Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Today I Voted for Film and Actor Awards

Friday is the cut-off day for anyone who gets to vote in the SAG-AFTRA Awards contest and so today I decided that, yes, I’d take advantage of my privilege and I voted. Who did I vote for and do I think they’ll win? Can’t tell you that because it’s like spoiling the fun of it all. Well, maybe not the fun, but if I ended up voting for people or films that bombed at the awards, I wouldn’t feel very good about it. Yeah, that’s it. I don’t want to look like I don’t know who deserves an award and who doesn’t. But does anyone really know and is it all about talent? Let me lead the way.

By some strange twist of fate, I live very close to a man in the film business. Well, let’s say he’s starting out in the biz and he’s earned an incredible reputation for himself. He’s had very desirable stints with a few of the hottest film producing companies around and then that led to his going to the Cannes Film Festival and a lot of other swell gigs in Europe. Boy, does he have frequent flyer miles at this point and that’s a bonus he will probably need in the future.

Talking briefly to him you quickly learn a few things about the film business and not all of it is unfamiliar if you’ve been addicted to films from a young age (which I am). Those of us who had to be literally chased out of movie houses as kids by angry matrons know the addiction and it is a strong one.  

We read about box office weekend numbers, we read Indiewire, Nikki Fink’s Deadline blog, we read NY Times film reviews and nonsense, we get really HUGE four-color, glossy promotion materials about films in contention for Oscars or other awards (because I’m a union member, remember), we follow who’s either reading for a part or refusing to read and we love all of it.

Mostly, we love that “refusing to read” stuff because it’s so Old Hollywood. These days when careers come and go, who can afford to refuse to read? I suppose some still can and do, but not many.  Why did De Niro do that cameo in “American Hustle?” I hardly noticed him or was that the point?

One major film production company, it is well known, buys little indie films or makes them (under a separate company) for $10M and then promotes the hell out of them. These sometimes are the ones that win awards, believe it or not and it may have a lot to do with all that promotion.

If they decide that they’ve bought a dog of sorts, they have a plan—it will go almost instantly to DVD or video-on-demand and it will make a gusher of money in the foreign market. Cable and TV need content and these guys are the content kings. They have a formula, it works and they do very well, but anyone who has worked for them doesn’t want to go back. We’ll say it’s the internship from hell or something like that and we all know what that is like, especially if you’ve ever had an internship in any biz.

In internships, you are lower than the lowest on the totem pole and all you do is get coffee, get yelled at, blamed for everything and overworked while being expected to take it with incredible good humor. And you must learn NEVER to give your honest opinion. Remember that question, “Do I look fat in this dress?” They never look fat in that dress or suit or anything else. They always look fabulous and, best word to use here, AMAZING! Everyone in the biz looks or is amazing. It is ne plus ultra.

I guess if you were a stat person and inclined to crunch numbers, you’d carefully tally up all the appearances certain actors make on behalf of their films, measure the amount of real estate they get in print or on the internet or any medium and that calculation might provide a measure of the wish for an award. Know what they call these endless trips of sitting before a camera and hearing the same old questions asked by a series of toothsome lads and lasses? They call them junkets and it’s not anything like the dessert. No wonder they drink or take drugs. Consider the equivalent of “Ground Hog Day” each time you make a film and you’ll get the idea here.

So, today I voted and wondered, really wondered, why “Nurse Jackie” was in the comedy category. Jackie is an ER nurse who is addicted to prescription meds that she either scores from her pharm boy friend or patients or friendly docs or whoever. She’s not comedic.  Yes, I agree Edie Falco is a fine actress and she probably can do comedy very well, but this show isn’t comedy. Was it put there to pad out the list and make another show more likely to win? One can only wonder.

James Gandolfini is also in the running for “Enough Said” and I like him very much, but I always wonder how people feel if they either vote or not vote for a dead actor. Remember him in “The Sopranos?” First time I heard the title I thought it was a show about an opera singer and that wouldn’t be so far-fetched because Nathan Lane had a short-lived TV series about just that subject.

Should I tell you just one person I voted for? Okay, it was Mathew McConaughey for his role in “Dallas Buyers Club.” He was very good, but who knows if he’ll win.

Will it be promotion or talent for the awards this weekend? Tune in.