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The Sundance awards were announced last night, so let’s see how Ian and I did.

Jared – Fishing Without Nets – WINNER – Directing

Ian – Hellion

Ian – Cold in July

Jared – Infinitely Polar Bear

Jared – Low Down – WINNER – Cinematography

Ian – Dear White People – WINNER – Special Jury Award for Breakthrough Talent

Ian – Whiplash – WINNER – Grand Jury Prize AND Audience Award

Jared – God’s Pocket

Jared – Camp X-Ray

Ian – Song One

Ian – Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter – WINNER – Special Jury Award for Musical Score

Jared – The Skeleton Twins – WINNER – Screenwriting

Jared – Happy Christmas

Ian – Jamie Marks is Dead

Ian – Life After Beth

Jared – The Sleepwalker

Ian wins 9-3, though I’m going to suggest next year we make directing and screenwriting each worth more than score.  We clearly let Whiplash fall way too far, though we again did a good job of picking out the films least likely to win something.

And Ian would like me to note: Most Ridiculous Award – World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award for the Delightful Ensemble Performance, and How the Director Brought His Own Unique Universe into Cinema: God Help the Girl.

My closing remarks from last year still fit fine, so I’ll repeat them: A big thanks to Ian for suggesting this, taking the time to do it, and for breathlessly reporting the results.  I look forward to getting revenge next year.

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And now, part three of Ian and Jared’s fantasy Sundance draft.  If you missed it, check out part one for scoring and the first four picks and part two for picks 5 through 8.

With the ninth pick of the 2014 Fantasy Sundance Draft, Jared takes…

Camp X-Ray

Jared: When Sundance announced the movies playing the festival this year, many (if not most) of the headlines touted Kristen Stewart, who stars in this film.  I get the feeling Twilight has made her a divisive figure, but if you’ve only seen her or heard of her in those films, I think you’ll be surprised at her acting ability.  The film tells the story of a burgeoning friendship of a guard (Stewart) and a detainee (Payman Maadi) at Guantanomo Bay, and the combination of an intense character study coupled with the morals and politics involved with Gitmo could mean this film has the potential to play well to this audience.  Writer-director Peter Sattler went to college with David Gordon Green and did some work on his films, and Green returns the favor here as a producer.  Also producing is Sophia Lin, who has producing credits on lauded films Take Shelter and Compliance.  And I wouldn’t want to leave out that she was production manager on The Baxter, a film I know Ian and I both love.

Ian: You’ve mentioned a lot of things that I love more than the world at large in that writeup, but I’ll focus on KStew first. I’m with you, if you only know her as tabloid fodder and a Twilight star, you’re missing out on great performances in The Runaways or Adventureland in particular. And if Peter Sattler has any of the eye for detail of his NCSA compatriots like David Gordon Green or Jody Hill, there’s probably going to be a sensitivity to the subject matter. And yet, reading this, I wonder if KStew can take on such a major focus, and whether the subject matter can be told without being either didactic or mawkish. Like most of our midpack films (and, let’s face it, the entire lineup as far as we know), this one has some boom/bust potential.

With the tenth pick of the 2014 Fantasy Sundance Draft, Ian takes…

Song One

Ian: Camp X-Ray was the last film remaining for me that had over a one-in-three chance of scoring. I think there’s a little bit of a gap here. The big draw for Song One is probably getting Anne Hathaway to come to Park City, but Hathy doesn’t seem like the kind of actress who the jury would feel compelled to give a Special Jury prize. The rest of the movie…well, it sure feels like Once in Brooklyn, doesn’t it? Once was obviously a shoo-in for the Audience Award back when it was in competition. While Jenny and Johnny don’t write songs with the same kind of naked emotional hooks as Glen Hansard does, I could see an affecting musical performance in a romantic weeper having much the same effect upon audiences. My biggest concern is the director, Kate Barker-Froyland’s pedigree. Sure, she seems prepared, but can she overcome her roots going to some state school in the midwest?

Jared: All Anne Hathaway does is win awards.  She’s got around 26 credits on imdb, and I believe she’s garnered at least a nomination for over half of them.  Or didn’t you realize she has an Emmy for voiceover work on The Simpsons, a British Independent Film Awards nomination for Becoming Jane, and a Young Artist nomination for Get Real?  So yeah, I’d say she’s in the running for playing the lead in an Sundance film.  She’s also a producer on this one, as are veteran producers Marc Platt and Jonathan Demme, so the film has some definite oomph behind it.  And to flesh out Ian’s joke, along with writer/director Kate Barker-Froyland, we are proud graduates of the University of Chicago.  Or graduates, at least.  So as fellow Maroons, we wish nothing but the best for Barker-Froyland.  Though I do question how anyone can escape that institution and be mentally stable enough to direct a feature-length movie.

With the eleventh pick of the 2014 Fantasy Sundance Draft, Ian takes…

Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter

Ian:  If Bunzo the rabbit does not win some sort of award, I am boycotting the festival next year. If I can give a little bit of a fantasy Sundance tip from an expert: I think once you get past the top picks (or if there are no top picks), you want to look for the best hooks for an award. Here, I could potentially see a potential award path for Rinko Kikuchi, in an All is Lost way, and the visual depiction of loneliness may also lead to some challenging direction or scenework. The Zellner brothers also have a pedigree of getting recognized, at least, so they may be building to a coming out party. I think I’m less enthused with the pick than I was when I made it, though, and this may be an overdraft, even here towards the end of the competition.

Jared: Yeah, I had this one near the bottom of my rankings.  The brothers Zellner are well-regarded Sundance alums, and Rinko Kinkuchi does have an Oscar nomination, sot here are a few things working in its favor.  But while I’m definitely curious about the film, the descriptions I’ve seen don’t scream out “Awards bait” to me.  And while I like Kinkuchi, sure seems like Hollywood hasn’t really figured out what to do with her since Babel.

With the twelfth pick of the 2014 Fantasy Sundance Draft, Jared takes…

The Skeleton Twins

Jared: Most importantly, one of the executive producers of this film is named “Jared Ian Goldman”, so I think we have to be rooting for this one.  I’ll grant that co-writer/director’s mumblecore heritage (this film was produced by the Duplass brothers) and stars Kristin Wiig and Bill Hader are not necessarily the stuff on which awards are built.  But to counter the latter, I’ll note that Nebraska, which co-stars Will Forte, seems to be doing pretty decently for itself.  And I’ve heard some incredibly premature buzz that Wiig and Hader are quite good in the roles, not really surprising giving their talent and how much people seem to generally like them.  Co-screenwriter Mark Heyman has a credit on Black Swan, for whatever that is worth.

Ian: I was deciding between The Skeleton Twins and Kumiko, and in the cold light of Sundance day, I think I made the wrong choice. (There are few sins less forgivable than making a poor fantasy Sundance draft decision.) I agree with both sides of your argument: the pedigree of the movie is enough to drop it towards the end of the draft, and Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader are probably enough to make the movie a value pick here. Wiig and Hader play well together (second shoutout to Adventureland in one writeup!), and they’re both capable of quiet nuanced performance when away from the Groundlings character-first influence. I do wonder somewhat which of the awards this movie could possibly contend for, but that’s what made it available here in the first place.

