March 19, 2019

This Week’s Popcorn

‘The Oscars’

Feb. 23, 2012

By Michael S. Goldberger

Special to the Observer



Editor’s Note: The following essay, believed to be written by the Observer’s film critic, was found in a Snapple Diet Raspberry bottle retrieved from a nearby river. No direct explanation regarding its origin or intent was given. It is reprinted here in its entirety.


Recently I pondered, ‘twas the week before the Oscars, and perusing the nominations I grew weary. Came again that time when the film critic is relegated to mere handicapper, tossed to the madding crowd as a sacrificial lamb, a blood payment for the privilege of pontificating 52 weeks ad nauseam. Get ‘em right or else, Boy-o.

Pick a few wrong and they grumble like the burghers fixing to do-in Frankenstein. Tar and feather futures rise. I ask, is it worth it? From blank Word program I gazed out at the reward for my toils, styled after Versailles…maybe a little bigger. But is it worth it?

Mr. O’Casey, my resident Bugatti expert, paused from his polishing and peered through the leaded glass with a kindly look. He knew what ‘twas afoot, having campaigned through it, year after year. I cracked open the window. In his distinctive brogue he assured, “Don’t worry sir. Stiff upper lip now. Something will come up… always does.”

But if the deus ex machina were to be a part of this story, it was painfully tardy. Another minute passed. And then, because this essay can only be just so many paragraphs, came a tapping at my door. I begged the tapper to enter. In he came, creepy as the Phantom of the Opera, announcing, “Raven’s the name. Status quo is the game.”

“Raven?” I mused, “as in Edgar Allan Poe?”

“Who’s he?” Raven retorted, adding, “I go by many names.”

“Yeah, why is that…why do you guys always go by many names?”

“Never mind,” quoth the Raven, “I’m here to help you pick the Oscars right, er, I mean correctly. That is, assuming you are a man of good judgment, if you get my meaning. Nice place you have here. Looks like Versailles, only a little bigger. I see my little mortgage, oops, I mean the mortgage disaster, didn’t hurt you any. Interested?”

“Well, I have always depended on the kindness of strangers. But what’s in it for you if you aid me in my choices?”

“Oooh, don’t use the word aid. Gives us the willies. What’s in it for us, you ask? Nothing my friend, nothing but the satisfaction of exposing a world conspiracy, emanating right here in River City, the good old U.S. of A. Here’s the deal, Goldberg. The awards, given out by those, uh, Hollywood types, are mere code, a signal in the plot to take over the world…each award standing for a specific part of their mantra, intended to wrest the globe from its rightful heirs.

“Wow, I always thought it was just a scheme to sell movie tickets and put on a boring, self-congratulatory show. By the way, it’s Goldberger, not Goldberg. You forgot my er.”

“You mean they haven’t even let you in on it, your so-called caring friends? Humph. The next thing you know they’ll turn your slightly bigger version of Versailles into affordable housing. Join us, do this thing, and you can have even another er at the end of your name…’Goldbergerer, the Defender of the Faith.’”

“Gee, I don’t know. Can you give me an example of this secret cipher?”

Angrily, he replied, “What don’t you know, man? Where Mr. O’ Casey will find another Bugatti enthusiast, or perhaps where you’ll be able to buy a Hyundai Accent? It’s right in front of you. You don’t have to be a cryptologist to read into the winners of Best Motion Picture of The Year and Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role. It’ll be ‘The Artist’ and the guy who played its title character, Jean Dujardin. Foreigners. No U.S. birth certificate. Get it?”

“Gosh, seems a little farfetched…what about Best Actress in a Leading Role?”

“Old sport, it’s as obvious as the nose on your face…no slur intended. It’ll be Viola Davis for ‘The Help.’ That’s to make folks feel bad for what they contend happened in The South years ago. Heck, you weren’t even there. But it’s a symbol for more equal opportunity stuff and ridiculous jobs program designed to pick our pockets.”

Chuckling at the absurdity, I offered, “I guess Max von Sydow will win Best Supporting Actor because, anagrammatically, the letters T, A and X, and M, O, N, E, Y, E, and D, as in ‘tax the moneyed,’ can be formed from Max Von Sydow in ‘Extremely Loud & Incredibly Clear.’”

“Exactly. By Jove, I think you’ve got it. See how they work? Sly. But they get even sneakier in the Best Supporting Actress category, using letters from both Bérénice Bejo in ‘The Artist’ and Melissa McCarthy in ‘Bridesmaids’ to spell out Obamacare.”

Incredulous at the speciousness of his deductions, I intoned, “So, I imagine Mademoiselle Bejo wins because her name is listed previous to her competition, the pre in previous signifying no more denying health benefits for pre-existing conditions.”

“See…see how easy it is once you understand their agenda? Plainly, you think like them. You could be valuable to us beyond this little job. Now, figure out why Michel Hazanavicius will win for Best Director and maybe we’ll run you for Congress in some really backward whistle stop.”

“I don’t know…because Hazanavicius really means Global Warming in ancient Sumerian?”

“No…that’s a little too nutty, even for us. This one’s simply because the Academy rarely splits the Best Motion Picture and Best Director winners. That’s all.

Mr. Raven then proceeded to enumerate the remaining winners, showing how in each case it surreptitiously signified an element of the Liberal Agenda, a rallying cry he likened to “a silent dog whistle to the proletariat.” They are:

  • Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen — “Midnight in Paris”
  • Screenplay Based on Material Previously Published or Produced — “Moneyball”
  • Animated Feature Film — “Rango”
  • Foreign Language Film — “A Separation”
  • Cinematography — ”The Artist”
  • Editing — “Hugo”
  • Art Direction — “Hugo”
  • Costume Design — “The Artist”
  • Makeup — “The Iron Lady”
  • Original Score — “The Artist”
  • Original Song — “Man or Muppet,” “The Muppets”
  • Sound Mixing — “Hugo”
  • Sound Editing — “Drive”
  • Visual Effects — “Hugo”
  • Feature Documentary — “Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory”
  • Documentary, Short Subject — “Saving Face”
  • Animated Short Film — “The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore”
  • Live Action Short Film — “Tuba Atlantic.”

Following his listing, a frightening rant sometimes punctuated by a violent banging of his fist against my lectern, his hair flopping against his forehead, his odd little moustache bristling, he turned his steely, vacant eyes to me and asked, “So, can we count on you to out the foe, to show them for what they are by disseminating these picks?”

Saying nothing, I walked out the door and strolled along the cobblestone path to view, perhaps for one of the very last times, my Little Versailles, albeit a few acres larger. Spotting me, Mr. O’Casey, exhibiting an uncanny prescience, called out, “Don’t worry Mr. G. There’s plenty of work for an 80-year-old Bugatti expert. I’m sure there is.”

He continued his supportive exhortations. And, as I became but a spot in the distance, practically out of earshot, it sounded as if he were summing it all up when he weepily recited, “It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.”


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