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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]

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.


Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…


IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.


IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).


IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.


IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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Reality? Check.

Baroness For Life

Baroness von Sketch Show is available for immediate consumption.

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Baroness von Sketch Show is snowballing as people have taken note of its subtle and not-so-subtle skewering of everyday life. The New York Times, W Magazine, and Vogue have heaped on the praise, but IFC had a few more probing questions…

IFC: To varying degrees, your sketches are simply scripted examples of things that actually happen. What makes real life so messed up?

Aurora: Hubris, Ego and Selfish Desires and lack of empathy.

Carolyn: That we’re trapped together in the 3rd Dimension.

Jenn: 1. Other people 2. Other people’s problems 3. Probably something I did.

IFC: A lot of people I know have watched this show and realized, “Dear god, that’s me.” or “Dear god, that’s true.” Why do people have their blinders on?

Aurora: Because most people when you’re in the middle of a situation, you don’t have the perspective to step back and see yourself because you’re caught up in the moment. That’s the job of comedians is to step back and have a self-awareness about these things, not only saying “You’re doing this,” but also, “You’re not the only one doing this.” It’s a delicate balance of making people feel uncomfortable and comforting them at the same time.


IFC: Unlike a lot of popular sketch comedy, your sketches often focus more on group dynamics vs iconic individual characters. Why do you think that is and why is it important?

Meredith: We consider the show to be more based around human dynamics, not so much characters. If anything we’re more attracted to the energy created by people interacting.

Jenn: So much of life is spent trying to work it out with other people, whether it’s at work, at home, trying to commute to work, or even on Facebook it’s pretty hard to escape the group.

IFC: Are there any comedians out there that you feel are just nailing it?

Aurora: I love Key and Peele. I know that their show is done and I’m in denial about it, but they are amazing because there were many times that I would imagine that Keegan Michael Key was in the scene while writing. If I could picture him saying it, I knew it would work. I also kind of have a crush on Jordan Peele and his performance in Big Mouth. Maya Rudolph also just makes everything amazing. Her puberty demon on Big Mouth is flawless. She did an ad for 7th generation tampons that my son, my husband and myself were singing around the house for weeks. If I could even get anything close to her career, I would be happy. I’m also back in love with Rick and Morty. I don’t know if I have a crush on Justin Roiland, I just really love Rick (maybe even more than Morty). I don’t have a crush on Jerry, the dad, but I have a crush on Chris Parnell because he’s so good at being Jerry.



IFC: If you could go back in time and cast yourselves in any sitcom, which would it be and how would it change?

Carolyn: I’d go back in time and cast us in The Partridge Family.  We’d make an excellent family band. We’d have a laugh, break into song and wear ruffled blouses with velvet jackets.  And of course travel to all our gigs on a Mondrian bus. I feel really confident about this choice.

Meredith: Electric Mayhem from The Muppet Show. It wouldn’t change, they were simply perfect, except… maybe a few more vaginas in the band.

Binge the entire first and second seasons of Baroness von Sketch Show now on and the IFC app.

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