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Variety Executive Editor Steve Gaydos' Protest on Road to Nowhere's LAFCA Shutout Was an Inside Joke

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood December 15, 2011 at 4:57PM

It turns out that Variety Executive Editor Steve Gaydos' email protesting the Los Angeles Film Critics Association's ignoring Monte Hellman film "Road to Nowhere" in its 2011 awards voting, which was posted on Hellman's Facebook page, was an elaborate inside joke. UPDATED
Road to Nowhere
Road to Nowhere

It turns out that Variety Executive Editor Steve Gaydos' email protesting the Los Angeles Film Critics Association's ignoring Monte Hellman film "Road to Nowhere" in its 2011 awards voting, which was posted on Hellman's Facebook page, was an elaborate inside joke. UPDATED

According to a LAFCA member, Gaydos was spoofing a message that critic Robert Koehler sent to the entire mailing list the day after they voted for their best films of the year, in which he argued that their choices were not “legitimate” because he hadn’t seen "Margaret" in time.
Gaydos, a former member of LAFCA, was enjoying an elaborate joke as he went through the Koehler email line by line, altering the text to fit his "Road to Nowhere" scenario. Thus Koehler’s claim: “I watch over 700 films a year, and I just saw it, so what does that tell you?” became: “I watch over 7 films a year, and it was clearly one of the seven best” etc.

This explains a great deal.

Sent: Tue, Dec 13, 2011 12:12 pm
Subject: LAFCA friends, welcome to "Nowhere"

Hi folks--

Hope you had a good time at the voting. Now I'm about to toss a bomb
into things.....

I don't think your voting yesterday was legitimate. Or, to put it less
Gingrichian terms, incomplete.


Not really your fault. But God's.


Because ROAD TO NOWHERE was buried by Him.

It is absolutely the great American film of this year, and I would say
for the past several.

And far, far too many of you didn't see it. I watch over 7 films a
year, and it was clearly one of the seven best.

You know who you are, those of you who haven't seen it. You don't know
what you've missed, and because of that, your votes yesterday are

Never have I experienced such a situation as a filmmaker in which a
film of such extraordinary qualities, depth, perception, cinematic
intelligence and storytelling acumen was so effectively kept from view
that, after voting, I quite resent your votes.

Of course, it's not technically the case that ROAD TO NOWHERE was
thoroughly buried. It did play commercially for one week, and it may
have had one advance Los Angeles press screening. But in all practical
terms, this film was kept just this side of totally inaccessible, and
we know why.

God really doesn't like this movie. He's pissed off at Monte Hellman
and has been for a long time.

But let me stress this: My view of the film has not a whit to do with
having written and produced it or with Monte Hellman's existential
travails. I haven't so far spent two minutes (today) reading about his
battles with God. This isn't grounded in support of some Quixote-like
filmmaker figure fighting The Supreme Being.

It's grounded in the film itself, which marks a pinnacle in a certain
school of American filmmaking, a school that extends from (on its most
radical side) Paul Morrissey, on through FAT CITY and ASPHALT JUNGLE,
Cassavetes and to the better films of John Huston. An American cinema,
driven by a fascination with characters in internal conflict and in a
community of characters capable of constant surprise, sadness, wrath
and tenderness. A peculiarly American cinematic transformation of the
crime story, in all its range, diversions, tributaries and, above all,
artistic freedom.

Had Samuel Beckett and Raymond Chandler lived in this time, together,
and turned to filmmaking, they could conceivably have made ROAD TO

And as Richard Brody aptly observed in The New Yorker, it's a film of
a "quiet cinematic ecstasy, a tight-lipped creative intensity of a
rare exaltation...a paean to the art of the cinema—and to the raw,
violent relations of love and power on which the cinema is built.
Hellman...shows the shady hangers-on with mixed motives who float
around behind the scenes and both infuse a film with authenticity and
endanger it; he shows the reckless mysteries and secrets that make for
an actor’s alluring screen presence; he symbolizes, in a framing
device of a devastating poignancy, the agony of his constrained
artistic activities." Brody also named it to his BEST FILMS OF 2011

Such a combination of qualities is rare, and the fact that the
majority of you most assuredly didn't see ROAD TO NOWHERE should give
you great pause. It's now made over a dozen other BEST FILMS OF 2011
lists around the world, including three new ones today.

