2009 Independent Spirit Awards: The Winners

Here are the list of winners from last night’s Independent Spirit Awards:

Best Feature
The Wrestler

Best Director
Tom McCarthy, The Visitor

Best Screenplay
Woody Allen, Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Best First Screenplay
Dustin Lance Black, Milk

Best Female Lead
Melissa Leo, Frozen River

Best Male Lead
Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler

Best Supporting Female
Penelope Cruz, Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Best Supporting Male
James Franco, Milk

Best Foreign Film
The Class

Best Documentary
Man on Wire

Best Cinematography
Maryse Alberti, The Wrestler

The complete list of winners is here.

What do we think about Mickey Rourke’s chances to win the Oscar? I want it to happen, if only for what will undoubtedly be an incredible speech.

2008 Gotham Awards: Winners

The Gotham Independent Films Awards were held last night in New York City.

The winners were:

Frozen River

Trouble the Water

Breakthrough Director:
Lance Hammer – Ballast

Breakthrough Actor:
Melissa Leo – Frozen River

Ensemble Performance Award:
Synecdoche, New York
and Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Film Not Playing at a Theater Near You:
Sita Sings the Blues

Here is David Carr’s report from the Gotham Awards:

Review: Body/Antibody (2007)

Body/Antibody: A Quirky Infestation

At the 2006 Independent Spirit Awards comedian Sarah Silverman said this: “The Academy Awards honor the biggest directors and superstar actors while this show is the champion of struggling artists like Ang Lee and George Clooney.”

That’s right. In case you missed it, Brokeback Mountain, Good Night and Good Luck, and even Crash, the 2006 Best Picture winner, with their big-name directors and all-stars casts were all technically independent productions.

First of all, I am, in no way, complaining about Hollywood and its involvement with independent filmmaking (How else would some films be distributed?). However, I often find myself questioning the validity of the “independent” film. Because quite frankly, how independent can any product be when George Clooney is associated with it?

But then a movie like Body/Antibody, screened only at independent film festivals, comes along and reminds cynics like me what truly non-mainstream Hollywood filmmaking is.

In Body/Antibody, writer-director Kerry Douglas Dye creates a unique world filled with quirky character, constant plot twists and inappropriate yet hysterical humor.

Kip Polyard (played by Robert Gomes) lives the ideal life in a stress-free and germ-free six bedroom apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. He also hasn’t left his apartment in ten months.

You see, Kip is an obsessive compulsive who showers at least five times a day, pickles his own vegetables to avoid supermarkets, and washes his clothes in his bathtub. But Kip’s perfect lifestyle is turned upside down when Celine (Leslie Kendall) moves in next door.

One night, Celine invites herself into Kip’s apartment, proceeds to spread her germs on his pristine furniture, and yet somehow they end up falling in love. Celine then takes it upon herself to cure Kip of his OCD. But their unconventional romance is challenged when Celine’s boyfriend Andy (Frank Deal) comes into the picture and tortures Kip in the most gruesome manner possible.

At this point Body/Antibody, which began as a cute love story between two quirky people, throws any conventional story out the window and every anticipated plot element simply doesn’t occur. By the film’s fast-paced, shocking, gory, and atypical conclusion (which is not fun if you’re squeamish), Body/Antibody has taken so many unexpected turns that reality itself becomes blurred.

As a dark comedy, Body/Antibody utilizes perverse and suggestive dialogue at the most inappropriate times. You will find yourself laughing during some of the most grotesque scenes a film can have, questioning your own morals, and then laughing hysterically during the next hilarious moment.

Body/Antibody is easily the darkest, kinkiest, and funniest film I’ve seen in months. The characters are about as deranged and quirky as they come. After all, the two main characters are an obsessive compulsive living in a created world and a dangerous woman who is trapped by the world.

Yet I loved Body/Antibody for its oddly wonderful moments that are equally inappropriate and tender. The fact that Kip and Celine, these two incredibly loony characters, can somehow be together and maybe even stay together questions so much about human behavior and our own reality.

