexander Payne's high school satire "Election" led the pack of (relatively) low-budget, high-expectation projects as nominations were announced Wednesday for the 15th Annual Independent Spirit Awards, honoring, yes, indie film.
"The Limey" and "Election" received a field-best five nominations each. Hollywood blockbusters such as "Toy Story 2" and "The Green Mile" received zippo. (They're not indies.)
With the studio heavyweights excluded, a variety of films that failed to garner tremendous box office during the 1999 film season found redemption as the Spirit nominations were handed down. David Lynch's "The Straight Story", a simple yet powerful film about an aging man's trek across country on his lawn mower, earned four nominations. Kimberly Peirce's controversial "Boys Don't Cry" also received four nods -- including ones for best lead actress (Hilary Swank) and best supporting female (Chloe Sevigny).
The five films slated to do battle in the main best-picture event are: Payne's "Election," Soderbergh's "The Limey," Lynch's "The Straight Story," Allison Anders and Kurt Voss' "Sugar Town", and Robert Altman's "Cookie's Fortune".
Awards will be handed out in Santa Monica on March 25 -- the day before the Oscars. The Spirits are sponsored by the Independent Feature Project/West.
The following is the complete list of nominations for the 15th annual IFP/West Independent Spirit Awards:
BEST FEATURE "Election" "The Straight Story" "The Limey" "Cookie's Fortune" "Sugar Town"
BEST FEMALE LEAD Diane Lane, "Walk on the Moon" Janet McTeer, "Tumbleweeds" Hilary Swank, "Boys Don't Cry" Susan Traylor, "Valerie Flake" Reese Witherspoon, "Election"
BEST MALE LEAD John Cusack, "Being John Malkovich" Richard Farnsworth, "The Straight Story" Terence Stamp, "The Limey" David Strathairn, "Limbo" Noble Willingham, "The Corndog Man"
BEST SUPPORTING FEMALE Barbara Barrie, "Judy Berlin" Vanessa Martinez, "Limbo" Sarah Polley, "Go" Chloe Sevigny, "Boys Don't Cry" Jean Smart, "Guinevere"
BEST SUPPORTING MALE Charles S. Dutton, "Cookie's Fortune" Luis Guzman, "The Limey" Terrence Howard, "The Best Man" Clark Gregg, "The Adventures of Sebastian Cole" Steve Zahn, "Happy, Texas"
BEST DIRECTOR Alexander Payne, "Election" Harmony Korine, "julien donkey-boy" Steven Soderbergh, "The Limey" David Lynch, "The Straight Story" Doug Liman, "Go"
BEST SCREENPLAY Kevin Smith, "Dogma" Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor, "Election" Audrey Wells, "Guinevere" Lem Dobbs, "The Limey" James Merendino, "SLC Punk!"
BEST FIRST FEATURE ($500,000-plus budget) "Being John Malkovich" "Three Seasons" "Boys Don't Cry" "Twin Falls Idaho" "Xiu Xiu the Sent Down Girl"
BEST FIRST FEATURE (less than $500,000 budget) "The Blair Witch Project" "La Ciudad" "Compensation" "Judy Berlin" "Treasure Island"
BEST DEBUT PERFORMANCE Kimberly J. Brown, "Tumbleweeds" Jessica Campbell, "Election" Jade Gordon, "Sugar Town" Toby Smith, "Drylongso" Chris Stafford, "Edge of Seventeen"
BEST FIRST SCREENPLAY Tod Williams, "The Adventures of Sebastian Cole" Charlie Kaufman, "Being John Malkovich" Kimberly Peirce and Andy Bienen, "Boys Don't Cry" Anne Rapp, "Cookie's Fortune" John Roach and Mary Sweeney, "The Straight Story"
BEST CINEMATOGRAPHER M. David Mullen, "Twin Falls Idaho" Lisa Rinzler, "Three Seasons" Anthony Dod Mantle, "julien donkey-boy" Jeffrey Seckendorf, "Judy Berlin" Harlan Bosmajian, "La Ciudad"
BEST FOREIGN FILM "All About My Mother" (Spain) "Run Lola Run" (Germany) "My Son the Fanatic" (England) "Topsy-Turvy" (England) "Rosetta" (Belgium-France)
DLJ DIRECT TRUER THAN FICTION AWARD (for documentaries) Owsley Brown, "Night Waltz: The Music of Paul Bowles" Nanette Burstein and Brett Morgan, "On the Ropes" Michael Camerini and Shari Robertson, "Well Founded Fear" Rory Kennedy, "American Hollow"
MOVADO SOMEONE TO WATCH AWARD (for new directors) Dan Clark, "The Item" Julian Goldberger, "Trans" Lisanne Skyler, "Getting to Know You" Cauleen Smith, "Drylongso"
MOTOROLA PRODUCERS AWARD Pam Koffler, "I'm Losing You" and "Office Killer" Eva Kolodner, "Boys Don't Cry" and "Hide and Seek" Paul Mezey, "La Ciudad" Christine Walker, "Backroads" and "Homo Heights"
Festivals wrap; "Clerks" director makes points with wife; Joey Lawrence shines (really)
PARK CITY, Utah, Jan. 30, 2000 - Done.