And now, part two of Ian and Jared’s fantasy Sundance draft.  If you missed it, check out part one for scoring and the first four picks.

With the fifth pick of the 2014 Fantasy Sundance Draft, Jared takes…

Low Down

Jared: Director Jeff Preiss is a cinematographer and experimental filmmaker, and this film is about a jazz pianist and his daughter, so I’m taking the movie under the principle that anything unappealing to me is probably a good bet for awards love. Preiss has been knocking around for awhile to some acclaim, and this is his first crossover to anything that could be considered mainstreamish. What mostly drew me to the film were the lead actors: Elle Fanning and John Hawkes. I’m not saying we are high on Fanning, but I thought Elle Fanning deserved an Oscar nomination for Super 8, and Ian is the one who likes her more. She’s a fantastic actress who already has British Independent and Satellite nominations on her resume. John Hawkes has an Oscar nomination, of course, and is just generally awesome. He also shares an Sundance Special Jury Prize for ensemble acting. The rest of the cast includes Peter Dinklage, Glenn Close, Taryn Manning, Lena Headey, and Flea, with Anthony Kiedis listed as a produce. Which is fascinating, if nothing else.

Ian: Just to be clear, Internet weirdos, we think Elle Fanning is a terrific actress, nothing more. But yes, she was the best thing in the charming Super 8, and her performance in Somewhere was approaching transcendent. And I don’t need to sell anyone reading this on John Hawkes, or the rest of the cast. My hesitation is that it may seem a little slight and unfinished even for a Sundance movie, but that’s a mild reservation. If it’s good, I think it would perform well, and I’ll probably be strongly into seeing it. I’d have taken it next.

With the sixth pick of the 2014 Fantasy Sundance Draft, Ian takes…

Dear White People

Ian: Instead, I took a movie that’s probably going to end up less on the lyrical side. Dear White People seems like enough of a polemic that I suspect I’m giving up shots at the Grand Jury and Audience awards, since satire may be a genre even less favored than horror. I do think this movie is very likely to land Justin Simien something, however, since he seems like a smart, already recognized writer who, let’s face it, knows how to market himself well. I’m not saying that to be dismissive, or to say that the film is unlikely to stand on its own, but I think having a nose for p.r. and recognition is a skill (as the Weinsteins prove every award season). Aiming for a writer’s/director’s award here, and hopefully, a smart and subversive movie.

Jared: I strongly considered this one. Look, in order to be an ace awards pundit, you have to throw political correctness out the window. It seems safe to argue that the type of people going to an indieish awards festival in Utah created by Robert Redford will fall over themselves to applaud an intellectual look at race in the country. The only question, really, is how subversive, how funny, how frank the film is. One gets the feeling Sundance folk would like to tsk-tsk others for their racism, it is unclear what the awards impact would be if the film asks viewers to think more critically about themselves.

With the seventh pick of the 2014 Fantasy Sundance Draft, Ian takes…

Whiplash

Ian: This one is kind of a mirror image of Hellion, as a young man is brutally shaped by a parental figure in a feature film that was expanded from a short previously recognized at Sundance. The difference here is pedigree. Start with the cast, and Miles Teller in particular. I said this last year with The Spectacular Now, but Miles Teller is definitely one On The Verge, and he and Shailene Woodley took home a special jury award for his efforts in that film (aside: well-deserved, in my opinion). Now, he’s back in the competition as an intense student, being mentored by the always reliable J.K. Simmons. Add in that the film has already won a Jury Award as a short, and then Director Damien Chazelle got the feature-length script on the Black List, and this one has a lot of promise. Just as with J.J. Abrams and Infinitely Polar Bear, the presence of big macher Jason Reitman on the producer list also helps tip the scales. Starting to think I may have underrated it, if anything.

Jared: Hm. Yeah, this one may have fallen. Can’t think of many negatives here. Writer/director Damien Chazelle has a screenplay credit on The Last Exorcism Part II, which isn’t the most encouraging thing in the world, I suppose. And he wrote the upcoming Grand Piano, a thriller starring Elijah Wood as a concert pianist who John Cusack (presumably) threatens to kill if he plays a wrong note during a recital. But yeah, the film seems a good bet to bring home something.

With the eighth pick of the 2014 Fantasy Sundance Draft, Jared takes…

God’s Pocket

Jared: As a huge fan of the TV show Ed, I’m tickled pink to see John Slattery directing a Sundance film. Even though Dennis Martino was obviously a bastard and totally wrong for Carol Vesey and maybe I digress. Slattery is best known, of course, for his role on Mad Men and has directed five episodes of the series, to some acclaim. This film marks his feature film debut as director. The cast is jaw-droppingly good: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Eddie Marsan, John Turturro, Richard Jenkins, and Christina Hendricks, it isn’t unreasonable to hope for a nod for one of them. The film is based on a novel by Peter Dexter, on whose novel The Paperboy was based, and who has screenwriting credits for Mulholland Falls, Michael, and an Emmy nomination for Paris Trout. So that’s a mixed bag. But the Sundance description includes “authentic”, which is always a good sign, plus it specifically mentions the cinematography, so it could be in the running for a point there.

Ian: It’s hard for me to get a read on God’s Pocket. On the one hand, this is bigger than the type of movie usually in the Sundance competition. This is probably the best prestige cast we’ve seen in our storied history of fantasy Sundance drafting. And yes, Lance Acord, the cinematographer, generally works in movies that premiere at Sundance, and not films in competition. On the other hand, how much of this acclaim is a favor to the well-liked John Slattery? This isn’t said to be dismissive at all, he may well be a great screenwriter, and he’s taken on some visually inventive episodes of Mad Men (Signal 30 in particular is likely an underrated episode in the Mad canon). We (well, I) just don’t know yet, and the film description sounds a little on the pedestrian side to be in the Jury Prize running. It’s probably a pick that’s going to score, and maybe one that has broad audience appeal and familiar characters, so I endorse it here.

Coming up next, part three of our draft.

As you no doubt remember, Ian and I drafted the movies in the U.S. Dramatic Competition from last year’s Sundance festival.  Hopefully you forgot that Ian wiped the floor with me.  As you might have guessed, we’re bringing the draft back again this year.

But first, I’m excited to announce that Adam and I will be attending this  year’s Sundance festival.  No clue whether we’ll actually be able to see any in competition films, but I’ll be sure to report back.

We are using the same scoring system as last year:

Grand Jury Prize: 3 points
Audience Award: 2 points
Special Jury Prizes: 2 points each
US Directing Award: 1 point
Screenwriting Award: 1 point
Cinematography Award: 1 point
Alfred P. Sloan Award: Tiebreak

And the draft will snake, like all drafts should.  I get first pick this year since I got trounced last year.  For summaries of all films, check out the official Sundance page.  Here’s part one of four of our draft.

