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Awards Gauntlet Syndrome

Awards Gauntlet Syndrome

Pity the poor filmmaker with an Award season movie to flog. If it’s good enough to have a shot at some awards attention, then the distrib is going to make you do the rounds: the guild screenings and Q & As, the dinners, the AFI Fest, the Hollywood Fest, the Variety screening series, my UCLA Sneak Previews class, the Behind the Camera Awards–and that’s just the beginning. As we go on there’s the gauntlet of awards ceremonies, the LA and NY critics, the Board of Review, the Indie Spirits, The Gothams, the Golden Globes, the SAG Awards. The real horror is keeping the thing going all the way to the Oscars. If I were Julian Schnabel, I’d pack my PJs and head back to NYC right now.

On Friday night, after a long Miramax dinner, he and producers Kathleen Kennedy and Jon Kilik, screenwriter Ronald Harwood, cinematographer Janusz Kaminski, and stars Mathieu Amalric, Max Von Sydow, Marie-Josee Croze, and Emmanuelle Seigner all trooped onto the stage at the Fine Arts Theatre to talk up The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, for which Schnabel won the directing prize in Cannes. The hirsute Schnabel ran the show from center stage, wearing a skirt and fuming a cigarette.

Schnabel promoted the movie’s soundtrack, and pimped Seigner’s new record, too. It was important, he said, to shoot at the real maritime hospital in Berck where Elle editor Jean-Dominique Bauby had stayed after his stroke, to pick up the atmosphere, the accidents, the inspiration from the place. One day, Schnabel saw the tide going out past a big rock and arranged to shoot Amalric on it, in his wheelchair, a stunning image.

The movie is beautiful, poetic, moving. Schnabel pointed out that the precise, purposefully distorted mise-en-scene and messy POV shots by Kaminski involved virtually no VFX (except for a digital image of a butterfly coming out of a cocoon). Kaminski did all the superimposition inside the camera, by running the film twice. Amalric paid tribute to his fellow actors, who are amazingly direct and communicative when acting to panes of glass, as they perform straight into the camera. Amalric got huge applause from the Fine Arts crowd for his role as the paralyzed editor who emotes –and dictates an entire memoir–with mere blinks and twitches.

Von Sydow admitted that he submitted to a real close razor shave from Amalric–and got cut. And it was the first time, he said, that he had to deliver his first day’s work on a film over the telephone. The scenes between Amalric and Von Sydow are among the most powerful; Schnabel had just lost his father when he took on the project, which was originally to star Johnny Depp. Kennedy and Kilik moved the movie over to Pathe in France when Universal passed. It’s hard now to imagine it not being done in authentic French.

I ran into a smaller subset of the Diving Bell gang at The Highlands supper club on Sunday night, when Schnabel was the last presenter at Hamilton Watch’s Behind the Camera Awards. Schnabel lectured host Anne Volokh, publisher of Hollywood Life Magazine, about the lousy acoustics in the room–“build a wall,” he ordered her–then offered up his hearfelt tribute to his long-time producing partner, Kilik. “It’s a great honor for him to be a friend of mine,” he said, forgetting to give him the trophy. I think he truly meant it.

The Behind the Camera Awards were short and sweet. Jodie Foster expressed the pleasure she had “bathing in the light” of cinematographer Philippe Rousselot on Sommersby and The Brave One–which she found both “lonely and gratifying.”

Seth Rogen figured everyone in the room probably had a crush on the ruggedly handsome Hamilton Watch guy, who was funny and hot enough for him to blow–but he hadn’t gotten a watch yet. Rogen gave the screenwriter award to Knocked Up’s Judd Apatow, who expounded (there being a writers strike, after all) on his sister’s recent birth experience. She pushed her baby out in five minutes, he said, because “her vagina is huge.”

Charlie Kaufman raved about production designer Mark Friedberg, who not only designed Julie Taymor’s visually dazzling Across the Universe, but Kaufman’s recently wrapped directorial debut, Synecdoche.

Jason Reitman, just returned from showing Juno at the Denver Film Fest, recalled running into his presenter, Rainn Wilson, at a Starbucks in Vancouver and asking him to work with him on an upcoming ninja movie. Wilson agreed to collaborate on the upcoming Bonzai Shadowhands.

Sean Penn described how long-time editor Jay Cassidy lived in a bungalow behind his house in San Francisco as they edited Into the Wild and was available to him at any time, 24/7. When Cassidy accepted the award, he admitted that it was true, and asked Penn to consider directing a comedy next time. “That’s really hard,” he said.

[Originally appeared on Variety.com]

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