"Girlfight" and "You Can Count on Me" - the two films everybody talked about non-stop up here - ended up as the two films everybody talked about non-stop during Saturday's awards ceremony at the Raquet Center. The movies took two awards each - tying as the Grand Jury Prize winner for best dramatic film.
"Two Family House" - a film that as far as we were concerned nobody talked about up here - ended up as the upset winner in the Audience Award category, supposedly a popular vote. We're not sure what audience voted for it, but we're sure it wasn't the people at the Raquet Center. The films that drew the biggest applause during a rundown of the competition dramas were, of course, "Girlfight" and "You Can Count on Me," as well as "Songcatcher," "Urbania" and "Our Song." Of course, "Two Family House" wasn't included in that rundown because it wasn't a competition flick - it was an American Spectrum entry.
For a complete look at the night's winners, check out The Buzz.
In other festival action:
IT'S THE THOUGHT THAT COUNTS: "I've said this before and I'll say it again, I sort of wish there wasn't a competition at the festival because [as] nice, gratifying and thrilling as it is to win a prize, it's just so nice to be here. And I sort of wish we could all get here and be here and that would be it." - "You Can Count on Me" writer/director Kenneth Lonergan, to Hollywood.com.
LIKE WE SAID, IT'S THE THOUGHT THAT COUNTS: So, was Mr. Lonergan willing to give back his two awards he won Saturday? "No. Despite my altruistic sentiments."
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE SUNDANCE AWARDS AND THE SLAMDANCE AWARDS: The Slamdance awards are held in a bar; the Sundance awards are held at a health club. The Slamdance awards take about an hour to hand out; the Sundance awards take about two hours to hand out. The Sundance awards also feature many more speeches about the importance of film festivals, in general, and Sundance, in particular.
EXCEPT FOR THOSE OF YOU SEATED IN THE BACK ROWS BEHIND THE PRESS AND SPONORS: "This evening is really yours …" - Sundance festival co-director Nicole Guillemet, in her opening remarks to filmmakers.
FINALLY, A REAL MOMENT: "P.S.: [Expletive deleted] Slamdance." - Faux letter from Robert Redford, as read by Sundance juror/potty-mouthed filmmaker Kevin Smith ("Clerks").
PRESENTER'S ULTERIOR MOTIVE REVEALED: "I'm so getting laid tonight." - Kevin Smith (again), after thanking his wife for no particular reason before revealing the winner of the best dramatic director award.
AND NOW YOU KNOW: "Girlfight" writer/director Karyn Kusama's first name is pronounced "Car-in," not "Care-in," as she pointed out on stage moments after the aforementioned Mr. Smith botched it.
AND NOW YOU KNOW THAT, TOO: Mercedes-Benz has cared deeply about independent film for a decade - or so said the Mercedes-Benz mucky-muck allotted stage time on account of the luxury-car maker is the official sponsor of Sundance's Grand Jury Prizes.
THAT SPECIAL TOUCH: "Can you, uh, GET OUT THE WAY." - Sundance volunteer, to person standing in said Sundance volunteer's way.
SOME PRIZES COME IN CASH FORM: "Groove" and "Chuck and Buck" both got high-profile deals in the last week - but not a single Sundance award.
TASTY STUFF WE ATE AT THE AFTER-PARTY: Quiche Lorraine, lemon-grilled chicken on focaccia, vegetarian frittata and little square brown fudgy things.
SPOTTED: Kevin Smith chatting up comic Bobcat Goldthwait near the bathroom directional sign at the Raquet Center.
