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February 23, 2008 |

By Daniel Carlson | Guides | February 23, 2008 |

4:31 p.m.: And I think that’s it. This place is taking on the air of a high school on the last day of finals, mixed with a circus and graced with a hint of elitism. I think I’m gonna see how far my press badge gets me. Good night, and good luck.

4:30: One of the Juno producers says that Diablo Cody is a real front-runner for the best original screenplay Oscar. Duh.

4:29: No one has told me where the bathroom is. This information is about to become very important for me to have.

4:23: The producers of Juno come back, and I can’t imagine they’re not disappointed that the place has more than half cleared out. They talk about how the movie’s acceptance was the real award, and tonight’s nod was just gravy. Nice and unsurprising. They also defend the film’s indie roots with Mandate, saying that the movie was pretty much set by the time they took it to Fox Searchlight. “The reason they’re so successful is that they’re independent thinkers and they’re able to work outside the system,” a producer says. Another adds, “People can actually connect to it because it’s smart and it’s heartfelt and it’s not cookie-cutter.”

4:21: A woman in a headset takes the press stage and says, “Just FYI, Julian Schnabel and Rainn Wilson will not be coming back here.” At this, most everyone begins to file out.

4:17: Wow, Ellen Page is tiny. And pretty adorable. She says of Juno, “It’s just a film I was grateful to be a part of in the first place.”

4:13: Janusz Kaminski, who won for the cinematography on The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, comes back to the press tent. There’s a weird kind of delayed effect back here, like whiplash for the coverage. The show’s over, but people are still filing in. Plus the yells have started up again outside.

4:10: Wow, it’s over. That thing was 2 hours and 10 minutes flat, plus it had good jokes, profanity, musical numbers, and dude-on-dude brawls. This is everything the Oscars will never be.

4:08: Rainn Wilson and Philip Seymour Hoffman wrestle in the aisles. This is kind of amazing.

4:07: Juno wins best feature. What does it say that the best movie at the Film Independent Spirit Awards is the one that’s grossed more than $100 million and was distributed by Fox Searchlight? I really liked Juno when I first saw it, and while I stand by that initial reaction, I repeat that I won’t be able to really see what I liked about for a year or more. It’s just this giant machine now.

4:06: Seriously, Dustin Hoffman is acting like he’s had a few. I think he should host everything. He’s narrating what he’s doing: “It says wait for cue, I’m waiting … OK, next film.”

4:04: Dustin Hoffman on stage: “I did fuck Javier Bardem, and Philip Seymour Hoffman is the product of our union.”

3:59: Matt Dillon and Kate Beckinsale are up to present the award for best lead female. Ellen Page wins for Juno. “Jesus fuck,” says the guy on my other side, shaking his head. I’m starting to agree. It’s become impossible to see anything good or bad about Juno. It’s bigger than that; it just somehow is, and I don’t think it’ll be possible to enjoy or criticize or understand the film on its own terms for at least a year. Maybe two.

Sometime: The guy next to me and I discuss the possible authenticity of Diablo Cody’s breasts. He brings it up. I don’t quite know where to go.

3:54: Some dumbass reporter asks Haynes if the win is “bittersweet” because of Ledger’s death. What the hell is he gonna say? “No, the joy of this victory has erased the pain of my friend’s untimely demise.” What a dumb question. Maybe I’ve been trying too hard to break into journalism. Maybe I should lower my standards.

3:52: Todd Haynes, Cate Blanchett, Bruce Greenwood, and a couple others from I’m Not There come back. I think they won the Robert Altman Award, but I have no idea.

3:50: The Whitest Kids U Know presented something and had the most entertaining intro banter so far. They predicted that a year from now, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull will “sweep this bitch.” They also gave shout-outs to “Philip Seymour Hoffman, and his dad, Dustin Seymour Hoffman.” I laughed, what can I say.

3:49: Kimya Dawson — of the Moldy Peaches, the Juno soundtrack, and songs that will burrow their way into your brain like the bugs Khan used on Chekhov — performs the song about “I never met a Toby that I didn’t like.” I know only one man named Toby, and I like him a lot, so I’m on board with the song.

3:48: Oh yeah: Philip Seymour Hoffman won a while ago for best male lead for The Savages.

3:47: I’m in a room with Fisher Stevens. Nothing more to say.

3:45: Trying to keep up with the awards that are being presented and the winners’ speeches back here in the tent is beyond confusing. It’s hard to believe that this is not only the way of things, but that I’m somehow expected to draw some kind of bigger-picture conclusions about the whole thing.

3:40: I’ve been without Internet capabilities for an hour now. Many things have happened. Off the top of my balding head, I feel I should point out that Cate Blanchett is lovely, Glen Hansard is handsome and affable, and Philip Seymour Hoffman looks absolutely relaxed. He’s not even wearing a tie, and he’s just hanging out with Tamara Jenkins here for a couple minutes. Jenkins won for The Savages, and is pretty great in person.