With the first pick of the 2014 Fantasy Sundance Draft, Jared takes…

Fishing Without Nets

Jared:  I’m not sure what a clear #1 pick would be in a fantasy Sundance league, but I didn’t see one this year.  The overly simplified summary of this film you’ll probably see floating around is that it is Captain Phillips from the perspective of the pirates.  And I’m banking on this film getting a boost by riding the coattails of the likely Oscar nominee, which at this point in the Oscar race seems to have a healthy base of support.  The film is writer/director Cutter Hodierne’s first feature effort (which isn’t necessarily a point against him; the last two Grand Jury prizes were won by first-time filmmakers: Ryan Coogler for Fruitvale Station and Benh Zeitlin for Beasts of the Southern Wild), but he’s directed a documentary of U2, and this film is actually based on a short of the same name, which won a Jury prize at the 2012 Sundance festival.  The film apparently used nonactors, so it is unlikely to compete for acting prizes, but I think the apparent combination of action and moral dilemmas, plus the aforementioned pedigree gives the film a good chance to click.

Ian:  In our long and storied history of the Fantasy Sundance League, there’s never been a year with as little stratification as this one. I also see fewer “locks” than last year, and the bigger name directors were of the mumblecore “it’s an honor to be nominated” variety. This one was a little down my list, if only because Captain Phillips may have sucked up some of the air in the piracy genre. Oh, and also because the movie has been gestating for so long that Somali piracy has been eradicated in the meantime. The fact that this movie was already honored is a point in its favor, but I thought there were better choices on the board with similar Sundance pedigrees.

With the second pick of the 2014 Fantasy Sundance Draft, Ian takes…

Hellion

Ian: This film was also selected to premiere at Sundance as a short film. While it didn’t win any prizes then (and may not have been in competition), I like its odds better now. If I had to explain why in two words, they would read, “Aaron Paul.” Paul has been in indies before, of course, but this is going to be the first movie he takes onto the festival circuit after the triumphant end of Breaking Bad. And if we’re talking about a “commanding performance” from him, I think this is one that juries or audiences have been well primed to honor. The subject matter also seems harrowing, and frankly more interesting than most of the other movies in competition. I’m looking for a combination of quality and timing to lead to some of the big awards.

Jared: I strongly considered this one for my first overall pick.  Recent Sundance winners such as Winter’s Bone and Beasts of the Southern Wild, suggest a certain proclivity for rewarding films set in the U.S. in between the two coasts.  Kat Candler seems a prime candidate to break out, and having Jeff Nichols as an executive producer is surely a good sign.  Aaron Paul is obviously hot off a slew of Breaking Bad recognition.  He’s yet to garner any awards recognition for film roles, for whatever that is worth.  I’m usually wary of adolescent-led films, but on the flip side, if Josh Wiggins impresses, he could be rewarded.

With the third pick of the 2014 Fantasy Sundance Draft, Ian takes…

Cold in July

Ian:  Last year, a brilliant and unconventional director of genre film got its start in competition at Sundance. And while Upstream Color wasn’t a big winner there, it was a successful launch, and one that would probably receive greater awards from the same jury if they revoted today. It’s not a perfect analogue, but Jim Mickle strikes me as this year’s answer to Shane Carruth: a director with more experience and acclaim than the rest of the field who is working in a genre that usually doesn’t rack up awards. The difference to me is that Mickle seems to have come up within the system to a greater degree, which means that Michael C. Hall is attached to the project, along with Sam Shepard and Don Johnson (!). I’m hoping that this movie is inventive enough that the panel feels they have to award it with something, or that it’s populist enough that an audience goes wild.

Jared:  Personally, I had this one a little lower.  Phrases from the official Sundance summary of the film include: “pulpy, southern-fried mystery”, “older breed of action film”, “gore-soaked”, and “Don Johnson”.  Which means I’m super excited for the movie.  But also gives me some pause in terms of how broad an appeal the film will have.  Mickle’s last film, We Are What We Are, scored a 5.7 on imdb, and a 69 on metacritic, (though, to be fair, it garnered an 87% on Rotten Tomatotes).  Michael C. Hall is another actor who has received much love on TV, but yet to break through in a film, and I suppose one has to wonder if the universally-hated Dexter final season will have any impact.

With the fourth pick of the 2014 Fantasy Sundance Draft, Jared takes…

Infinitely Polar Bear

Jared:  It just sounds like a Sundance movie, doesn’t it?  Mark Ruffalo’s career has been absolutely fascinating: he’s an indie darling turned Oscar nominee with crossover appeal thanks to somehow becoming Hulk in The Avengers.  And let’s not forget the three Teen Choice nominations way back in 2004.  He got some Sundance love a few years ago for directing Sympathy for Delicious.  So he always strikes me as a viable contender.  A viable concern is the film being too funny for the major awards (and don’t get me started on that), given that writer/director Maya Forbes has screenwriting credits on The Larry Sanders Show, The Rocker, and Monsters vs. Aliens.  But descriptors such as “bittersweet” and “transcendent” provide some hope, and the concept of the trials and tribulations of a father struggling to raise his two daughters seems prime Sundance material.  That J.J. Abrams is a producer suggests the film might have some mass appeal.

Ian:  I had Infinitely Polar Bear, and then erased it before sending it to you. I certainly agree that the Ruff is awards bait, the premise seems like Sundance madlibs, and the J.J. Abrams imprimatur seems like this could be on the fast track. I just struggled to get past Maya Forbes’ resume on this one. Larry Sanders is probably the show most directly responsible for the current state of comedy in movies, but it seems like ever since then, she’s been doing some work for hire. I understand The Rocker has its charms, and I won’t dismiss any of those movies out of hand, but it’s not a resume that screams “Sundance favorite,” which makes me think that there’s a chance the movie could be slight. Also, not for nothing, but that’s a horrible film title.

I don’t want to bury the lede, so let me get this out of the way: All Is Lost is a terrible movie.

Each year as I do this awards thing, there are movies I can’t stand that are nearly universally loved by critics (All Is Lost is 87 on metacritic and 94% on Rotten Tomatoes as I write this) and which also receive awards love (All Is Lost was nominated for Best Feature at the Spirit Awards).  Obviously I’m right and everyone else is wrong, but as I browsed through some positive reviews of the film, I think I’m beginning to better understand why.

All Is Lost is an incredibly simple tale.  Robert Redford struggles to survive as the small boat he is manning in the ocean becomes increasingly unusable and he is forced to the life raft.  That’s pretty much it.  There’s virtually no dialogue or subplots.  Simply Redford trying to stay alive as his situation gets progressively worse. Praise for the movie seems to mainly focus around two ideas.  First, Redford’s performance in this one man show.  To me, the love here is a function of Redford essentially being the sole actor in the movie and surprise that even at his relatively advanced age, Redford still has it.  Redford is a terrific actor (bold statement, I know), but I don’t think this performance is among his best. He’s incredibly restrained for almost the entire movie, reduced to futzing around with equipment or his vessel.  I’m not suggesting that a great performance has to have a ton of emoting, or that Redford doesn’t still have an engaging presence.  I just think we should adjust the degree of difficulty multiplier appropriately.

