I want to thank - NEW

I Want To Thank The Academy

by Nat Segaloff

OSCAR FICTION PACKAGE: A director and publicist battle over how to accept the Academy Award. 1,796 words. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


TO: VICTOR SPOONER, VS-PR
FROM: Corliss “Corky” Monroe
RE: My Academy Award acceptance speech

Dear Vic, I’m writing an acceptance speech in case I get the directing Oscar® next week. You guided my nomination campaign brilliantly, but I thought I’d try my own hand at writing the payoff. Could you take a look at it to see if it does the job? Thanks. Corky.

“I want to thank the Academy more than I can say. As many of you know, I struggled for four years to get this picture made, including shitting out three zombie pictures for the same company. I consider this wonderful award to be in recognition of my perseverance and strong stomach. Making this film was a bitch. After they said yes, everybody fought me all along the way. You know who you are. You’re the vampires who suck the creative blood out of our art. For you, consider this Oscar a middle finger flipped cold and bold for the damage you do. But to those of us who bleed for our art, this Oscar is a glistening reminder that talent and justice always triumph in the end. Thank you.”

TO: CORKY MONROE
FROM: VICOR SPOONER
RE: Your acceptance speech

Very funny. I know you’re still bitter that you had to make the zombie trilogy in order to get a green light for The Keys Of Fate, but don’t you think this is a little over the top, even kidding around with me? Let me put it another way: if you say this, you’ll never work in this town again, not even as a ticket-taker at the Century City AMC multiplex. You’ll have plenty of time to get back at people privately, not on international TV, for crissakes. Just be gracious, thank your agent, your parents, and your producer (in that order) and get off the stage.

TO: VICTOR SPOONER
FROM: CORKY MONROE
RE: Acceptance speech

Of course I was kidding. You think I’d commit professional seppuku? If I do win, though, I want to say something provocative enough to have people ask me what I really meant. That’s what Jane Fonda did when she won Best Actress for Klute and being enigmatic at the Oscars gave her entrée to talk afterward about what she really wanted to talk about. How about something for me like:

“I want to thank the members of the Academy that voted for me. This award has given me the clout to make more of the kinds of films we’re all proud to have represent our industry, not the mindless chicken shit that studios and executives and producers put into the assembly line. Thank you.”

TO: CORKY MONROE
FROM: VICTOR SPOONER
RE: Acceptance speech

I think you’re missing my point. The Oscars aren’t a place to settle grievances, they’re where you kiss movie ass and lay the groundwork for the rest of your career. Try to sound more positive, okay? If you can’t thank everyone, just say you’re too choked up to speak and get the hell off. They’ll love you for having a short speech. Now stop messing around and work on heartfelt comments, then cross your fingers, see your clergyman, sacrifice a virgin, or do whatever it takes to win so you can have the chance to speak it.

TO: VICTOR SPOONER
FROM: CORKY MONROE
RE: Acceptance speech

Yeah, okay. I guess I’m still pissed off from them telling me I can make the picture, then pulling it out of theatres after one week and selling it to Netflix where I make zilch. Okay, here’s a whole new version:

“I want to thank the Academy. I’m grateful that you saw the work we all did on the picture, even though we had to send it to you at home because you couldn’t haul your old and sorry asses out to any of the screenings we set up. At least let me thank you for not fast-forwarding through the picture or watching it on your iPhone. It also means a lot that we got you to stop texting and taking phone calls long enough to pay attention and like our work. Thank you.”

TO: CORKY MONROE
FROM: VICTOR SPOONER
RE: Acceptance speech

What are you smoking, dropping, or huffing? This isn’t funny any more. The Oscars are watched by a billion people, and none of them will ever buy another ticket to see a guy who runs off the rails. If you can’t write a simple, direct, gracious speech, let me do it for you. After all, I’m in charge of your public relations and I’d rather have you do it right than have to clean up your mega-mess afterward.

TO: VICTOR SPOONER
FROM: CORKY MONROE
RE: Acceptance speech

I’m sorry, Vic. I know you’re looking out for my best interests. Here’s a page-one rewrite:

“This award means so much to me because it comes from my peers – people who know what we go through to make movies. I appreciate the affection you show for me and my work, and I am proud to be in an industry that makes all of this possible.”

How’s that? Please notice that I didn’t say a thing about being forced to work for scale while the producer took his full quote, and having to use the studio’s travel, hotel, and catering deals on the picture even though it cost more and the food sucked. But they must have liked the physical look of the film because, the week after we wrapped, I was in the production VP’s studio office and saw the furniture from our living room set in his waiting room. And I am especially not mentioning that we had not one but two spies on the picture. So when I said, “I am proud to be in an industry that makes all of this possible” I damn well meant it to go both ways.

TO: CORKY MONROE
FROM: VICTOR SPOONER
RE: Acceptance speech

You’ve got to stop this. Now it’s in my mind that you’re a loose cannon. Did you put that last paragraph in there to get a rise out of me, or to test the wording for when you spout it from the stage of the Dolby Theatre? Cuz let me tell you something, buster: you are not going to act like that if I have to stand in the wings and shoot you in the heart with a crossbow like your villain. I want your word on your children’s souls that you’ll be a good boy if you win.

TO: VICTOR SPOONER
FROM: CORKY MONROE
RE: Acceptance speech

Don’t worry, Vic, it’s just me getting it out of my system so I won’t be tempted to say it later. Do you actually think I’d rake Mel Grossman across the coals for sticking me with a unit manager who was boffing the script supervisor on the side? Or gripe about how the studio laid off the cost overruns from their stinking costume epic onto my budget? Why should I talk about the way they charged me $10,175 to “ship” the hard drive from master control to the screening room when all they did was press the upload button? Never mind that every Academy member is being screwed the same way. I’m not going to blow the whistle.

