Monday, February 25, 2008

An Alan Smithee Award

Now that the Oscars are over (dubbed the "least-watched awards show in history" by some wags who should know), Roderick Jaynes can go back into obscurity -- until the Coen Brothers need to pull him out of the closet and dust him off.

Jaynes was nominated for an Oscar for "Film Editing" for his work on "No Country for Old Men," the powerhouse that ruled the Night of Little Naked Gold Men. It wasn't his first time up for the award. Ten years ago, he was also nominated for his work on "Fargo."

Jaynes has had an enviable career. Not only has he worked extensively with some of the most original and exciting filmmaking visionaries of our time AND been recognized by the venerable Academy for his expertise, but Entertainment Weekly named him as one of the 50 Smartest People in Hollywood in 2007.

(And before you scoff at the phrase "smart people in Hollywood" as an oxymoron, ask yourself what other profession pays its principals millions of dollars for a few days of work. Based on that criterion, physicists appear to have the intelligence of yogurt for their chosen profession. It's all a matter of priorities.)

So while it appears that Jaynes is riding high, enjoying everything that life can offer: steady work, recognition, an interesting career working with interesting people -- you'll never find him out and about enjoying his good fortune. In fact, if he had won the Oscar Sunday night, he wouldn't even have made his way down the slippery slope of the stage to accept the honor.

Jaynes, you see, doesn't exist. (Check out other Oscar nominees who were similarly Not There in Stephen Saito's excellent article.)

It used to be when a movie was so destroyed in the final cut that the director wanted to put as much distance between himself and the product, the director's name would be removed from the credits, and "Alan Smithee" would get the credit. It was better than saying "Directed by Mr. X."

One would think, however, that when one did GREAT work, it would be worth putting your own name on it in case someone felt compelled to hand you a golden statue of a naked man to commemorate your achievement.

It appears that some people actually still care more about doing quality work than they do about the glitz and glamour that clutter up the pop culture landscape. They adhere to the adage that "There is no limit to what you can accomplish if you don't mind who gets the credit."

Maybe I should just put Roderick Jaynes' name on the next screenplay I start shopping around. I wonder if his agent (or the Coens) would mind. 'Cause I'm pretty sure he wouldn't complain.