Category Archives: Oscars

Shortlist

by Tom Teicholz

OSCAR FICTION PACKAGE: A newbie NYC filmmaker visits L.A. after his documentary is shortlisted. 3,168 words. Art by Thomas Warming.


Rick was making $175,000 annually at a midsize law firm in New York City as a second-year associate with a 7B44E679-DD00-4B87-9873-6B80A7AA57E8bright future. He did corporate work and mostly real estate transactions. There wasn’t a lot of law involved, but he had to deal with an ever-changing cast of characters. It was about who had control, who had leverage, who had cash, who had financing. No two deals were alike, and it was Rick’s job to stand up for his clients when others were behaving badly and to smooth out issues when his clients were the ones behaving badly.

The truth was Rick didn’t feel that much commitment to his work. He he felt no personal stake in it. Much of what he did was accumulate files on his desk and make them disappear to somewhere else. What Rick most enjoyed was the process of property development by transforming the most prosaic piece of land or building into something new and different at its highest and best use.

As a second year associate, Rick was required to do a certain amount of pro-bono work (which theoretically meant “for the public good” but actually meant “for the good name of the firm.”) Rick’s contribution was helping his alma mater Columbia Law School raise scholarship funds. A worthy cause and, in the eyes of the firm, a great networking opportunity. For this year’s annual dinner, Rick had the idea to make a short documentary about Supreme Court Justice and Columbia Law grad Benjamin Cardozo.

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Revenge, Thy Name Is Oscar

by Nat Segaloff

OSCAR FICTION PACKAGE: A movie producer relentless at awards time is blindsided by rivals. 2,398 words. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


Most independent producers who strike it big at least make an effort to distance themselves from their 7B44E679-DD00-4B87-9873-6B80A7AA57E8bottom-feeding beginnings. Not Herschel Wechsler. It wasn’t the expensive suits that hung on his doughy frame as though he’d slept in them. It didn’t matter that he sprayed spittle when he talked. Nobody even held his flyshit toupee against him. It was that he had the kind of face you just wanted to push into the front of a 1958 Buick.

Hollywood has known its share of ogres with good taste. Joseph E. Levine, Harvey Weinstein, Joel Silver, Scott Rudin, and Otto Preminger readily come to mind. Okay, maybe not Otto Preminger. But the others possessed that rare combination of passion, guts, showmanship, charisma, and intelligence that dignified them and their productions despite the controversy they sometimes courted.

Hershel Wechsler, however, was irredeemable. You didn’t even have to use his last name. Everybody just said “Herschel.” Sure, his pictures made money — and you’d think that would absolve him of the town’s enmity. Except he did it in the one way that Hollywood found unacceptable: at the expense of the motion picture industry’s dignity. As more than one of his competitors — they bristled if called his “colleagues” – remarked, Herschel always found a way to scrape underneath the bottom of the barrel.

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Another Red Carpet

by Ann Hamilton

OSCAR FICTION PACKAGE: Part Three revisits Nat and Best Actress Erin Teller’s meet cute. 2,593 words. Part One. Part Two. Illustrations by John Donald Carlucci.


Backstory. Again. I’m Nat. I work in the mailroom at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and 7B44E679-DD00-4B87-9873-6B80A7AA57E8last year I went to the Academy Awards. I met Erin Teller on the Red Carpet and she wound up winning Best Actress for When The Mountain Sings with me sitting beside her as her date for the evening. We even went to the Governors Ball together. After that we sort of hooked up for a couple months and it was pretty amazing being with Erin Teller and having paparazzi following us around. My picture ended up in In Touch with the caption, “Erin Teller and her new Mystery Man share a black and white cookie at Art’s Deli.”

I still have the napkin. She wrote the date on it and did a drawing of a penguin. “It’s the only animal I can draw. Isn’t that weird?” she told me. We were eating outside because she said people in the Valley didn’t recognize her as much as people on the other side of the hill. Only one photographer took her photo. No one else approached her, not that she would’ve cared. The entire time we were together, I never saw her get impatient with fans or paps, even when they were crowding around her when she took me to the premiere of her latest starring vehicle Rogue One. I was afraid she would get suffocated, but she kept waving “hey” to people. She saw treating everyone well as part of her job. Like making sure she didn’t gain fifty pounds or get a giant ‘#RESIST tattoo across her forehead.