TO: CORKY MONROE
FROM: VICTOR SPOONER
RE: Acceptance speech

You knew the job was dangerous when you took it, Corky. Remember that, if you win, you’ll be talking to people who already know that, and yet they still make pictures good enough that the industry nominates them, just as they did you. For crissake, don’t bite the hand that’s jerking you off.

TO: VICTOR SPOONER
FROM: CORKY MONROE
RE: Acceptance speech

Don’t get me wrong, Victor. I’m not going to use the Oscars as a platform to call in the Justice Department. I remember Michael Moore, Sasheen Littlefeather, Vanessa Redgrave, and the others who used the show as a bully pulpit. I realize – and I think Paddy Chayefsky said it – that the Oscars are all about “Ladies and Gentlemen, this is Mrs. Norman Maine.” But what an opportunity. Just once I’d like to see somebody say, when they accept the Best Picture Oscar, “Nobody wanted to make this film, and now they say it’s the best one of the year.” I mean, think of the movies that never won that prize: Citizen Kane, 2001, Raging Bull, Vertigo, The Wild Bunch, Singin’ In The Rain, M*A*S*H, Apocalypse Now. Each of them changed the art of cinema more than The English Patient or Shakespeare In Love or The Artist or Dances With Wolves, all of which are almost forgotten today. I’m proud to be among the directors who were never even nominated: Stanley Kubrick, Sam Peckinpah, Michael Powell, Charles Chaplin, John Frankenheimer, Don Siegel, Buster Keaton, Blake Edwards, Raoul Walsh, Rouben Mamoulian, Preston Sturges, Fritz Lang. I’m not saying that my picture is in their league, but jeez, let’s have some perspective.

TO: CORKY MONROE
FROM: VICTOR SPOONER
RE: Acceptance speech

Yada, yada. We can take a film history course later. I hope you win, kiddo, I really do. But don’t make a tirade, make a nice speech, I beg you. I’ll see you there. You be good. Promise?

TO: VICTOR SPOONER
FROM: CORKY MONROE
RE: Acceptance speech

I promise.

TO: CORKY MONROE
FROM: VICTOR SPOONER
RE: Last night at the Oscars

You did it, you bastard, didn’t you? You won and then you managed to go down in flames all within the same minute. I’m ashamed of you. You are so over in this town.

TO: VICTOR SPOONER
FROM: CORKY MONROE
RE: Acceptance speech

I had nothing to do with it. Swear to God. I had my speech all written and in my pocket, but I couldn’t find it. Then I saw it coming up on the Teleprompter. I was so nervous, I just read it. Somebody must have hacked our email. How did that early draft make it onto that screen? Or maybe I had flashbacks. I don’t know what happened. I just saw the words and then heard the audience make that weird noise like when something happens onstage that they know isn’t supposed to happen, and I realized that I was the one who was talking. Then in the press room afterwards, everybody asked me what I meant and I didn’t know what they were talking about until the AP guy read it back to me and I thought I’d poop and puke both at once. I’m sorry, Victor, Honest. I don’t know how it happened but nobody will ever believe me, will they? Do you?

TO: CORKY MONROE
FROM: MAILER-DAEMON
RE: Undeliverable message

Sorry, we were unable to deliver your message to the following address: VSpooner@VS-PR.com/

Oscar®, Academy Award®, and AMPAS® are registered trademarks of The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, ©AMPAS.

About The Author:
Nat Segaloff
Nat Segaloff is a journalist, producer, author and critic whose memoir Screen Saver: Private Stories Of Public Hollywood and its forthcoming sequel Screen Saver Too are published by Bear Manor Media. He has been a professor (Boston University, Boston College), publicist (Fox, UA, Columbia) and broadcaster (Group W, CBS). He has written more than a dozen books, the latest A Lit Fuse: The Provocative Life of Harlan Ellison (NESFA Press).

About Nat Segaloff

Nat Segaloff is a journalist, producer, author and critic whose memoir Screen Saver: Private Stories Of Public Hollywood and its forthcoming sequel Screen Saver Too are published by Bear Manor Media. He has been a professor (Boston University, Boston College), publicist (Fox, UA, Columbia) and broadcaster (Group W, CBS). He has written more than a dozen books, the latest A Lit Fuse: The Provocative Life of Harlan Ellison (NESFA Press).

  8 comments on “I Want To Thank The Academy

  1. Once again, thank you Nat Segaloff for letting us readers into the inner sanctum. I love the email format and the feeling of "how much of this is truie" that comes from your stories. In my own mind, this story and its format reminded me of Spoon River Anthology, one of my all time faves.

  2. I want to thank Nat Segaloff, without whom this incisive truth-telling might never have brightened our home screens (are here still any other kind of screens?) today. Oh, and thanks to his agent Paddy Chayevsky and his producer, Jonathan Swift.

  3. Thanks, Nat! NOW I start to understand what galvanized Blake Edwards to make S.O.B., one of my favorite "Burn, Hollywood, Burn" movies.

  4. It is refreshing to know there is an industry more corrupt than defense contracting, more insidious than drug dealing and more practiced at buggery than the music industry. Capitalism really does work after all. Ok, time to watch Downton Abbey. After all, it it about a time when inherited wealth and a carefully bred class of underachievers served the greater cause of preserving crumbling architecture built for the leisure of a generation that your industry aspires to better.

  5. Award season starts with a room full of Nominees (with speeches) and ends with a roomful of Losers (with soliloquies), and whoever coined the phrase "nice to be nominated" saved a lot of lives – speech notes to blocked email, priceless here!

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