The Academy Awards: A tale of Gold and Guild

by Mark Burger

We should have known all along that it would turn out to be a Hollywood ending: The three-month Writer’s Guild strike, which effectively cost the industry roughly $2 billion, settled exactly one week before the Academy Awards.

No writer could have scripted it any better.

Resolved or not, the strike will figure prominently in the 80th Academy Awards ceremony, which will take place this Sunday – where billions of people worldwide will be watching (or so they so often tell us during the broadcast). There will undoubtedly be references and jokes made about it. It is, after all, the white elephant in the room… or in the auditorium, as the case may be.

Academy President Sid Ganis announced weeks ago that the show would go on, strike or not. Given the worldwide revenue generated by the ceremony – billions of people watch it, you know – there was just too much money at stake.

(Money – isn’t that what generated the strike isn’t the first place?)

At this year’s Academy Awards, there may be more discussion over who “won” the strike – the writers or the studios – than who will win the Oscar itself. Atonement? Isn’t that how some insiders are describing how the writer’s strike was settled? There Will Be Blood? There sure will. Just ask the studios (and conglomerates) who now have to – gasp! – actually share a chunk of that Internet revenue with those lowly, ink-stained wretches who put words in people’s mouths, who make the stupid seem intelligent (I said “seem”) and, on a good day, can make the most non-talented celebrity in the world actually appear to have some ability. That’s a special effect no one can top!

Michael Clayton? What, isn’t that… no, no – that was Michael Eisner. Or was it Michael Ovitz? Michael Caine – is he nominated again this year? (He ought to be, every year,)

I can’t think of an industry pun involving Juno, although its phenomenal success (four nominations and a domestic gross that’s still climbing at $100 million) is enough to make anyone laugh when you consider how expensive most Hollywood movies cost to make. Juno cost under $10 million. In some instances, that’s a mere fraction of how much studios spend to promote a would-be blockbuster.

Read that last sentence again and wonder no more why the Writer’s Guild went on strike in 2007.

In my opinion, the best of the films nominated for best picture is No Country for Old Men. It may be too bleak for some, but it’s an impressive piece of work nonetheless. Close behind are There Will Be Blood and Michael Clayton, which were also solid, thought-provoking efforts – as well as being movies made for grown-ups.

I liked Atonement and Juno a little less – the former because it’s basically a “Masterpiece Theatre” soap opera (which, I admit, I’m partial to), and the latter because its wit and charm are leavened somewhat by a touch of smugness. Both are good films, to be sure. Good, not great – and neither worthy of the year’s Academy Award for best picture.

Things seem to be leaning toward No County for Old Men, but nothing’s a lock. Then again, which ever film wins best picture, it’ll be an improvement over 10 years ago… Titanic.

I saw it, I reviewed it, I still don’t believe it. And I still don’t get it. But, far be it for me to hold any kind of grudge against a movie that made a lot of people – especially a lot of teenage girls – so happy. It is, I suppose, the standard by which all others are to be judged. Isn’t that a scary thought?

(By the way, when I reviewed it, the publicist at Paramount was thrilled with me …)

Anyway, come Oscar Night, I think a lot of people will be feeling like winners:

•The writers, because they got some of the concessions they’d asked for and they get to go back to work …

•The studios, because they too can go back to work and erase the image (lies, all lies) of themselves as profit-hungry conglomerates unwilling to share …

•And, of course, the viewer, who is now spared re-runs and additional reality shows.

But do we have to sit through those stupid musical numbers?

Love it or hate it – and I frequently do both, sometimes simultaneously during the actual broadcast – there’s nothing like the Oscars. Both Gene Hackman and Michael Caine have two Oscars at home, so I suppose I do love the Oscars …

Most of the time.


Speaking of movies, and it being Oscar Week, who isn’t?

The Revolve Film Festival clicks on another cinematic cylinder with its screening of Tales of the Rat Fink (no Oscar nominations for that one), this Friday at 8 p.m. in 111 Carswell Hall on the campus of Wake Forest University. Tickets are $8 in advance and $10 day of show.

Director Ron Mann’s documentary feature is an ode to the late custom-car designer Ed “Big Daddy” Roth. The film features an all-star lineup of voice talent, including John Goodman (as the voice of Roth), Ann-Margret, Jay Leno, Paul LeMat and the Smothers Brothers (Mom always liked Dick better than Tom, or was it the other way around?)

A reception will follow afterwards at the “Revolve HQ,” Green House (1012 W. 5th St., Winston-Salem). Be sure to bring your ticket stubs; that’s your admittance to the reception.

There’s one way, and one way only, to score tickets – via

So, go there now.


If the Academy Awards and Rat Fink aren’t to your taste, the Children’s Theatre of Winston-Salem has a more family-friendly alternative: The Arts Power production of Harry, the Dirty Dog, a whimsical musical based on the classic children’s book by Gene Zion.

Showtimes for Harry are this Friday at 10 a.m. and noon, and Saturday at 11 a.m. Tickets are $8 (general admission) and $12 (reserved seating), and are available via or by calling 336.725.4531.

Next, the Children’s Theatre will present the Hudson Vagabond Puppets production of The Mammoth Follies: A Pre-Historic Mammoth Musical, which will be presented Wednesday, Feb. 27 at 7 p.m. and Thursday, Feb. 28 at 10 a.m. and noon. This is a make-up show for the January production of The Snow Queen, which had to be canceled due to inclement weather (It happens …). If you bought tickets for The Snow Queen, you can use them for these shows – or any of the Children’s Theatre shows, for that matter. It might be best to check for availability beforehand.

In fact, given how quickly tickets for Children’s Theatre presentations sell, it’s always a good idea to reserve yours in advance. These productions will be presented in the Arts Council Theatre (610 Coliseum Drive, Winston-Salem) and they are, naturally, suitable for all ages.