“It’s stupid the way some actors are so rude,” she told me later when we were in her bedroom. “Here you work your ass off to be a success in this business and you finally make it and you’ve got fans everywhere and then you go like, ‘How dare you interrupt me when I’m eating? Sign an autograph? Go fuck yourself.’ Do you think I’d have a career if people didn’t like my movies? D’oh.”

She sounded exactly like Homer Simpson. At that moment, Erin was leaning back against the headboard. You probably want to know if she was naked. And what the sex was like. I’m too much of a gentleman to disclose that. (Well… use your imagination. And then multiply that by a billion.)

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After The Red Carpet

by Ann Hamilton

OSCAR FICTION PACKAGE: A Red Carpet meet compels this couple to keep going. 2,312 words. Part One. Illustrations by John Donald Carlucci.


Backstory: My name is Nat, I work in the mailroom at the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, 7B44E679-DD00-4B87-9873-6B80A7AA57E8and I went to the Academy Awards. Instead of sitting up in the lousy seats with the rest of the AMPAS staff, I met Erin Teller, the Erin Teller, and she sort of made me her date. I sat with her and she won the Best Actress Oscar for When The Mountain Sings.

And now we’re going to the Governors Ball.

I am not making this shit up.

So Erin and I are walking out of the Dolby when Erin grabs my hand and asks me where I’m going because, duh, don’t I know the Governors Ball is upstairs and she’s starving to death. She says some of the cast from Hamilton is performing and isn’t it the best musical ever. I tell her I haven’t seen it and she says, boy, I’m in for a surprise.

This whole night is a surprise. Having my date get a migraine so I go to the Awards solo, then running into Erin Teller – literally, when her limo door knocks me down. Now I can’t figure out why she hooked on to me. But I’m not complaining.

We’re riding up the escalator to the Governors Ball and Erin has her Oscar clutched in her fist. Occasionally, she waves it in the air and says, “Woo hoo,” and people shout, “Woo hoo” back at her. This is the most amazing night of her life. And, fuck me, I never want it to end.

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Red Carpet

by Ann Hamilton

OSCAR FICTION PACKAGE: An accident on the Red Carpet solves both their problems. 3,508 words. Part Two. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


It’s fun to wear a tux. One of my roommates, Jamie, told me I looked like an ad for Men’s Wearhouse and I told 7B44E679-DD00-4B87-9873-6B80A7AA57E8him to go fuck himself. Then he said in that raspy voice of the guy who used to run Men’s Wearhouse before he got fired, “You’re going to like the way you look, I guarantee it.”

The first year I went to the Academy Awards, I rented a tux. But it was hella expensive so the next time I borrowed one from a friend and it was kinda Cary Grant-ish. But the cuffs were a little short and people told me later, the ones who saw me on the Red Carpet, “What’s with the flood pants, Nat?” So I decided, since this was my third year going, I might as well buy a used tux. I got one online and doesn’t every guy need a Christian Dior Black Notch tuxedo for less than a hundred bucks. Deal. Next year I might even buy patent leather oxfords.

If I’m still working at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Which would be kind of depressing. Four years in the mailroom, even though I’m finally the boss. The perks are good, easy commute, the pay isn’t horrible, health coverage possible. Most of the people I work with are okay. (Though there’s one guy in digital media who’s a dick, but everybody hates him). And of course the best perk of all is that you get to go to the Oscars. Two tickets, Red Carpet, the whole nine yards. Well, not the Governors Ball, but that’s no biggie. Plus, the seats are far away — in a galaxy far far away — but it’s still cool. I get to tell people, “Sorry, can’t come to your Oscar party because, guess what, I’m going to be there.” The look on their faces is like, ”Oh, shit. How does Nat get to go?”

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The Campaign

by Robert W. Welkos

OSCAR FICTION PACKAGE: A PR woman wages her toughest nominations fight versus He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. 3,748 words. Illustration by John Mann.


It is a most curious job I have, thought Veronica Jasper as she sipped her extra large parsley-kale-spinach and 7B44E679-DD00-4B87-9873-6B80A7AA57E8lemony yogurt smoothie. How could anyone, certainly not her high school chums back in Nebraska, have possibly predicted that she would one day wind up as Hollywood’s premiere Oscar consultant? Even she had to marvel at how destiny had taken hold and shook out the best in her like a soapy mop. The fact is she now had become a tenacious publicist with scads of A-lister contacts in the ultra-rarefied realm of professionals who conduct Academy Awards campaigns.