2:55: Best foreign film: Once.

2:53: Steve Zahn dresses as Bob Dylan and sings another gag song, this one about I’m Not There to the tune of “Like a Rolling Stone.” Todd Haynes looks vaguely confused. I feel a little bad for Zahn, who will always hold a place in my heart for Safe Men.

2:51: August Evening helmer Chris Eska on the Cassavetes nominees: “For anyone watching at home, I hope that you seek out all five of these films, because I’ve seen them all, and they’re truly independent.”

2:47: The Cassavates Award presents another weird dichotomy, namely, independent film still exists, but it’s more indie and below-the-radar than it has been in a long time. Juno is not an independent film, just a movie produced by the specialty division of a major studio and marketed within an inch of its tiny life.

2:46: Tom Wilkinson and Meg Ryan — easily this year’s Busta/Martha Stewart match-up for sheer randomness — come out to present the John Cassavetes Award, which is for films made under $500,000. I start to wonder if there’s any rice and chicken left in the food tent next door. The award eventually goes to August Evening.

2:45: I think the sun is out.

2:44: Wilson’s latest taped bit is about auditioning for I’m Not There. “I saw Cate Blanchett and a little black boy out in the lobby. What’s that about?” Awesome line.

2:41: Exec announcement about the spirit of independent film. I wish I could go get some food. I wish I hadn’t forgotten my camera. But damn it, there was a wreck on the 405 south at Sunset, and I wanted to get on the road, so I missed it in my hurried efforts to get out the door. Seriously, where’s that blonde? I don’t know who she was with, but she has to be on-air talent. She’s way too hot to do anything else.

2:39: David Alan Grier sings a cute song from the perspective of the paralyzed protagonist of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, and it’s more entertaining than you’d think.

2:36: What happened to the blonde who was sitting next to me on the shuttle bus? She braved the rain like a trooper.

2:35: Best supporting female goes to Cate Blanchett for I’m Not There. As long as Margot at the Wedding goes unrecognized, I’m happy. On independent films, she says, “It’s not just where the money comes from, but the spirit behind it.” She dedicates the award to Heath Ledger, which is still saddening.

2:32: Scott Frank comes into the tent. Some dipshit asks, “What advice to you have for aspiring filmmakers?” I can answer that question: Make a movie and try to get it out there. Don’t just crash the press tent and ask people.

2:30: Rainn Wilson does a taped bit about how he auditioned for Julian Schnabel’s The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. He wears a kids’ outfit not unlike the girl in the Blind Melon video. Then he comes back and does stuff in a wheelchair. It’s funny, but only in the sense that it’s more entertaining than watching something unfunny, like Dane Cook. It’s cute, but also meh.

2:27: It turns out The Lookout won best first feature. What the hell? Sorry, Rocket Science.

2:24: My admittedly fragile concentration is broken by a chorus of shouts from outside. I’m watching the awards on a TV in the corner of the press tent, but it sounds like a Baghdad market out there. Diablo Cody walks in. She looks shorter in person. “Having your film get made is the award,” she says. “That’s a miracle.”

2:22: Jon Hamm (?) and Maria Bello come out to present the award for best first feature.

2:20: Damn, this thing is moving right along.

2:19: Jason Bateman and someone less funny come out to present the nod for best first screenplay. Diablo Cody wins for Juno, surprising no one and kicking off the backlash to the backlash to the backlash to the backlash to the backlash.

2:16: Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, who bring warm sentimentality to scoping out underage tail, appear on stage to sing “When Your Mind’s Made Up” from Once. This is already better than the Oscars.

2:13: The first Spirit Award of the evening goes to Chiwetel Ejiofor for Talk to Me. Whitaker takes a moment to announce the win, probably because he’s trying to figure out how to say “Chiwetel.” I know how, but I’m not telling. Director Kasi Lemmons accepts on Chewie’s behalf.

2:11: Felicity Huffman — the mustache-less half of Filliam H. Muffman — and Forest Whitaker take the stage to present the award for best supporting male. They don’t just rattle off the nominees, but also describe their characters before going to a clip of their respective performances. This has the potential to make the evening frighteningly long.

2:09: Wilson and Dennis Hopper do some kind of montage.

2:05 p.m.: It’s raining really hard outside, but host Rainn Wilson has made no mention of this. It’s hard not to see this as great example of Hollywood’s attitude toward shows, which is basically, “Fuck it, we’re doing it anyway.”

Daniel Carlson is the managing editor of Pajiba and a low-level employee at a Hollywood industry magazine. You can visit his blog, Slowly Going Bald.

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From the Press Tent / Daniel Carlson

Guides | February 23, 2008 |

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