Roger L. Simon The-Man-Who-Created-Moses-Wine LLC gets to vote for the Academy Awards and you don’t:
Cathy Seipp has another of her fine columns in NRO today – Segregated Screenwriters – in which she is again on the money about the entertainment industry and the City of Angels. [Is that because she cites you?-ed. Why else?] But seeereeuzly folks, Cathy cited me for predicting something that is very conventional wisdom (VCW) these days – that screenwriter Paul Haggis is headed for his second Oscar for writing a movie that is fundamentally meretricious – Crash. And here’s an admission: I voted for him. Why? Well, despite the author’s fake values and absurd vision of Los Angeles, he didn’t have much competition and I had to vote for something. (I had omitted too many categories on my Oscar ballot already.) Besides, the dude writes extremely well – excellent dialogue and well-wrought, often moving, characters.
This, of course made me run to see who the other nominees were in the original screenplay category:
â€œCrashâ€ (Lions Gate)
Screenplay by Paul Haggis & Bobby Moresco
Story by Paul Haggis
â€œGood Night, and Good Luck.â€ (Warner Independent Pictures)
Screenplay by George Clooney & Grant Heslov
â€œSyrianaâ€ (Warner Bros.)
Written by Stephen Gaghan
â€œThe Squid and the Whaleâ€ (Samuel Goldwyn Films and Sony Pictures Releasing)
Written by Noah Baumbach
â€œMatch Pointâ€ (DreamWorks)
Written by Woody Allen
Okay. Right off the bat we know that Good Night, and Good Luck and Syriana are out because they have the taint of Clooney and there is a little known clause in the Pajamaline employment contract that specifically states that George Clooney must be treated with sneering contempt unless he offers a six figure deal for a screenplay in which case: see ya suckers!
Next we have The Squid and the Whale* which I haven’t seen so I’ll hand the reins over to Kenneth Turan:
“The Squid and the Whale” has the power to break your heart and heal it again. Acutely observed, faultlessly acted, graced with piercing emotion and unsparing honesty, it will make you laugh because you can’t bear to cry.
Winner of two top Sundance prizes (the dramatic directing and Waldo Salt screenwriting awards) for filmmaker Noah Baumbach, “Squid’s” accomplishment is especially remarkable because its material is so familiar. “Squid’s” roots are in youthful autobiography, in a family’s divorce and a son’s coming of age, usually the elephant’s graveyard of independent cinema.
The film’s success against these obstacles demonstrates that if you are gifted enough â€” and if you have a superlative cast top-lined by Jeff Daniels and Laura Linney â€” your story can belong to everyone. Clear-eyed and intimate, a deeply felt narrative that flinches from nothing, “Squid” is a model of what independent filmmaking can achieve, even on a hectic 23-day shooting schedule and a $1.5-million budget.
With a title whose meaning and resonance become clear only at the close, “Squid’s” great strength is that it is as perceptive as it is personal. It’s the work of a skillful writer-director (this is Baumbach’s third film, following 1995’s wonderful “Kicking and Screaming” and 1998’s “Mr. Jealousy”) who has what might be called perfect emotional pitch.
Hmmmm. Seems like that should have been a contender and yet…it lacked the springboard from which Roger Simon themanwhocreatedmoseswine could launch a whine about pampered LA screenwriters who live in their own little fantasy world threatened by scary dark people who– well, you see where I’m going with that.
Finally there is Woody Allen, nominated for Match Point. Woody Allen has written the screenplays for Annie Hall, Manhattan, Interiors, Broadway Danny Rose, Hannah and Her Sisters, The Purple Rose of Cairo, Bullets Over Broadway, Radio Days, etc. He has won twice for screenplays and been nominated 14 times in the original screenplay category.
And it just so happens that Allen once starred in a film written by Roger L Simon The Man Who Created Moses Wine called Scenes from A Mall. According to imdb, here is a sampling of Roger’s craft handed off to Woody Allen:
[After tough negotiations with a tennis prodigy’s mother.]
Nick Fifer: I think Mrs. Fong is Jewish.
Nick Fifer: These guys are worse than Hare Krishnas!
[Deborah wants to give Nick his Christmas present.]
Deborah Fifer: I have something to get you out of your midlife crisis.
Nick Fifer: That can only mean a full-body vibrator!
Nick Fifer: How many 16th anniversaries does a person have in a lifetime? One… maybe two.
[Nick’s given Deborah a family photo with an antique frame.]
Nick Fifer: I had to have it engraved, because I could never remember your name.
[On an affair Nick had.]
Nick Fifer: I liked her. I loved the sex.
Deborah Fifer: [scornful] Oh. So, you LOVE me, but you only LIKE the sex.
Nick Fifer: Well, now I feel like the scumbag of all time.
Deborah Fifer: You are.
It’s funnier if you try to imagine the lines being delivered by Woody Allen (Nick) and Bette Midler (Deborah)…
Okay. It’s not.
C’mon Roger. You owe the Woodman big time…
*(Disclaimer) For the record, I went over the entire list of nominated films and realized that I have seen a grand total of two (2) of them. March of the Penguins (on DVD) and The Constant Gardener at a real live movie theater. Once upon a time I used to practically live at the Ken Cinema (a revival and art house) in San Diego, now I just write about people who review movies they haven’t seen.
It’s a strange world.