Veronica’s specialty was creating Oscar buzz around her clients, much like political consultants do for candidates running for public office. True, neither she nor any other Academy Awards consultants had their own golden statuettes for a job well done, but they could be members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ venerated “Public Relations” branch. Still, Veronica had morphed into the kind of person she most loathed about the entertainment industry: a player who takes delight in the misfortune of others.

But enough of such idle musings, Veronica told herself. There’s another Oscar campaign season upon her! Phone calls to make. Dinners to arrange. Producers to placate. Journalists to schmooze. Still, why did she feel so gloomy? Because here she is — again — for the twentieth straight year coordinating the Academy campaigns for another clutch of indie and studio clients. And it’s always the same rat race. Get a grip! One day she’ll retire to that seaside hideaway in La Jolla and forget all of this nonsense. But for now she needs to plot how to win the coveted votes of all these self-involved, self-aggrandizing Academy ilk.

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The Roomers
Part One

by Wayras Olivier

Ambition. Jealousy. Just another day at the movie studio. 2,435 words. Part Two. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


My name is Daniel Kennedy. I died, you may be interested to hear, on a Monday. Evening, not night, as so many of the rumors have stated. The film title Secrets & Lies was the last words I heard. A brash-looking Sonny Wortzik, who incidentally must have been on parole, had just finished running through the list of Best Picture nominations for 1997 when euphoria seized me and The English Patient won all the things that make life worth living: glory, prestige and recognition. (A quick side note: when you check out, you know for the first time who you are without the categories that define life: your age, your race, your gender and yes, your occupation.) And before you ask, the answer is no, I was not at the show. I was at home watching it on the boob. The momentary euphoria I just mentioned came from gasoline poisoning. So I here repeat my oath: anything that happened on March 24th, 1997, after the words Secrets & Lies were uttered, I myself cannot personally verify.

Prior to dying, I spread many false rumors about families and had been complicit by remaining silent whenever I, in return, heard rumors that I knew were false. My father was rare. He had an I.Q. only slightly above 50 and was put down when I was just a child. Believing that something other than natural selection (although I didn’t, of course, call it that back then) has the right to gas stupid people, I became increasingly afraid of the “steak.” Something I learned later, when correctly pronounced, is called the “state.”

My mother, who was a beautiful bird, told me that he wasn’t Darwined-out by the steak just because he was fat and dim, and promised to tell me when I turned sixteen why he went the way of the dodo, and how it involved the murders in “the Hills.” Or she may have said the murders in “the Stills.” I could never quite understand her. I never did find out what kind of monster he was, not because my mother had terrible diction but rather, right before she had the chance when my sweet sixteen arrived, she choked on her dentures and suffocated.

I was an only child; I never married, and had no children. So this is my one chance, when I tell you about the Roomers, to make things right.

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Shooting Star

by Michael Brandman

Who in Hollywood can control this hugely talented film actor hell bent on causing trouble? 3,754 words. Illustrations by Mark Fearing.


It was only after he achieved superstar status that Rick Myer’s life issues began to surface. He was twenty 8547D799-C475-4659-B563-17A9A283F8B3seven and totally unprepared for the adulation he was receiving.

He had grown up in South Orange, New Jersey, the son of an alcoholic father and an adoring mother who devoted her life to serving his every need.

At age seventeen, having previously shown no interest in pretty much anything, he announced his intention to become an actor. His mother took it in stride and arranged for him to take private lessons with a Manhattan based acting coach.

Each Saturday Rick would take a Lackawanna local to Hoboken, catch the subway to Grand Central Station, then hike uptown to Fifty Seventh Street where he studied acting in the living room of Dora Weissman’s one bedroom apartment. Weissman, a veteran performer and long time acting teacher, did all she could to guide and inform him, but soon found him to be a difficult and headstrong student. Plus, he frightened her.

One night, at a dinner party held in honor of the Yiddish Theatre luminary, Shmuel Alter, she bumped into the estimable acting guru, Frederic Augsburger, and recommended Rick to him as a possible candidate for his Actor’s Salon.

Augsburger expressed interest and the following week, having watched Rick perform a pair of scenes that he and Weissman had prepared, he invited him to join the Salon.