The other reason people generally like this movie (again paraphrasing from a collection of reviews) is its illustration of man’s drive to survive.  Some critics find not knowing whether Redford will survive the ordeal to be quite gripping.  Often some larger meaning of humanity’s struggle in general is placed on the character here.  To summarize, my argument is that the main reason critics appear to like the movie is the depiction of  a man desperately trying to stay alive.

This justification makes me unreasonably angry. Because you know what else is a story of a man desperately trying to stay alive?  Pretty much every slasher movie ever made, the majority of horror movies and about half of action movies.  Sure, this is obviously a much sparser, stripped-down take.  But I fail to see how a lack of plot or dialogue or virtually anything else interesting would work in this movie’s favor.

Multiple reviewers praise the action of the film (for example, A.O. Scott writes the film is: “an action movie in the most profound and exalted sense of the term”).  These critics are, for lack of a better word, lying.  Or, at least, completely unable to appreciate action films.  Because this one nearly put me to sleep multiple times and the few action sequences were totally uninspired.  And not that I care, but if you want to go there, this movie featured as many plot holes and implausibilities as the average action film derided for such.

I like it when people like movies.  But I get very frustrated when it feels like someone likes a movie not for the movie itself, but for what they project onto the movie.  And, you know, I get it, we can argue intent all day long, but I’d have to agree that writer/director J.C. Chandor was more likely to be making a statement on man and survival than whatever straight-to-DVD teen slasher movie you’d throw at me.  But, for me, that’s not the point.  This film is about a guy doing whatever he can to stay alive.  The teen slasher movie is about a guy or a guy or a group of people doing whatever they can to stay alive.  The latter may be more hokey, feature poorer acting, and have worse special effects, sure.  But if you are saying you like All Is Lost for the narrative, I don’t think it is reasonable to not like the teen slasher movie.

Obviously I’m being a little facetious here.  All Is Lost‘s deliberate, measured pace allows much more space for in-movie reflection on the human spirit, where a slasher film is an engrossing escape for the duration of the movie (at least, if it is good).  But I maintain it is a little unreasonable to spend time after the former thinking about the depiction without doing the same for the latter.  And regardless, if you are going to like this movie because it gets you thinking about humanity, aren’t you better off saving the twelve bucks and two hours of your life you’d spend watching the film and think about the will to survive on your own time?

Time for my annual post where I predict the Spirit Awards nominees.  Be sure to look for the annual follow up post by John where he makes fun of my predictions.  The important thing to keep in mind is that there’s no point in trying to make these predictions.  There’s no way to be entirely certain which movies are even eligible to be nominated.  And though the Spirit Awards have been trending a little toward Oscar-type movies and big stars, they always seem to fit in at least a few films and performances seemingly from out of nowhere.  At any rate, here’s what I got.  The actual nominees will be announced Tuesday morning by Paula Patton and Octavia Spencer.

Best Picture

12 Years a Slave
August: Osage County
Enough Said
Inside Llewyn Davis
Nebraska

Best Lead Female

Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
Julie Delpy, Before Midnight
Greta Gerwig, Frances Ha
Brie Larson, Short Term 12
Robin Weigert, Concussion

Best Lead Male

Bruce Dern, Nebraska
Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave
Michael B. Jordan, Fruitvale Station
Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club
Robert Redford, All is Lost

Best Supporting Female

Margo Martindale, August: Osgage County
Lupita N’Yongo, 12 Years a Slave
Octavia Spencer, Fruitvale Station
Something crazy
Something crazy

Best Supporting Male

Michael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave
James Gandolfini, Enough Said
Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club
Something crazy
Something crazy

Best Director

Coen Bros, Inside Llewyn Davis
Nicole Holofcener, Enough Said
Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave
Jeff Nichols, Mud
Alexander Payne, Nebraska

Best First Feature

Afternoon Delight, Jill Soloway
Blue Caprice, Alexander Moors
Concussion, Stacie Passon
Fruitvale Station, Ryan Coogler
In a World…, Lake Bell

Now that you’ve read the pick by pick breakdown of our fantasy Cannes draft, let’s see what everyone’s strategy and thoughts were:

BRIAN

I struggled throughout with balancing what I actually thought could be good with what I felt the Frenchies at Cannes would actually think was good. I’m generally really pleased with my slate and with one lone exception, and presuming they turn out to be halfway decent, would be interested in seeing them. I used IonCinema’s countdown as my guide for these picks.

IAN

Team Name: The Long and Winding Refn

Going into the draft, my strategy was to lean towards the buzzworthy and Francophone. I wanted films from directors who seemed to be veterans of the film festival circuit, and perhaps due for a win or two. All told, I’m a little worried that I drafted with too strong an American bias, passing up great native performances for movies that belong more to this continent either in content or in casting. That said, I am happy with many of the movies in terms of their PR campaign and ability to seize the moment, and I look forward to the competition to find out if they are able to capitalize.

JARED

Earning admission to walk the Croisette is already the mark of a certain quality, so I was looking for things that set the films apart.  I grabbed the only female- and African-helmed movies in competition, for example.  Not sure I loved having last pick.  I don’t mind my first-rounder, but picking on the end means I really couldn’t try to game the draft too much.  I had a sneaking suspicion that Grisgris would have fallen back to me in round 3, for example, but didn’t make sense to risk it.  I would be remiss if I didn’t link to Neil Young’s Cannes odds, which broke a tie or two for me.  Ian also points out IonCinema’s two sets of odds, from Blake Williams and Nicholas Bell.  And Guy Lodge’s series at InContention has been fantastic, and if it had a set link, I’d use it.

After the rousing success of fantasy Sundance, we are back with fantasy Cannes – Cannestasy as Ian so cleverly puts it.  Point values are:

5 points – Palm d’Or

4 points – Grand Prix and Prize of Un Certain Regard

3 points – Jury Prize

2 Points – Director (including Camera d’Or), Actor, and Actress awards

1 Point – All other awards, including Palm Dog (which goes to the best dog in a film.  Duh.)

The festival starts May 15th.  You can find the list of films here, though I’ll note the list changed slightly during our draft (which, like all good drafts, was snaking).  The awards are largely limited to the Competition and Un Certain Regard categories, so we only drafted movies in those programs.

Ian and Gavin joined in with Brian, John, and yours truly.  And everyone was kind enough to contribute some thoughts about their picks.  Except Gavin, who stayed silent in honor of Adam.  To the draft!

