New gold for the movie business
Ethan Hawke
Credit: Doane Gregory

With the Oscars, the Golden Globes, the People’s Choice and a handful of other prize statuettes given out annually, it seems as if there couldn’t be enough gold in the world to plate another batch of awards. But that doesn’t daunt the fledgling International Press Academy, which is planning a gala event this February in Los Angeles to present its Golden Satellite Awards.

Founded just over a year ago by Mirjana Van Blaricom, a Yugoslavian-born writer living in Los Angeles, the IPA is made up of 250 foreign and American journalists. The group was formed as an alternative to the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, an organization of 95 members that presents the Golden Globes. Van Blaricom, who was president of the HFPA from 1992 to 1994, says the IPA’s choices will give a truer sense of the year’s best movies than the selections of other award groups.

How so? Well, the IPA vows to herald independent films, giving these lower-profile movies — as the group’s press release puts it — “access to an audience that would otherwise never receive exposure to their creativity.” But the Golden Satellite nomination list, announced last Monday, doesn’t dig unusually far into underground cinema.

Yes, certain nominations — such as Robert Duvall as Best Actor for “The Apostle” and Julie Christie as Best Actress in “Afterglow” — qualify as independent choices. But the bulk of the IPA list is dedicated to such mainstream choices as Julia Roberts in “My Best Friend’s Wedding” and Leonardo Di Caprio in “Titanic.” There’s even a new category called “Best Motion Picture: Animated or Mixed Media,” where the battle will be between such big-budget productions as “Men in Black,” “The Lost World: Jurassic Park” and “Starship Troopers.”

Hoping to get the IPA’s February 22 awards show televised, Van Blaricom is searching for a network sponsor. She says the media attention will help her organization realize the true power of its awards. “If people see great movies and praise them, then movies will get better,” says Van Blaricom, explaining that a Satellite award might inspire studios to take greater creative risks.

But some aren’t convinced that another night of stars treading the red carpet is the answer to improving the state of cinema. “When there are too many awards shows,” says Dr. Annette Insdorf, the director of undergraduate film studies for Columbia University, “they become virtually meaningless.”