After barely a month of intensive scene study, and against Augsburger’s wishes, Rick hustled an audition for the upcoming Broadway play, Caged.

"You’re not ready," Augsburger told him.

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And The Oscar Goes To…

by Robert W. Welkos

OSCAR FICTION PACKAGE: An actress thinks the Academy Awards are all about her. 2,991 words. Illustrations by John Donald Carlucci.


The party is swirling and Eleanor Gautier is already drunk.

Charles Dumont had been silent throughout the long drive from Malibu to the Hollywood Hills and silence is rarely a good sign for the moody French director. He’s wearing that brown silk shirt that Eleanor absolutely abhors. She wonders why so many items in his closet resemble the result of an intestinal virus. He’s also smoking, another way to irritate this year’s Oscar-nominated actress who stars in Oscar-nominated Charles’ gritty cop drama Brutal Norms, which received a standing ovation at Cannes and the Palme d’Or.

Tonight’s hostess, Liz Fontaine spots the gloomy couple from across her living room and quickly makes her way around knots of party guests. “You made it!” Liz exclaims as she air kisses the pair. “I wasn’t sure you’d come. As you can see, everyone is here and they adore you both. You’re the buzz of Hollywood, you know.”

“She knows,” Eleanor says as the stir of her vodka martini punctuates her statement. When she’s drunk, she refers to herself in the third-person.

Liz introduces the couple around. Eleanor’s eyes stray and then narrow. “Is that Melanie Milapeed?” she asks Liz.

“Yes, how thrilling I have the two leading Best Actress nominees here at my party,” Liz replies.

“Are there any Oscar voters present?” Eleanor asks, her eyes tick-tocking between her rival and Liz.

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Tyrannis Rex
Part Three

by Richard Natale

The screenwriter’s challenge for Act Two is seamlessly threading the studio mogul’s public and private lives. 2,260 words. Part One. Part Two. Part Four. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


Hollywood – 1969

The second act of his screenplay, the Untitled Jules Azenberg Biopic – First Draft, gave Dave problems as second acts generally do. Determined to push ahead, he rose every morning at seven and, hangover or not, sat down at the typewriter with a pot of coffee and waited for his fingers to magically click into action. On a day when his hands just sat there stiffly poised on the keys and not a single coherent scene emerged, Dave took a break. He and his pal Joel Rodgers went out on the town for a movie, dinner and drinks at Trader Vic’s where Joel regaled him with the details of the latest showbiz scandal. Dave listened, but without much enthusiasm. Like most current gossip, it was graphic and tawdry and destroyed what little illusion was left about movie stars’ private lives. What was Hollywood without glamour? Without fantasy?

When the muse finally revisited Dave, she came equipped with a metaphor. Act Two opens with Jules at a gaming table tossing dice in a visual motif establishing the studio mogul as an inveterate gambler and a smart one at that. For Jules proves himself an expert crapshooter, knowing exactly how long to play, how high to raise the stakes, and when to walk away from the table.

By the early 1930s, his Argot Pictures is on a roll. Most of its B-movie competitors fall by the wayside, victims of the Depression. Argot slowly buys up all the rivals and establishes itself as a viable rival to the A-list studios like MGM and Warner Bros. Here, the script hones close to the real story by assigning Jules due credit. Given his brother Mort’s cautious nature, Argot might have survived the transition to sound but not the economic reversal of the times. It took more than business savvy to keep Argot afloat: it took Jules’ ingenuity and daring.

His risky gamble is to jump head-first into larger budget movies at a time when everyone else, including the established major studios, is cutting corners. And for that he needs an ally because Jules feels inferior to the task of convincing talent to sign with Argot rather than a more deep-pocketed institution like MGM. He needs someone with the polish and finesse to talk to theater types. So he enlists a celebrated and ceaselessly charming German-born director and appoints him vice president of production. It’s a curious choice and, at first, the board expresses concern that a creative type will run financially amuck.

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Back From Forest Lawn

by Mark Fearing

Is he a fierce Hollywood mogul or a fearsome studio zombie? He’s still deadly. 2,476 words. Story and illustration by Mark Fearing.


Mo Merkleman was buried at Forest Lawn on an unusually warm and rainy day. Funeral guests got mud on their shoes, but that didn’t stop the throngs of agents, producers, real swear-to-god movie stars and studio executives who showed up in the rain. There were whispers that he was buried with his Oscars.