But most importantly, to me Body/Antibody is the perfect example of an indie film made right and the fact that Hollywood is not associated with this film (yet), allows it to better than it already is.

Published: November 8, 2007
Mount Holyoke News

Updated October 20, 2010

Muslim Widows Set Business World Ajar in Pickles, Inc

Pickles, Inc

This is the life a Muslim widow is expected to have.

Following the death of her husband, a widow is not allowed to leave her home or to work. If she remarries, her children are not permitted to live with her. For this reason, many Arab widows choose to not remarry and instead must depend on social security to provide for them and their families.

This is the culture director Dalit Kamor opens a window to in the documentary Pickles, Inc. But rather than focus on the typical Arab widow, Kamor focuses her film on the uncommon experience of eight inspiring women.

In 2003, Kamor stumbled upon a newspaper article about eight Muslim widows who had started a pickling company in Tamra, Israel. During the next two years, Kamor and an all-female production crew followed the women of the Azka Pickle Company as they learned business management skills and dealt with the emotional and financial stress of running their own company.

The women, who did not know one another before their business endeavor, all lack a formal education but have a common skill that their mothers taught them: how to pickle vegetables. They depend primarily on local vendors but in order to become financially successful, they must expand their product throughout Israel

But the road to success is not an easy one. Pickles, Inc follows the eight widows as they learn the ins and outs of running of business. In order for the company to succeed, the women deal with internal company disputes and work for 23 months without pay as they look for a business partner.

Fatma, Samira, and Almaza, are the film’s protagonists. Their individual stories allow Kamor to paint a deeply intimate portrait of each widow, each of whom has an incredible story to tell. They are all in their 40s and 50s and widowed at a young age. Some were married at the age of sixteen; others were not religious until after their husband’s death. Personal moments, such as Samira’s reconciliation with her daughter and the period of mourning for Almaza’s 30-year-old son, make Pickles, Inc. a wonderfully touching documentary.

But Pickles, Inc. is about so much just a pickling company in Israel and the eight charismatic women who defy societal expectations. And it is about even more than a simple act of feminism by women who never even heard of the word “feminism”.

Pickles, Inc. is about the bond these women have formed with each other. The best scene occurs at the beginning of the film, when Fatma picks up three of her co-workers before they begin their day. This early morning car ride, in a way, represents the journey the eight widows have had together.
Director Dilit Kamor received the award for Creative Excellence at the 2006 U.S. International Film and Video Festival. Pickles, Inc. will be screened at the Pioneer Valley Jewish Film Festival in spring 2008.

Published: The Mount Holyoke News
November 8, 2007

Reprinted with permission

Review: Down to the Bone (2004)


Vera Farmiga in Down to the Bone


Towards the end of 2005, Vera Farmiga’s performance as Irene, a cocaine addicted mother of two, in Down to the Bone caused quite a stir. The Los Angeles Film Critics Association awarded her the Best Actress prize over favorite Reese Witherspoon. Suddenly a new name was added to the short list of possible 2006 Oscar nominees.

Farmiga’s name was forgotten almost as quickly as it had been considered. Witherspoon, after all, went on to win the Academy Award, and Farmiga’s name was left off of the ballot entirely.

I won’t compare the two performances but I hate to break it to all you Reese fans out there, Vera Farmiga was better. Much better.

Simply put, Farmiga’s performance is gritty and painstakingly real.

Set in upstate New York, Irene, a grocery store clerk, is attempting to balance work and family, all while hiding a cocaine addiction. Irene has an ephihany when she tries to spend her son’s birthday money on drugs and she decides to check herself into rehab. In rehab, she meets Bob (Hugh Dillon) a former heroin addict.

Bob and Irene’s mutual affection for each other quickly develops into a romance. But, their relationship reaches a crossroads when one relapses into old habits. Irene must make a choice between her past and her future.

Down to the Bone, Debra Granik’s directorial debut, is a bleak film. Yet there is a chilling and almost poetic beauty about it, as Granik presents an unbiased look at life and addiction. And Vera Farmiga’s performance makes this a picture not to be missed.

Updated October 11, 2010