ROUND 1

GavinThe Past (trailer)
BrianInside Llewyn Davis (trailer)
Going with an American film with my top pick was a huge risk, especially one that is distinctly American in setting, but the Coen brothers have had success at Cannes in the past. It also looks good and has strong buzz. I strongly considered Only God Forgives, but was sorely disappointed by Drive and really have no desire to see it. Since the stakes in this contest are so high, I wanted to be able to root for my films.
JohnLike Father, Like Son
I steered away from big-name directors. After that, I just picked whatever seemed artsy fartsy but still approachable. I used Neil Young’s Cannes odds page as a guide. This family drama fit all the criteria.
IanOnly God Forgives (trailer)
My first pick, may have been an early pick, but I actually had it even higher, at the top of the board. I don’t see nearly the amount of movies as the rest of my leaguemates, so I didn’t know much about the content of Drive. However, I do know a little bit about the hype cycle, and it seems to me from the outside that both Nicolas Winding Refn and Ryan Gosling are ready to explode if Only God Forgives lives up to its pre-festival billing. They seem to be at a precipice for success, and I’d be surprised if the movie, director, and star aren’t all in contention for major awards. I also see a lot of the indie awards potentially headed their way, if these associations look to stay on trend. And hey, maybe it could win the Palm Dog.
JaredThe Immigrant
Cannes appears to be the only place that loves James Gray. But man, do they love themselves some James Gray, as this film is Gray’s fourth Palm d’Or nomination. Originally titled Lowlife, the film is set in 1920 New York, with Marion Cotillard playing a Polish immigrant who becomes a prostitute at the hands of Jeremy Renner and then falling in love with magician Joaquin Phoenix. The film has been buzzing, Gray seems a good candidate to step forward and reach his awards potential, and the cast should be strong play here as well.

ROUND 2

JaredGrisgris
Director Mahamat-Saleh Haroun’s prior effort, A Screaming Man, was nominated for the Palm d’Or in 2010 and won the Jury Prize. This one tells the story of a paralyzed man who dreams of being a dancer only to get involved with gasoline smugglers. Awards bait. The film is, I believe, the only one in competition with an African pedigree (the director is from Chad), which I think could help set it apart.
IanJimmy P: Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian
Could do similarly well, although there’s no way that title is making it to the States. Arnaud Desplechin is an auteur who’s been out of the game for a while, and who has frequently shown at Cannes without winning to date. If he isn’t due himself, then the jury could also see fit to throw a bauble Benicio del Toro’s way, since del Toro has reached the point of his career where every performance demands attention. The story appears to be structured as a two-hander with Mathieu Amalric, which sounds as though it has the ability to be arty, intense, and actor-driven. Also, there’s a chance that Benicio del Toro’s character has a faithful dog by his side.
JohnYoung & Beautiful (trailer)
“A contemporary portrait of a teenage girl, in four seasons and four songs.” Sounds appropriately artsy with an interesting conceit but not necessarily overly experimental. Plus Francois Ozon seems to have the requisite pedigree to win. Maybe one of the actresses can pick up an award.
BrianHeli (clip)
Perhaps a reach, but the plot intrigued me (drug cartels, police corruption, sex espionage and a disappeared father)… FATHERS AND SONS, guys. And director Amat Escalante has had huge success with his first two films. Borrowing a page from fantasy football, where 3rd year wide receivers are always worth keeping an eye on, I figured the same held true for filmmakers. Also, really wanted Ian’s pick (Jimmy P: Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian) to fall to me.
GavinNebraska

ROUND 3

GavinA Touch of Sin (trailer)
BrianBlue is the Warmest Color
This felt the most Cannes-baity for me. A sexually confused15-year-old French girl? Sure, sounds like a winner to me.
JohnThe Great Beauty (trailer)
Only thing I read about it says it looks a little like “Tree of Life,” which could be good or bad.
IanMichael Kohlhaas
Wasn’t a movie I was expecting to draft (I was hoping that Blue is the Warmest Color would slip), but again, I’m betting on a hot actor, in this case, Mads Mikkelsen, to make this movie’s case to the jury. Mikkelsen has been the best reviewed part of several recent projects, won the prize just last year for The Hunt, and is certainly the most compelling reason to watch Hannibal, so maybe placing him in a sweeping historical epic will create movie magic. I’d also trust Denis Lavant to give a knockout performance, and perhaps the jury may wish to make up for blanking last year’s visionary Holy Motors. Also, I see horses in the still photo from the film, so perhaps there is room for a dog as well?
JaredA Castle in Italy
This film is the only one competing for the Palm directed by a woman. So, you know, girl power! Director Tedeschi won a Special Jury Prize six years ago for her last directorial effort, but she’s actually been quite busy in the meantime, as acting is her day job. Details about the plot are still trickling out, but it appears to be about a well-off Italian family who sells their home.

ROUND 4

JaredOnly Lovers Left Alive
Oh, you know, just your typical arthouse vampire flick. Writer/director Jim Jarmusch has been nominated for the Palm a whopping six times without coming away with the big prize, so by the due theory, he should be hitting any time now. Plus it is tough to ignore a cast led by white hot actors Tom Hiddleston, Tilda Swinton, and Mia Wasikowska.
IanFruitvale Station (trailer)
I picked this first off the board from the Un certain regard category after it carried me to victory recently in the Sundance fantasy draft. Most of the comments I made then still hold true, especially after it was received so well. Now, the movie, already a festival favorite, has the weight of Harvey Weinstein thrown behind it, which is certainly no negative when it comes to awards. Michael B. Jordan, in particular, now has to be considered an Oscar contender, and certainly a Spirit Award lock. I do wonder somewhat whether an American tearjerker will play well with a more experimental French-based jury, but I look to last year’s Sundance darling, Beasts of the Southern Wild, for inspiration. Beasts cleaned up in the non-competition jury prizes, although that movie is literally and figuratively fantastic and daring while Fruitvale Station appears to be more earthbound. Even so, I think it’s possible that Oscar owned a dog.
JohnOmar
Middle East. Dramatic moral ambiguity. Figured I’d move to Un Certain Regard instead of slumming at the bottom of the main lineup
BrianVenus in Fur
Considering I contemplated picking this with my first pick, I was shocked he fell this far. The French love Roman Polanski, for all of his horrifying glory. My team name will most definitely play off this…but my main theory as to why this fell to me: it’s a two person film that doesn’t sound very captivating. And one of the actors is Polanski’s wife. Could be instantly forgettable…which may make it even more Cannes-worthy.
GavinBorgman (trailer)

ROUND 5

GavinBehind the Candelabra (trailer)
BrianThe Bastards
At this point I almost wholly deferred to IONCinema. Claire Denis is in their words, “one of the best directors working today.” Her debut film, Chocolat (no not that one), got her nominated for Best Director at Cannes. I figured it was a good try for a second chance.
JohnMy Sweet Pepper Land
Middle East. Dramatic moral ambiguity.
IanThe Bling Ring (trailer)
Is a pet pick, of course, and risky as heck considering that the great Marie Antoinette got booed out of Cannes. In between that time, however, Sofia Coppola directed Somewhere, which is probably one of the top five films of this century, and she seems to have developed a mastery of subject and craft. (An aside, but since I have the floor: how great would Sofia Coppola’s The Great Gatsby have been? I love Sofia’s movies for the same reason that I love Fitzgerald’s books, and I’d have been fascinated to see the marriage of the two.) Emma Watson also seems like an actor in line to start being taken seriously and awarded as such. It might be a stretch to imagine a “frivolous” feminine and feminist subject such as this one actually making a case for itself at Cannes for serious hardware, but this film is opening the Un certain regard competition, and I am hopeful that a jury will one day recognize her for an unparalleled body of work. Also, I know for sure that Paris Hilton owns a dog.
JaredWakolda
This film is based on the true story of a family in Argentina who unknowingly lives with Josef Mengele and a girl who falls in love with him. Can you imagine if Jerry Springer could pull a reveal like that on his show? I’m counting it as that awards baitiest of awards bait, a Holocaust movie. Writer-director Lucia Puenzo achieved some acclaim (including a Cannes’s critics prize) for her freshman effort, XXY.  Also, I kinda was hoping the Claire Denis movie would fall.