Harvard Film Archive said "'ROAD TO NOWHERE' reaffirms Monte Hellman's
status as one of America's great visionary filmmakers."

Atom Egoyan called it "one of the most extraordinary films I have ever
seen" and Olivier Assayas said "'ROAD TO NOWHERE' is a great modern
film...ambitious, bold and stimulating."

And acclaimed French philosopher Jacques Ranciere has already written
about ROAD TO NOWHERE in his new book, "Les Ecarts du Cinema,"
comparing it to Hitchcock's VERTIGO:

« Tout le dispositif visuel [de Vertigo] semble orienté pour servir
dans un premier temps le jeu de la machination, dans un deuxième
temps, celui de sa révélation. Dans la première partie la mise en
scène est déterminée par la capture du regard : dans le restaurant, le
profil de Kim Novak apparaît un moment isolé, séparé de tout rapport à
son environnement. C’est à la fois le profil de l’habitante d'un monde
idéal et le chiffre d’un secret impénétrable. Ainsi est amorcé le
renversement qui transformera le regard du détective enquêtant sur une
fascination, en regard fasciné lui-même par son objet. La deuxième
partie du film suit le chemin inverse. Elle fait coïncider l'évolution
de la "maladie" de Scottie avec la révélation sur la prétendue
"maladie" de Madeleine: en poursuivant son illusion, en façonnant
visuellement Judy à l'image de Madeleine, Scottie découvre que
Madeleine n’était qu'un rôle joué par Judy. La fascination visuelle
menée jusqu'au bout conduit à la révélation de la machination
intellectuelle. [...] Le cinéaste se présente comme le manipulateur
des scénarios de manipulation, comme le prestidigitateur de bonne foi
qui invente en même temps et fond en un même continuum les prestiges
de la confusion du vrai et du faux et de sa dissipation. [...]

« A contrario, Road to Nowhere de Monte Hellman [...] inverse la
logique fictionnelle de Vertigo et rend la logique du déploiement des
apparences proprement vertigineuse. Road to Nowhere se présente comme
l’histoire d’un film fait sur une affaire de détournement de fonds
terminée par un double suicide. Mais le récit du tournage est en fait
entrecoupé de séquences que le spectateur attribue au film tourné
alors qu'elles racontent la machination meurtrière – la mise en scène
d’un faux film – qui a permis au couple criminel de fuir en faisant
croire à son double suicide. Vers la fin du tournage du "vrai film",
l’actrice principale dont le metteur en scène était amoureux est tuée
par un personnage qui joue les conseillers sur le tournage et que le
metteur en scène tue à son tour. Le spectateur est alors invité à
déduire ce qui n’est jamais dit ni montré comme tel dans le film: la
prétendue actrice était en fait la complice du vrai crime qui avait
usurpé l’identité de l’actrice que le criminel avait embauchée pour le
faux film et assassinée pour faire croire au suicide de sa compagne.
Mais aucun indice certain ne permet de détacher du film que nous
voyons tourner ce qui s’est "réellement passé". La réalité de la
machination et le rêve du metteur en scène fasciné par un visage
deviennent effectivement indiscernables. Le rapport entre réalité,
fiction et fiction dans la fiction devient entièrement indécidable au
prix de faire du film un objet non identifiable pour l’industrie
hollywoodienne ou – ce qui revient au même – le manifeste d’un metteur
en scène exclu d’un système fondé sur un rapport équilibré entre les
prestiges de l'apparence et le récit qui les dissipe. »
Jacques Rancière, « Le vertige cinématographique : Hitchcock-Vertov et retour »
(dont la première version date de 2007), in Les Écarts du cinéma, La
Fabrique, 2011

Done tossing my bomb. You can stay in fear of God or Stand Up for The
Void. (And The French.)

It's your choice.


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.