MOVIES WE SAW:
1. "Good Housekeeping" (Slamdance Competition Feature) -- Frank Novak's debut feature, which won the Slamdance Grand Jury Award for best feature, is like a 92-minute episode of "Cops," with all the grit, grime and white trash of that voyeuristic hit -- plus lots more laughs. Don (Bob Mills) and Donatella (Petra Westen) are two weeks away from divorce court and their domestic strife is reaching a crescendo. Then, Don erects a wall in the middle of the house to draw the battle lines. He's aided in his war with the missus by a gaggle of oddball friends including his loser brother (who sleeps in the car on the lawn), a fellow action-figure collector geek, and a divorced friend turned men's-rights activist, who gives Don a pistol and a Laaz military rocket for "self defense." This is an alarmingly realistic movie about an extremely dysfunctional family, but its sometimes-absurd humor makes it a delightful, if not always easy, movie to watch. (-- Steve Ryfle)
2. "Dolphins" (Slamdance Competition Feature) -- Think "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest," sans dialogue, and with a beautiful young woman standing in for Jack Nicholson. Throw in amazing cinematography, a la the craftsmanship of "Manhattan," and you're close to describing this 40-minute debut from Iranian-born Farhad Yawari, which won (despite its brief running time) this fest's Audience Award for best feature. A female mental patient (Julia Brendler) stares into her goldfish bowl and imagines herself swimming underwater with a school of dolphins. When she refuses to live by the house rules, the girl is repeatedly subdued by a Nurse Ratched-like character until a good-hearted garbage man busts her out of the nut house. The story is only one component of this multi-layered movie -- the music, the images and the performances meld seamlessly. Sure, it's a bit pretentious and artsy-fartsy, but it's obvious that Yawari is a filmmaker of great talent. (-- S.R.)
3. "Desperate But Not Serious" (SlamDunk) -- Bill Fishman, who has directed music videos for bands ranging from Suicidal Tendencies to Hank Williams Jr., as well as the big-screen comedies "Tapeheads" and Car 54, Where Are You?," weighs in with this $650,000 would-be comedic satire of the Los Angeles night-life scene. A San Francisco chick (Christine Taylor of "The Brady Bunch Movie") flies into L.A. to rendezvous with her botanist boyfriend (John Corbett) at a wedding reception, but when she loses the invitation she spends the entire night hopping from party to party with her party-gal friend (Paget Brewster) in search of her beau. During their misadventures, the girls meet a psychopath bartender (Henry Rollins), Brewster's ex-boyfriend (Max Perlich), a pretentious grrl rocker (Claudia Schiffer) and a pampered-but-nice movie star (Joey Lawrence -- the best thing about the film, really). In the end, Taylor gets her man (duh) but it's too late - the movie's already self-destructed with its unfunny, rambling dialogue and lack of story. Rent "Party Girl" instead. (-- S.R.)
BEST TAKE ON THE SUNDANCE Y2K EXPERIENCE: "It was monkeys and clowns all around." - Two anonymous filmmakers at The Club on Main Street.
WHAT ONE NON-FILMMAKER GOT OUT OF SUNDANCE: "Varicose veins from standing in line." -- Susan Nicolls, senior public relations manager, Macromedia.
HOW SUNDANCE Y2K DIFFERED FROM PREVIOUS SUNDANCES: "It's the same pretentiousness and arrogance. Have you seen these girls walking around outside with bare midriffs? What guy would want a girl with a blue stomach?" - Quotemeister Susan Nicolls.
WHY SLAMDANCE IS BETTER THAN SUNDANCE (ONE OPINION): "They're not kicking you out of parties like at Sundance." -- Sharon Reed, aspiring filmmaker.
WHY SUNDANCE IS BETTER THAN SLAMDANCE (ONE OPINION): "It was an excuse to party. In that respect, it succeeded tremendously."-- James Dudyen, filmmaker.
BEST PARTY: The Entertainment Weekly-sponsored bash on Jan. 21 at the Silver Lake Lodge. The free food (chicken strips with peanut dipping sauce) was refined; the view was spectacular; the band (Norway's own Getaway People) was very good. But, most of all, the festival was very young and we w ren't sick of this place yet. (-- J.R.)
WORST PARTY: The one on Friday night at Harry O's where the Worst (Most-Effective) Bouncer (see: below) put our own Jim Bartoo in a headlock on account of … well, to tell you the truth, we're still not exactly sure why.
BIGGEST PARTY TREND: Raves. Maybe it was the effect of the movie "Groove" being a big hit up here this year, but it wasn't surprising to see the president of New Line letting it all out on the dance floor to DJ's Digweed and Sasha. Rave culture touched everything at Sundance from the give-aways, (knit caps, disco-ball-keychains, and flashers) to the clothes (funk-sneakers and hi-tech nylon cargo-pants anyone?). (-- Gerry Katzman)
WORST (MOST-EFFECTIVE) BOUNCER: The nightclub Harry O's, which featured nightly performances by the likes of Sugar Ray, Primus, Third Eye Blind, and the Cult, should take the scads of money it made this week and open a studio, because as Hollywood Royalty waited in line and pleaded, "Let me in! I'm cold!," the red-mohawked bouncer replied, "Shut up, or none of you are getting in!" We smell a studio head in the making. (-- G.K.)
