Roll Out the Red Carpet – It’s Oscar Night!
It was a cliffhanger, but the writer's strike ended in time to save the Oscars. Self-confessed awards show junkies and formerly striking screenwriters Elizabeth Hackett and Hilary Galanoy celebrate -- and try to predict the winners.
February 24, 2008 - 1:00 am
After three months of picketing, attending rallies, voting to end the work stoppage and ratify our new contract, we’re thrilled the WGA strike is finally over. Not only because we’re now back to work writing scripts and paying our rent, but because — above all — the Oscars have been saved.
We won’t lie. Besides being screenwriters, we’re normal, red-blooded, tabloid-reading, celebrity gossip-following and fashion-obsessed American women. As such, there’s one thing we can’t live without — awards shows. Especially awards shows where we might actually know someone who’s nominated. (Or at least know their agent.) Nothing earns you instant Oscar viewing party cred like hearing the name of a profusely-thanked talent representative in an acceptance speech and proudly announcing to your buddies, “That guy once screamed at me on the phone.”
The loss of the Golden Globes televised ceremony this year was a heart-wrenching blow for awards show junkies like us. We tried to get invested in the event anyway. We trotted out our usual awards show rituals — pizza, cheap wine from Trader Joe’s, and competitively creative variations on “I can’t believe she’s wearing that.” Sadly, in the end, the Golden Globes were nothing more than a press conference announcing the winners. A press conference is only interesting if involves a) a presidential scandal or b) Tommy Lee Jones announcing that the fugitive’s name is Dr. Richard Kimble. Sure, it was exciting to hear who won. But it’s like listening to a baseball game on the radio. You get the stats and scores, but are left to imagine the heart-stopping, series-clinching slide into home base in your mind. There were no dresses to critique. No bad hairdos to rate on a scale of 1 to 10. No foreign language films to pretend we’d actually seen. And most devastating, no drunk celebrities. While the Oscars are prestigious, the Golden Globes are our personal favorite because the Hollywood Foreign Press Association wisely allows guests and nominees to drink. Movie stars plus booze is a math equation with a potentially hilarious remainder. Where else can one witness Harrison Ford mount the stage to present an award — and hand his gin and tonic to a fellow presenter to babysit while he opens the envelope?
Without further ado, here are our “insider” picks: We’re relentlessly cheering for Juno as Best Picture. Comedies are almost never recognized as Best Picture material. And as comedy writers ourselves, this gives us hope that someday we can graduate from sitting on our couch making fun of nominees to being the nominees made fun of. And for Best Sound Mixing, we’re pulling for Paul Massey, David Giammarco and Jim Stuebe for 3:10 TO Yuma! Actually, we have no clue about sound mixing, like the rest of America watching this Sunday.
Sure, we appreciate good sound mixing as much as the next audience member, but it’s a black hole of mystery to us. That, and the Art Direction category. Predicting winners in those categories sometimes involves a dart board. Even though we work in “the biz”, we’re no more insightful or accurate in our Oscar pool than the guy who delivered the pizza we’re eating.
So onto the one subject matter we do know something about: screenplays. In our opinion, it’s pretty terrific that writers have not one but two Oscar categories for scripts: adapted and original. An adapted screenplay is actually much different from an original. Having written both types of scripts, we can say that each has its challenges. In an adaptation, it’s important to keep the spirit of the book alive and stay true to the basic plot. Easier said than done. Good books rarely make good movies because literature is inherently cerebral and interior. So with that in mind, our Best Adaptation vote is for No Country for Old Men to win. [Spoiler alert ahead.]
The Coen Brothers did something truly groundbreaking by killing off their main character and switching the P.O.V. in the last third of the movie. While jarring, it was an innovative narrative choice. And, maybe more importantly, the film provided actor Javier Bardem with an opportunity to show off the most psychologically frightening bowl haircut since Randy Quaid co-starred in Kingpin. The sister category of Original Screenplay has its own challenges. Creating something fully formed out of your imagination is never easy. Trust us, we try to work that magic daily. Our long shot pick to win is Ratatouille. We love food and cute animals — enough said.
Despite the fact that many Americans haven’t even see all the movies nominated (um, between us, we haven’t either), over 40 million viewers tune into the Oscars each year, including Hollywood “insiders”. There’s just something about seeing gorgeous actresses in sleeveless gowns in February that’s a cause for celebration.