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Academy Awards Show: Oscars Better With a Writer's Strike

By Jennifer Byrne
Feb 21, 2008

Oh, lucky us. After an agonizing 100-day standoff threatening the loss of hackneyed dialogue, lame jokes, and Teleprompter feeds to be stumbled over by impossibly beautiful, glazed-eyed celebrities, Hollywood and its estranged writers have lovingly reconciled, just in time for the Academy Awards. Hooray.
Academy Awards Show: Oscars Better With a Writer's Strike
Academy Awards Show: Oscars Better With a Writer's Strike

If you’re are anything like me, you’ve been watching this writer’s strike drama unfold, and you’ve been thinking a little less writing might just be the best thing that ever happened to the Oscars. Or even a lot less writing. I mean, as much as I appreciate the opportunity to go and make a sandwich during the long-winded speeches about special effects for foreign animated documentaries, I hardly need enough time to make 10 sandwiches. Personally, I’ve been thinking that I would be happy as a clam to experience a writing-free Academy Awards ceremony. What a notion! Nothing but the awards, glamorous dresses, and interpretive dance routines depicting how difficult it is to be a pimp – that’s what it’s all about.

But then I tried to actually picture what the Academy Awards would be like without scripted speeches and canned dialogue, and I realized with a chill that there would be almost nothing left for me to make fun of.  I mean, yes, there will always be the odd chance that someone might show up dressed as a swan, but that’s good for about 10 minutes of comic relief, at best. Plus, swan costumes were so 1996.

I thought about the gaping chasms between major awards that I would have to fill with my nothing but own thoughts. What would I come up with?

Without Hollywood writers, I would have to imagine a scenario in which, say, Gwyneth Paltrow and one of the guys from “Jackass” feign a mutual interest in costume design, while simultaneously pretending to not hate each other. I would have to conjure up from scratch Gwyneth’s pinched, long-suffering smile (what I call the “Gwyneth grimace”) as she barely stuffs down her contempt for the Jackass guy, who, in my scenario, would make his entrance being shot out of a cannon dressed as giant road kill. I will have to mentally approximate the sound of Gwyneth’s burgeoning faux-British accent becoming a shade more clipped and aristocratic than it was last year.

I would have to dream up a situation in which…hmm, let’s say, Tom Cruise and that spunky little girl from “Little Miss Sunshine” lecture the audience good-naturedly about the important craft of cinematography. Everyone knows kid presenters make adorable mistakes with their Teleprompter lines, and so might Tom Cruise. He could very well even confuse the word cinematography with scientology, and then the fun would truly begin.

In the bizarre “awards-presented-by-cartoons” category, I suppose I’d have to script my own version of the animated rat from “Ratatouille” ambling to the stage, making witty banter in a French accent with, I don’t know, a fork maybe, and eliciting polite laughter from Catherine Zeta-Jones out in the audience. I’d have to imagine the aforementioned fake rat presenting an award to some poor soul whose dubious distinction it is to accept an award from an imaginary rat (hallucinogenic drugs would probably help me, and the recipient, with this).

Oh, and finally, I’d have to improvise those lovely comic monologues in which Ellen DeGeneres or Billy Crystal or Jon Stewart or whichever poor pawn they chose this year lampoons a humorless Hollywood, prompting tight smiles as the celebs pretend to enjoy being mocked. I’d have to close my eyes tight and imagine some joke that prompts Jack Nicholson to laugh in the front row. To accomplish this, I would rely on my own mental stock footage of Jack Nicholson laughing in the front row in every Oscar ceremony I have ever seen in my life.

But that’s all I have, and it’s not nearly enough to fill a three-hour telecast.

But don’t forget the musical numbers! You might remind me. Even without writers, there will always be weird musical montages, maybe even contortionists doing an avant-garde dance routine around a burning car.

This is a very valid point. This is true. If the choreographer’s union ever goes on strike, the Academy Awards are definitely over. 

But I guess I have to admit it – maybe the writers do serve their function as well. Perhaps it’s best to leave our Oscar clichés in the hands of trained professionals. This way, we can sit back and laugh at them, and complain about having to sit through this nonsense when all we wanted was to see who would win Best Supporting Actress. And we’ll all have time to make plenty of sandwiches.

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