ROUND 6

JaredL’image manquante
The synopsis on the Cannes page of this Cambodian-French production is nearly unintelligible, which I think is a good sign. Writer-director Rithy Panh was nominated for the Palm nineteen years ago and more recently won an award there for his documentary S21: The Khmer Rouge Death Machine.
IanStraw Shield (trailer)
I definitely had no intention of taking this movie, which seems like pulpy genre fare mixed in with far more high-minded cinema, but the allure of taking a film In Competition this late in the draft was too great. I’m not particularly hopeful with this one, but Takashi Miike seems to have a scattershot reputation, and this film could be at the high end of the bell curve, having already exceeded expectations by being selected in the first place. There’s also an excellent probability of a dog appearing in this film.
JohnSarah Prefers to Run (trailer)
Could capitalize if the jury wants to award a quirky indie.
BrianGrand Central (clip)
I picked it for all the same reasons as Blue. It’s French, it’s about young love — it even stars the same young ingenue. Add in some political commentary about the nuclear industry, and sure why the heck not at this point.
GavinBends

ROUND 7

GavinMiele (trailer)
BrianL’Inconnu du lac
More French love. The synopsis from IONCinema: In this love story, two men meet in a nudist resort on the banks of a lake, but one of them is a murderer.
JohnRising
Just trying to avoid any Jim Jarmusch or 4 hour-plus Filipino films
IanLa jaula de oro
This is a total shot in the dark, and I had difficulty finding any information about the movie at all. Left to rely mostly on the country of origin, my reasoning is that Mexico has become tremendously fertile ground for great films, whereas for the Filipino movies, merely being selected may be its own reward at this point in its industry. (James Franco is American, but is also Franco.) And politically, there aren’t many more relevant stories right now in this climate than the insanity that is border crossing and American immigration policy. The lack of information about the movie may also mean that it is entirely about a dog.
JaredAs I Lay Dying (trailer)
I think we can all agree that James Franco has pretty much turned into the worst, but as someone who owns Whatever It Takes on DVD, I had to take this one. Plus, you know “Danny McBride – Cannes actor” has a nice ring to it. I haven’t read the book since high school, but it does seem like it has potentially to be rather interestingly done, in the hands of a confident director. I also think the casting of Beth Grant as Addie is inspired.

Undrafted – Manuscripts Don’t Burn (directed by Mohammed Rasoulof, this movie was on the list, then off, and now appears to be back on again), Death March (directed by Adolfo Alix, Jr.), and Norte, The End of History (directed by Lav Diaz).

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And by “Grouches” I mean me and John.  Proud members of Film Independent, we get a vote for the Spirit Awards and take it very seriously.  I won’t get into John’s clever system of earning and assigning points, all you need to know is that for the categories where we both saw all the nominees, you’ll see each of our picks along with how much we weighted that pick.  Whoever’s pick is weighted higher gets our vote.  And now, join us as we discuss this year’s crop.

BEST SUPPORTING FEMALE

  • Rosemarie DeWitt, Your Sister’s Sister
  • Ann Dowd, Compliance
  • Helen Hunt, The Sessions
  • Brit Marling, Sound of My Voice
  • Lorraine Toussaint, Middle of Nowhere

John: Ann Dowd (7)
Jared: Rosemarie DeWitt (6)

John: Phew!

John: I upped it a time or two to fight you off and it worked.

Jared: Well played, I had fiddled with my points there a bunch.

John: Not that I have anything against DeWitt, but Dowd is so good. People find Compliance a hard sit because it requires a lot of characters to be continuously stupid, but with Dowd especially you can understand how she could be fooled.  She makes it feel very real.

Jared: Completely agree with you. This was a tough category for me because I thought all of the actresses were top notch. I thought Dowd did a very good job and it is impressive she is receiving notices because it isn’t very showy role.

John: It’s too bad her awards campaign didn’t take off more.

Jared: I thought DeWitt did a lot with a little. It is a sparse script and movie and she created an engaging, complex character.

 

John: Ha, I put Bernie on netflix for background noise while we chat and he just shot shirley maclaine. fantastic

John: I rather liked Your Sister’s Sister. Very interesting characters in a movie where not a ton necessarily happens. All the performances are good but I’d agree that DeWitt stands out.

Jared: Yeah, it is a movie I should have hated, but I kinda liked it.

John: Maybe she’s good in fucked up family roles, remembering that we loved her in Rachel Getting Married.

Jared: Haha. True.  Also, everything.

 

John: Since it’s only the two of us I realized I should only vote for one person per category, but I would have tossed Hunt some votes too.

Jared: We both ranked Hunt second, she was very solid.

John: I’d want her to be my sex therapist.

Jared: I mean, I guess I’d want to know the options first.

John: Also, I’ve said Greta Gerwig is my indie movie kryptonite, but Brit Marling may now be a close second. I didn’t hate Sound of My Voice as much as Another Earth, but it was still not a pleasant experience.  I guess she’s been good in both, but she wrote both and BOTH have intriguing premises that go nowhere.

Jared: It didn’t measure up to my expectations, but I kinda liked her in the role.  Definitely agree there. Maybe she should get some different people helping her with the scripts after she comes up with the idea.

BEST FIRST FEATURE

  • Fill the Void
  • Gimme the Loot
  • Safety Not Guaranteed
  • Sound of My Voice
  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Jared: My vote goes to The Perks of Being a Wallflower.  Safety Not Guaranteed wasn’t good and Sound of My Voice was half baked.  Gimme the Loot is a pretty fun little flick.  The two leads, Tashiana Washington and Ty Hickson are quite winning and carry a good chunk of the movie on their shoulders.  Still, it was a pleasant surprise.  The Perks of Being a Wallflower is one of my favorite movies of the year.  The first maybe two-thirds of the film is good, if not particularly noteworthy.  But that last third, man.  Chbosky knocks it out of the park.  John and I have raved about the acting performances all over the place.  The script is very solid and deserved a better awards run than it received.  For whatever it is worth, as Peter Knegt is keen to point out, the film is actually Chbosky’s second feature. His first was called The Four Corners of Nowhere and it played Sundance.