MOST CONSECUTIVE NIGHTS STANDING IN FRONT OF HARRY O'S WITHOUT GETTING IN: Four, as accomplished by Hollywood.com's Chuck Walton.
MOST UBIQUITOUS DRINK: "I have never seen so much frickin' Red Bull in my frickin life!" one party-goer screamed to us. The mediciney-sweet energy drink was everywhere in Park City. Red Bull, which contains "taurine," some kind of amino-acidy energy potion, is illegal in France - and, hence, a perfect compliment to vodka. (-- G.K.)
BEST SUGGESTION: Hold this stupid thing in May when it's, like, not FREAKIN' COLD outside.
Just a little bit longer, one week actually, before the miracle of autumn, when TV starts anew, like fresh flowers growing out of the compost pile you keep out back. Can you smell it? Mmm … compost. In the meantime … um … well, the Olympic Games are still on. Only 220.75 hours to go. Apparently you aren't watching the tape delayed archery contests as much as in past Olympics, and we (and a few folks at NBC) find that a little disturbing. Come on, people! We medaled in the 10-meter BB gun (sorry, air rifle) competition. Surely that's interesting! U-S-A! U-S-A! Hello?!
It's "PBS Week" at Channel Surfer, and that means one thing: Day and time may vary in your area! The festivities begin (for most of you) on Sunday with "Debating Our Destiny." Ever wonder why leading presidential candidates hate debating with third party candidates on TV? It's because the last thing you want, as a leading presidential candidate, is to have somebody talking about actual issues in a televised debate! Now, PBS' venerable news anchor, Jim Lehrer, throws all that out the window by bringing in 11 former candidates (including former President Bush) who no longer have everything to gain by not saying anything. And guess what? These guys can be very forthcoming and aren't nearly as stupid as they pretend to be when courting your vote. This one is illuminating, frustrating and worth watching. Tuesday is "Supernatural Night"! "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" kicks off its fifth season (8 p.m. on the WB) when Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) squares off against a perennial player in the vampire set, Dracula. Should make for an interesting feud. "Buffy" is followed by the second season premiere of its darker spin-off, "Angel," at 9 p.m. The repentant vampire, Angel (David Boreanaz) starts off the new season on the wrong foot when he mistakenly kills a demon that turns out to have been a good guy who had been protecting a mysterious woman. Angel tries to make good and takes over this job, only to find out that this woman (Justina Machado) has serious unresolved issues with the hell spawn crowd. Rounding out the evening, and continuing to fight the good fight in educating Americans about the ever present space aliens among us, "Danger in Our Skies: The New UFO Threat" airs on UPN at 9 p.m. Sure it's a repeat, but can we ever really get enough UFO shows?
Wednesday offers dueling tributes to butt-kickin' movie stars. PBS' "American Masters" anthology series (8 p.m., but of course day and time might vary) has Morgan Freeman narrating "Clint Eastwood: Out of the Shadows." Study the exploits of Dirty Harry and watch the metamorphosis of Eastwood's "Man With No Name" character from the stylized violence of the Sergio Leone-directed Westerns of the 1960s to the aged and wiser Will Muny of Eastwood's own Oscar-winning "Unforgiven" in 1992.
Trying hard to beat the Eastwood tribute will be TNT with "Hollywood Salutes Bruce Willis: An American Cinematheque Tribute" at 8 p.m.. This will be a clip-filled ceremony taped at the Beverly Hilton Hotel with presentations and appearances by friends and colleagues such as Paul Reiser, Kevin Pollack, David Letterman, Samuel L. Jackson, Haley Joel Osment, Larry King and the guy who gave Willis that first big break, "Moonlighting" creator Glenn Gordon Caron.
One question: If it's "American," then what the heck is "Cinematheque"? Oops, gotta go. Olympic lawn darts is on MSNBC! U-S-A! U-S-A!
You're within spitting distance of some of the world's biggest stars and movie personalities. You've got mere minutes to ask the right questions that will shed light on their feelings about what it's like to be nominated for an Oscar. Tom Cruise But here's the problem: You're corralled into a roomful of other reporters, who all want to ask the same questions. And some of their voices are louder than yours.
Welcome to the annual Oscar Nominees' Luncheon held today at the posh Beverly Hilton hotel, where Tom Cruise is on the menu.
"Tom, is this the weirdest role you've ever done in your life?" you ask, referring to that scurrilous Frank T.J. Mackey guy he plays in "Magnolia".