Mo was a legend. A small in stature guy who appeared larger. It was an optical illusion; his charisma radiated out like heat waves off hot asphalt. He was a throwback to the golden days of Tinseltown and yet totally modern. He went from running the largest talent agency to opening his own shingle and producing box office hits. Then he spent 25 years in charge of the largest studio. The reams of dirt he had on everyone in the industry were pure Old Testament.

But he was dead now. Or that’s what everyone thought.

Exactly eight months later on an unseasonably humid and rainy day, Mo Merkleman showed up at Gate 2 in his Bentley. It didn’t take long for him to talk his way past the guard. And when Annabelle Lee looked up from her reception desk and saw Mo’s identifiable gait lilting down the hall, she almost screamed. But instead she put that energy into withholding belief in what she was seeing.

As the figure came closer, Annabelle could plainly see it was Mo carrying a box of some weight because he struggled with it. He was pale with saggy skin. His grey hair was a bit thinner than last she’d seen it. Then she looked into his eyes. They were different but not in a bad way. There was something so hypnotizing about them that she found it difficult to look away.

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It’s Just An Honor To Be Implicated

by Bill Scheft

Comedian Tommy Dash is on a losing streak again, getting two pals fired. 4,211 words. Art by Mark Fearing.


Okay, just by a show of hands, how many of you know about the rule that if you’re dating a co-worker, you have to officially report it to the Human Resources Department so that the company is not liable for any potential sexual harassment claims down the road?

Just as I thought. Nobody knows about this rule. And by rule, I mean racket.

I hadn’t run into Janice in the building  the Tuesday or Thursday before the Christmas break, but we had gone out that Wednesday night. She took me to some Korean place that, again, I’d never been to and was crazy good. It’s hard to fuck up beef, barbecue sauce and beer, but it’s impossible to make the combination so good you go back into the kitchen and ask for a job. And by you, I mean me. Then we went to see Trumbo, and we ended up making out through the second half because, well, we got it. He writes in the bathtub and is a shitty dad. And I would have liked to see more from the Benzadrine. Don’t get me wrong. Bryan Cranston is phenomenal and should get his tux cleaned. This one was not his fault. But I’d like to see him do two hours of reading Trumbo’s letters like I saw Nathan Lane rip through in some Manhattan basement with my ex-wife one night in the early ’90s. See you next time on Kritic’s Korner…

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See Tommy Kill

by Bill Scheft

Amazingly, Tommy Dash is still employed by the TV sitcom. Now the foul-mouthed comic is acting on it. 3,484 words. Illustration by Mark Fearing.


Before we begin, congratulations to my show business friend Chris Rock, who is going to host the 88th Academy Awards. I’ve known Chris since he was a Jheri-curled 18-year-old. In 2005, just before he hosted the Oscars for the first time, I pitched this joke to him in the parking lot at the Comedy Store: Do yourself a favor. Go see “Sideways” with an all-black audience. They start talking to the screen like it’s a horror film – “Don’t open that ’68 Pinot, bitch…”     He laughed and said, “Tommy Dash! Back on the pipe!” I told you we were friends…

Okay, then. Some egghead once asked Carson (Johnny, not Daly. Jesus, not Daly) how he became a star. “I started out in a gaseous state, and then I cooled,” he said.

Guess whose gaseous state will be cooling once his episode of I Don’t Get It airs next month? Go ahead, guess. And if you guess someone else, don’t worry, I can take it. But can you? Can you take it?  Seriously, with all the fuck-ups, misspeaks, oversleeps, bad raps, worse reps, flip phone follies and knocks on Janice’s HR door, can you take it that Tommy Dash just slaughtered a barnful of strangers? (Strangers, and Denard Sharp, who showed up because he “heard some big bad motherfucker-type things.”) Can you handle Danny Musselman putting me in a bear hug and saying, “Thanks a lot, asshole. Now I have to rewrite the finale?” Can you process Sonny Regal asking for the number of MY acting coach? Can you begin to envision the wrap party tableau of Beck Franklin, fucking Beck Franklin, pulling me aside and, as he stared at the floor so I wouldn’t see his glistening eyes, muttering, “Don’t forget me, Tommy. Don’t forget me and Carey. But don’t forget me?” Well, you’ll have to. Because it all happened. I all happened.

You need to believe me. And you need not to believe Chris Rock. I was never on the pipe.

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