SUPPORTING MALE

  • Matthew McConaughey, Magic Mike
  • David Oyelowo, Middle of Nowhere
  • Michael Pena, End of Watch
  • Sam Rockwell, Seven Psychopaths
  • Bruce Willis, Moonrise Kingdom

John: My vote goes to Michael Pena, though I gave careful consideration to Matthew McConaughey.  Pena (and Gyllenhaal) give very natural performances in End of Watch. It’s a movie that strives to insert the viewer into the world of the LAPD and their performances are a big part of that.

Jared: I’m looking forward to seeing End of Watch. Until then, McConaughey is at the top of my list.

John: Also, Bruce Willis should play more sadsacks.

Jared: Yes! He’s got great range, when he’s able to give it a shot.

BEST SCREENPLAY

  • Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola, Moonrise Kingdom
  • Zoe Kazan, Ruby Sparks
  • Martin McDonagh, Seven Psychopaths
  • David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook
  • Ira Sachs and Mauricio Zacharias, Keep the Lights On

Jared: Seven Psychopaths (7)
John: Ruby Sparks (3)

Jared: And I just realized I gave a movie with “Seven” in the title a 7.

John: Oh jeez. Did you have any idea what the hell was going on in Seven Psychopaths?

Jared: Yes.  Actually, my complaint was that the script wasn’t anywhere near as clever as it thought it was.  I didn’t really love the script, the relatively high weight was to avoid one of the other scripts showing up.

John: Given the McDonagh family’s past successes, the talent of the people involved in this movie, and the premise, Seven Psychopaths is one of my biggest disappointments of the year.

Jared: I wouldn’t necessarily disagree with that.  I thought the film had some funny scenes and generally did a good job utilizing the actors, but the script was certainly no In Bruges or The Guard.

John: So you voted defensively? I thought you liked some of the other movies.

Jared: In this case, yes. I really didn’t want to see Moonrise Kingdom or SLP in there.

John: I enjoyed Moonrise Kingdom, though certainly part of that was Anderson’s aesthetic, which didn’t annoy Jared this time.

Jared: Ugh.  I can’t stand the guy.

John: I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Anderson’s best movies are the ones Noah Baumbach had no part of.

Jared: You just hate Noah Baumbach with a fiery passion.

John: I didn’t even realize beforehand. But I hated Zissou and Fantastic Mr Fox, and both had Baumbach’s grubby paws on them.

John: Also, did you know he wrote Madascar 3? I didn’t until much later but it’s bad.

Jared: Whoa. Weird.  Actually, that does sound familiar now that you mention it.

Jared: I liked Ruby Sparks and had it second. Liked it better as a Twilight Zone episode, but it was a generally fun watch.

John: I don’t think Ruby Sparks amounts to anything revolutionary, but it has a really good and intense climax. Hated the last scene though.  I guess a lesson about trying to change people isn’t very deep, but it does it in an interesting way.  As best I can tell this is Zoe Kazan’s first screenplay. I wonder if her nomination here made her ineligible for the Best First Screenplay category.

Jared: I was under the impression that the Spirits don’t let you into both, to get more nominees, but I haven’t researched that.

John: See, I thought it would go the other way. Her first screenplay would make her ineligible for this one.  It is pretty funny that Paul Dano writes a manic pixie dream girl just for himself and he can’t even keep her. It’s a funny concept even if it drags a bit in the middle. If they just chilled out things would’ve been much easier.  And Keep the Lights On was a good film about destructive relationships.

Jared: I appreciated the lesson in Keep the Lights On, even if I don’t think it told a particularly interesting story.

John: And the worst part of Silver Linings Playbook is the script. It was rotten from the very beginning.

Jared: Agree 100% there.  It is a joke it got the Oscar nom and the Independent Spirits should have known better.

John: Well get ready, I suspect it’ll clean up at the Spirits.

Jared: Booo.

John: If you are having mental issues, please see your psychologist and take your medications. Do not self-medicate via “trying to change” and dance.

Jared: Hey man, that shrink totally got on board, once he started hanging out with Bradley Cooper at football games and then showing up at Cooper’s house to just chill.

BEST MALE LEAD

  • Jack Black, Bernie
  • Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook
  • John Hawkes, The Sessions
  • Thure Lindhardt, Keep the Lights On
  • Matthew McConaughey, Killer Joe
  • Wendell Pierce, Four

Jared: Matthew McConaughey (3)
John: John Hawkes (2)

Jared: I’ll be honest, this was the toughest category for me. I would have been happy giving any of these actors my vote.

John: Tough category. I had Hawkes, McConaughey, and Lindhardt all in a bunch.  But I do think Hawkes should have gotten a nod at the Oscars. He’s really transformed, not just physically.

Jared: I thought McConaughey was so good in the film, just dominating every scene he was in. And that last scene, wow. A masterpiece. I had Hawkes a very close second here.

John: Yep. In fact, I may have moved off McConaughey in Supporting Male because he was so good in Killer Joe.  I love the sinister twist on his “all right all right all riiiight” act.

Jared: For opposite and yet similar reasons. Hawkes had to do so much in The Sessions with so little physical movement and yet he’s such a force throughout the entire film.

John: I love Bernie a lot. It’s so far my favorite film of the year. But I’m not sold on Jack Black.  There are certain emotions he just doesn’t do well. Bernie’s charming and flamboyant moments are fantastic. The sadder stuff, not so much.

Jared: Really? I thought he gave an interesting performance, even if it was kinda like all the other Jack Black performances.  Maybe that’s it. Black is at his best when he gets to go broad.

John: I’m watching it right now and he’s crying on the witness stand. It’s not very convincing. Unless the point is that he’s fake crying on the stand, but I really don’t think that’s the case.

Jared: No, I don’t think so.  I don’t know if anyone has seen Four. I liked Wendell Pierce in it a lot, but it almost felt like more of a supporting role.

John: I didn’t really get the character so it was tough to figure out my thoughts on his performance. Like, why is he going through all this trouble for a hook-up? Unless this is just part of the game while committing statutory rape?

Jared: Well, when you put it like that…I would imagine getting virginal young boys you’ve never met in person to sleep with you takes a little bit of time to calm their nerves.

John: I’m amazed that Perks of Being a Wallflower was eligible but didn’t pop up in more categories, particularly in this category for Logan Lerman. Who I thought gave one of the best lead performances of the year.

Jared: No disagreement here. I would have found room for Ezra Miller too.

BEST FEMALE LEAD

  • Linda Cardellini, Return
  • Emayatzy Corinealdi, Middle of Nowhere
  • Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook
  • Quvenzhane Wallis, Beasts of the Southern Wild
  • Mary Elizabeh Winstead, Smashed

(neither of us saw enough nominees, so we didn’t vote)

John: Who would you have voted for in female lead?

Jared: Jennifer Lawrence. The only thing that’s remotely close is Mary Elizabeth Winstead sight unseen based on reviews and how much I heart her. But I thought Lawrence was unspeakably fantastic in her role, elevating a subpar script almost singlehandedly into something worth watching.