"Yes," Tom replies. Then he adds: "Hahahahahahahahaha!"
At a time of year when Hollywood is engrossed in awards ceremonies -- the SAGs, the DGAs and every other trophy-dispensing event worth its acronym -- this Oscar-sponsored meet-and-greet with the stars serves as a reminder that the Academy is a cut above.
And nobody seems to know this better than the journalists, herded into an anterior room while the stars lunch in the dining room. Undeterred by the tight quarters, the scribes shout out their queries quickly and loudly, without fear of being laughed at by Tom Cruise, and as if there were something urgent about knowing things such as:
-- "How elated must you be about your nomination?"
-- "Are you going to be emotional in your acceptance speech?"
-- "Do you have a big, fashion-designer outfit?"
-- "What's the most fun of being a nominee?
-- "Sam, why has this film hit such a nerve?" (Hint: Always remember to call the nominee by his and/or her first name, all chummy like. Even if you'd never heard of Sam Mendes, the "American Beauty" director guy, until about five months ago.)
-- And, finally: "What was the most difficult part of making this film?" (Word of advice: Don't ask this question of an auteur-type like "The Insider's" Michael Mann unless you're prepared for a long-winded, boring answer.)
In other luncheon fun:
CAN YOU SAY THAT AT THE LUNCHEON? We already know that "Blame Canada," the Oscar-nominated song from "South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut," is causing headaches for producers of the Oscar telecast and ABC censors. Now we know why.
Songwriters Trey Parker and Marc Shaiman used the dreaded "F" word no less than a dozen times while speaking to reporters at the luncheon. (In the song, the word is used just once.)
Parker said the flap over how the song will be censored at the awards ceremony hasn't been completely settled. But it's not the "F" word that's the problem (Parker concedes that it will most definitely be cut or bleeped out). He's more surprised that the censors are giving him guff about the word "fart."
Meanwhile, Randy Newman, whose song "When She Loved Me" from "Toy Story 2" is also nominated, threw in a word of support for the "South Park" guys -- er, make that a nonsequitur of support. "I'm glad something got nominated from 'South Park' because it's better than 'Cats,'" Newman said. "I like it. I like my song better, though."
AT EASE: Of all the celebs paraded before the press, Best Actor hopeful Kevin Spacey seemed to be most enjoying his turn in the Oscar limelight. Bleary-eyed and slightly pale after a night of post-SAG Awards partying, Spacey handled the hungry reporters' verbal onslaught with jovial irony. When a post-answer burst of questions caused his (self-described) hungover body to lurch backward, he yelped, "Jesus! Don't do that! I'm not awake!" And when innumerable reporters stepped on top of one another with a question, he said, "I can answer all four of those questions, and it would probably make as much sense as if I'd heard only one of them."
Running a close second in the at-ease department would be almost-octogenarian actor Richard Farnsworth, in the Best Actor race for his role in "The Straight Story," wherein he plays an old guy who drives across the country on a lawn tractor. True to character, Farnsworth said he was milking a cow on his New Mexico farm when he heard he was nominated.
THE ODD COUPLE: Best Supporting Actor nominee Tom Cruise, looking cool in a gray suit and burgundy turtleneck, and "Magnolia" director Paul Thomas Anderson, looking pale-faced, mussy-haired in a slobby red shirt and suit.
SHE'S ALL WOMAN: Hilary Swank gave a great performance as a young woman who blurs the line between male and female in "Boys Don't Cry." But now, the Best Actress nominee seems to be blurring the line herself. In paying lip service to Teena Brandon (aka Brandon Teena), the real-life subject of the film, Swank said, "He was very inspiring to me, because he was somebody who lived his life the way he wanted." He? (For the record, Brandon technically was a she.)
HE DON'T GOT GAME: Who knows what they really think of reporters, but most of the nominees were willing to play the Hollywood game: Show up, meet the press, dish out a few sound bites, go eat lunch. But not Best Actor nominee Denzel Washington. He showed up and met the press, but wasn't generous with the sound bites, avoiding direct answers and opting for a "Well, you know …" until his voice trailed off and you forgot what you asked him (or why you cared) in the first place.
IT'S THE NOMINEES' LUNCHEON, STUPID: Reporters are accustomed to being plied with food and drink, but the Academy don't play that. The libation du jour for the press was … water. Served in carafes. Really. Here's what the stars ate: Salad (mixed greens, fruits and nuts), a platter of appetizers (salmon, cheese, asparagus, etc.), and a main course (grilled shrimp, filet mignon and fresh vegetables).