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Fake Names, Real Oscars: Five Nominees Who Didn’t Really Exist

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02202008_fivefakenominees.jpgBy Stephen Saito

For all the talk of triviality that annually accompanies Oscar season, sometimes there really is much ado about nothing… or rather, no one. With this year’s nomination of Roderick Jaynes for best editing of the Coen brothers’ “No Country for Old Men,” the Academy added to an exclusive but enduring club of nominees who exist only on the celluloid on which their names. Here’s a brief history of the nominees least likely to ever attend the Oscar ceremony (well, besides Marlon Brando):

Robert Rich (Dalton Trumbo)
“The Brave One”

Dalton Trumbo had been nominated for an Oscar in 1941 for his script for “Kitty Foyle: The Natural History of a Woman.” It’d be the only time Trumbo would be recognized by the Academy under his real name until shortly before his death in 1976. Thanks to the blacklist, Trumbo would win two Oscars by proxy — the first in 1953, when screenwriter Ian McLellan Hunter, who did rewrites only, was the lone recipient of the trophy for “Roman Holiday.” In 1957, when Trumbo wrote “The Brave One,” the story of a boy and his bull, the King brothers, who produced the film, paid Trumbo a measly $1,500 (out of a promised $10,000) and gave the screenwriting credit to their nephew. However, when the Academy bestowed the best screenplay Oscar to Rich, Writers Guild member Jesse Lasky, Jr. picked up the award and claimed Rich was at the hospital where his wife was giving birth. As for the King brothers, they got their due for taking advantage of Trumbo’s blacklisted status — five people claimed that Robert Rich had plagiarized their story idea for “The Brave One” and sued. With no real Rich to testify, the first suit alone cost the Kings $750,000 two weeks after the Oscars. Meanwhile, Trumbo emerged from the blacklist in 1960 to earn a credit for “Spartacus.”

Nathan E. Douglas (Nedrick Young)
“The Defiant Ones,” “Inherit the Wind”

Like Roderick Jaynes, Douglas is the only other Oscar alias to be nominated twice, earning a best screenplay nomination for his work on 1960’s “Inherit the Wind” following his win for “The Defiant Ones” in 1958. While the Sidney Poitier-Tony Curtis prison escape drama caused its share of controversy when it was released, it paled in comparison to the full blown brouhaha caused by a New York Times article that revealed Douglas to be the pseudonym for blacklisted screenwriter Nedrick Young, which was followed by the Academy reversing their rule that blacklisted scribes could not be allowed to be nominated for Oscars, calling it “impractical to enforce.” Gossip columnist Hedda Hopper wrote at the time, “Since our Academy now makes it legal for Commie writers to receive Oscars, some past winners, who are as bitter about this as I, tell me they’ll return theirs.” They didn’t, but Young still was nominated as Douglas and wouldn’t receive proper credit until 1993, long after his death in 1968.

02202008_fivefakenominees2.jpgP.H. Vazak (Robert Towne)
“Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan”

Robert Towne had done plenty of uncredited rewrites on Oscar nominated films, including “The Godfather” and “Bonnie and Clyde,” but when his own screenplay for “Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan” was trimmed and reshaped by Michael Austin after he had been denied the directorial reins, Towne changed his credit to the name of his late Hungarian sheepdog, P.H. Vazak, probably thinking the end result would turn out like the last time he used a nom de plume, Edward Wain, on the Roger Corman production “The Last Woman on Earth.” Instead, P.H. Vazak became the first canine to be nominated for an Academy Award, and when Peter Shaffer won the best adapted screenplay for “Amadeus,” it’s quite possible that Vazak rolled over in his grave.

Donald Kaufman (Charlie Kaufman)

The Academy had an easy out if “Adaptation” actually won the award for best original screenplay in 2003. Not only would Charlie Kaufman be on hand to accept the award on behalf of himself and his brother, but, according to the end credits of “Adaptation,” Donald had died during preproduction of the film. It was likely because of this that Charlie refused to answer questions about the dearly departed when asked at the Writers Guild Awards that year — even more distraught were agents who saw Donald’s name attached to the hot script before production and couldn’t reach him. As far as the Oscars were concerned, none of this mattered when Ronald Harwood won for “The Pianist.” If Nicolas Cage’s gregarious portrayal of Donald was any indication, Donald could have, like Cage, cashed in on his Oscar nod with some work for Jerry Bruckheimer.

Roderick Jaynes (The Coen brothers)
“No Country for Old Men,” “Fargo”

The Coen brothers have always been fond of creating characters not just on screen, but off. For the restoration of their first film “Blood Simple,” the Coens went to the trouble of including an introduction from Mortimer Young, a dapper (and completely fake) older gentleman whose company Forever Young Films was credited with the newly struck print of the 1985 thriller. “Blood Simple” also marked the introduction of Jaynes, one of the most respected film editors in the business, if one of the most elusive. In addition to penning introductions to the published versions of the Coens’ screenplays for “Barton Fink,” “Miller’s Crossing” and “The Man Who Wasn’t There,” Jaynes was celebrated as one of Entertainment Weekly‘s 50 Smartest People in Hollywood last year and had been previously nominated for an Oscar for “Fargo” in 1997. However, when Variety checked whether Jaynes was a member of the American Cinema Editors organization, they heard crickets. Don’t fear the same awkward silence on Oscar night if “No Country for Old Men” wins best editing; when asked in 1997 what would occur if Jaynes won for “Fargo,” Academy executive director Bruce Davis responded, “The Oscar will simply be accepted on behalf of the Academy by the presenters.”

[Photos: “Roderick Jaynes” on the set of “No Country for Old Men,” Miramax, 2007; “Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes,” Warner Bros. Pictures, 1984]



Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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GIFs via Giphy

Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”


IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?

Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!

Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.

Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 


IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.


New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…


IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.


IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.


The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”


Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).



Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.


And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.