John: Oh. Well, I guess that would be a good reason

Jared: You?

John: I guess Cardellini, but I don’t care very much

Jared: I love that Cardellini got some awards love. I’m not sure she would have been my pick here, but that’s more the role than her. I hope this leads to more stuff for her. And here’s where I’ll plug The Thrilling Adventure Hour, where she’s made appearances as Rebecca Rose Rushmore.

FIRST SCREENPLAY

  • Rama Burshtein, Fill the Void
  • Derek Connolly, Safety Not Guaranteed
  • Christopher Ford, Robot & Frank
  • Rashida Jones and Will McCormack, Celeste and Jesse Forever
  • Jonathan Lisecki, Gayby

John: My vote goes to Celeste and Jesse Forever.  But I admittedly don’t think particularly highly of its competition. All four that I saw – Safety Not Guaranteed, Robot & Frank, and Gayby are the others – start with interesting premises but don’t do enough with them. Like they weren’t fully developed to make much of an impact. Celeste and Jesse does the same but actually goes somewhere. Great characters, truly funny jokes, some earned heartfelt moments.

Jared: For whatever it is worth, I really didn’t like Safety Not Guaranteed (and my family still hasn’t forgiven Jared for dragging them to see it in theaters). And I like Gayby, but I agree. Felt more like the pilot of a TV show.

John: Gayby was amusing but not much more than that.

BEST DIRECTOR

  • Wes Anderson, Moonrise Kingdom
  • Julia Loktev, The Loneliest Planet
  • David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook
  • Ira Sachs, Keep the Lights On
  • Benh Zeitlin, Beasts of the Southern Wild

Jared: Julia Loktev (6)
John: Wes Anderson (4)

John: While I expected you not to vote for Anderson, I didn’t think you’d go for Loktev. While watching The Loneliest Planet, I kept thinking, “Jared is going to HATE this movie”.

Jared: You know, I watched it last night, so it is possible there is bias here. But while I was watching it, I kept thinking similar thing, that I should be hating this movie. There isn’t a ton of dialogue, instead there are a lot of scenes of just pretty backgrounds.  But I thought Loktev did an amazing job turning that into a cohesive story that was surprisingly interesting to follow. It also helped, I think, that I knew there was a scene at some point where “everything would change”, so I enjoyed the anticipation of waiting for that to happen.

John: I’ll agree that I enjoyed it more than I probably should have. There are a couple of important moments in the film that are quite impactful and not much in between. But somehow it was moderately interesting

Jared: And I’ve got to attribute that to the director in large part.

John: I just wish there was a bit more going on there. Even if it was just a few more conversations. Still, if we’re just talking direction, I suppose she helps keep it watchable.

Jared: Yeah, I wouldn’t have voted it Best Picture or anything, and certainly not the screenplay, but I thought the direction was very good.

John: Other years I would have split between Anderson and Zeitlin.

Jared: I am very glad neither gets our vote.

John: I feel like you can say similar things about Zeitlin as about Loktev, just that he did it all better. More interesting visuals, etc

Jared: I’d concur the visuals are probably more interesting. I felt that Loktev worked to flesh out a thin story, where Zeitlin just didn’t care about the story at all.

BEST PICTURE

  • Beasts of the Southern Wild
  • Bernie
  • Keep the Lights On
  • Moonrise Kingdom
  • Silver Linings Playbook

John: Bernie (9)
Jared: Bernie (3) 

Jared:  We agreed on something!

John: Hooray!  Now I feel bad about wasting all those points on it.

Jared: I really did not love the nominees here. Bernie was the only one I actually kind of liked. Which is sad, because I liked a decent amount of nominees in other categories.  Yeah, you could have won a couple more categories if you had distributed better.

John: Bernie just tickled me from start to finish. A really neat portrait of a small town, really interesting characters, inventive narrative structure.  I wish it had gotten more love, particularly for Linklater in Best Director.

Jared: I’m surprised he didn’t pick up a nomination there.  The film just couldn’t find any big awards traction this year.

John: I dug Moonrise Kingdom, too. Perhaps children are a better vessel for Anderson’s… mopiness?  Whatever it is he does

Jared: He treats children as adults and adults like children. So maybe?

John: So any overall impressions this year?

Jared: There are still a few more films I need to get to, but the movies seemed…bigger, more mainstream this year. I really liked Perks of Being a Wallflower, but I was going to see that anyway. Loneliest Planet was a pleasant surprise, I suppose, but not like I’m watching that again. A lot of great acting, I think that may be the highlight for Jared. Maybe a down year for films overall and scripts, but some great acting.

John: Well, I like that there’s less Oscar overlap, though I still think Silver Linings will clean up here.  I’m not sure that anything was a true revelation. The films I liked the best (Bernie, Ruby Sparks, Celeste and Jesse Forever) I probably would have seen anyway.

Jared: I don’t know if that means we are branching out and getting to more films or if the Spirit Awards aren’t being indie enough.

John: I guess I should add End of Watch to that list.  I know the LGBT film scene has long been part of the indie community, but this is the biggest showing we’ve seen. There were three (maybe 2.5, depending on how you want to categorize Four) nominated this year. And Keep the Lights On got a bunch of nods.

Jared: Huh, that’s an interesting point.

John: I wonder if it’s a good year for LGBT films or Indie Spirits or paying more attention or what. Because there’s certainly a community of people making gay films for gay audiences that the Spirits hasn’t seemed to acknowledge as much.  I’m not sure Gayby was a good recipient of this added attention, though

Jared: Keep the Lights On played in competition at Sundance, so it wasn’t like that necessarily came out of nowhere.  There was Beginners last year, that sorta counts.  And Pariah got a couple of nods.

John: The Spirits spread the love around this year, too. Which is nice compared to the Oscars, which I think has one of the smallest total number of films nominated

Jared: Yeah. On the one hand, you want to see the most deserving things get nominated. On the other, it seems a little unlikely that the best everything of the year would only be concentrated in a handful of movies.

John: And I think we can’t finish without acknowledging how frustrating it is to have no way to see Middle of Nowhere, which racked up a bunch of nominations

Jared: I remain stunned that we didn’t get a screener for it.  And that when it came back to DC, it only played for a week with a single screening at like 2 pm.

John: I don’t understand how we don’t have the ability to stream nominees yet, particularly for an awards body that wants to highlight lower profile movies.

Jared: I can’t figure it out, unless it is some sort of legal thing with rights. Or maybe people just really want to pirate two hour long movies about people trekking through the country of Georgia.

John: My understanding is that the films themselves cover the costs of the screeners.  Still, there must be some sort of solution.  In our three years doing this, we’ve received a grand total of one link to an online stream

Jared: Which is absurd. If even the Spirit Award voters can’t see the films, how on earth does Film Independent expect to get people around the country to see these movies?

John: I plan on seeing Middle of Nowhere when I can because I hear it’s very good.  It would be a shame to find out it would have won some of our votes.

November 2017
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