Stone Soup: Making It

No more talk. Time for action.

Do you remember the old folk story Stone Soup? As one variation of the story goes, a group of travelers enter a small village with an empty pot. After asking for food and are turned down by the locals, they build a fire, add water to the pot, plus a stone. One of the locals ask what the travelers are making. They reply they are heating up delicious stone soup and are willing to share it with everyone, but could use some garnish. The local returns with some carrots to add to the broth. One by one, the locals add something to the soup: salt, celery, creme fraiche (okay, maybe in the Top Chef version), and eventually there is a full pot of soup for everyone.

A very tasty rock

A very tasty rock

Depending on your point of view, this tale is a lesson in Communism or simply making the most of what you have. And this lesson more than applies to making a low-budget film. Even though my goal is to make a movie on my terms, that doesn’t mean I will be working alone. Actually, it’s the opposite: it will take dozens, if not hundreds of people to bring this movie to light. Actors, designers, crew members, producers, investors… the list goes on and on, and could be daunting if I think too much about it. But none of it will happen if I don’t start putting that soup on to boil.

So the stone is the script. I am the traveler. You all are the villagers. The narrator of this story? I’m going with Morgan Freeman. Go ahead and picture it:

“Our story begins with the written word. Words assemble to form sentences. A story. And then there are others. Others will join, to breathe life into the story. To make it a world. A new universe.”

Thanks, Mr. Freeman. Nice job.

After discussing Closure with my manager, he made a suggestion: set a date. Go for it. See how the pieces fall.

I’ve heard this advice before, and it makes total sense. Without a deadline, things won’t get finished. Before I had been saying this:

“I’m gearing up to make a movie Closure. Hoping all the pieces will come together and someday, if all the pieces come together, we can hopefully make a movie.”

From now on, I’m flipping the script and saying this:

“My movie Closure will shoot in the fall of 2015.”

Big difference, right? So how much money have I raised to get from the first sentence to the second? Is the script production ready? Who else is involved? Am I crazy? The answers are none, certainly not, no one yet, and purple flying cow. But by telling the world “it is happening” instead of “I hope it happens someday” then the world is likelier to respond favorably.

The risk is, of course, that it might not happen. I may start the ball rolling and I might fail. It may take longer than expected. People will laugh at my failure, or at least enjoy the schadenfreude of “ha, he said he was going to do something and he didn’t. What a failure.” I can’t be afraid of failure. A wise friend once told me that we aren’t actually afraid of failure, but afraid of success. By doing nothing, we are already failing.

In the past I would use the analogy of jumping off a cliff. But now that I’m a little older and slightly wiser, I don’t like the danger of that. Instead, I’ll say the following:

“In 2015, let’s make some soup.”

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Approaching the Fork

“When you come to a fork in the road, take it!” Yogi Berra

YOGI BERRA

Over a year ago I posted an update about It is Done, my play turned movie script. To recap, the screenplay was optioned, and that experience of selling that script inspired me to write a movie that I could make myself. Thus inspiring this blog. In that post from last year, I talked about how that screenplay was optioned, then dropped, then optioned again by a different company.

Well, here we are a year later, and that second company has decided to not renew the option for a second year. After a year of positive collaboration between me and the director, we reached an impasse in the script. As the first year of the option ran out, we had long and serious conversations about overcoming that impasse, and if this collaboration was worth it for both parties. Turns out it wasn’t. The option was not renewed, and the rights to the script reverted back to me.

While it is disappointing to see a collaboration fall apart, I know it is best for this script, and best for the director; he and I are still collaborating on another project. No burned bridge here, the girders are strong and ready for more traffic.

But it leaves me with an interesting decision: which script should I direct? My initial impetus for writing Closure was in response to giving up ownership of It is Done. Now which script should I take to the next level?

No man is an island, and no career is forwarded by one person on their own (no matter how strong and independent that person may be). There are a few people I will always go to for career advice: my wife, my manager, and a couple of writer friends I respect are a few people in my inner circle. None of these people will bullshit me, which is very important. To all of these people I pose the question: which script should I try to direct?

There is a simple answer. At least, simple in theory: try to sell them both. The one that doesn’t sell first, direct.

But it’s not easy to sell a script. My manager suggests I commit to directing Closure and try to sell It is Done. He is trying to connect me with line producers who may be interested and may be able to help me budget the script.

I’m meeting with one of my other trusted advisors next week and see what he says.

But most of all, I should follow the Yogi’s advice. Regardless of how difficult the choice, it is important to take action and not perseverate forever. After all, 90% of the game is half-mental.

The Identity War – Round 1

“Who am I anyway? Am I my resume” is the lyric from A Chorus Line known to anyone who ever set foot within 500 yards of their high school theater. In show business, we most certainly are our resumes. In this brave new world, your resume in show business is available to all in one location: the Internet Movie Database (IMDB). If you have worked in television, film or internet, you know that your gig isn’t really official until it shows up on IMDB (theater people have the Internet Broadway Database). The site is the great equalizer; you could be a millionaire A-list actor or you could be an unpaid production assistant, as long as your project makes it to the screen somehow, it’s official.

So shiny...so beautiful...

So shiny…so beautiful…

My first IMDB credits were for production assistant work on independent movies in New York in the last millenia. I was proud to officially make my mark, albeit a small one, in the business, and looked forward to the day when I would get more “legitimate” credits for writing and directing. As time went by, more Alex Goldbergs showed up in the entertainment business, but I retained the coveted title of “Alex Goldberg (I).” That’s right, I am the trail blazer for one of the most common Jewish names out there.

As time went on and I started earning more legitimate credits, the listings for Alex Goldbergs got more complicated. Years go by, and Alex Goldberg (I) is a mess. My production assistant credits are still there. My directing credit is there. However, there are now eight Alex Goldbergs, and the credits are all over the place. I have credits as three different Alex Goldbergs, and if you are to believe everything you read about Alex Goldberg (I), I’ve acted in multiple telenovelas (not true, but I wish), produced, wrote and directed a documentary about stem cell research during the Bush administration (not true, but admirable) and was even the accountant on a feature film (definitely not true).

Fun game: find me in this cast photo!

Fun game: find me in this cast photo!

I’ve made half-assed attempts to clear my name and get to the truth, but it never amounted to anything. I’ve reached the last straw, the breaking point. Recently, a movie that I co-wrote, Fade to White, was completed and I was told by the producers that credits would go up on IMDB soon. I asked them to make sure that the correct Alex Goldberg was credited. After a week, the movie was up… and linked to Alex Goldberg (IX). His very first credit! Congrats dude, whoever you are.

That’s it. I mean, I shouldn’t take this too seriously, my career isn’t an internet profile, and I should always focus on my work and not sweat the small stuff. However, this database is a networking tool, and I should not sabotage any career opportunities with a misrepresentation of my career. It’s time to go to war. A persistent attack to clear my name and get to the truth. If I want to accomplish anything, I need to command my focus and remain diligent, disciplined and never give up.

The war begins.

Day 1 (September 12, 2014). This could be a brief battle, if there was a phone number. If I could talk to someone for 10 minutes, everything would be straightened out. But, if I want to go to war with one of the minions of the cyberworld, I’ll have to play by their rules. First thing in the morning, after breakfast and caffeine, I sit down at the computer and attack. I get past their first defense move, which is that changes cannot be made without a user account. I already have one, so I log in. Next, they won’t let me upload my photo without an IMDB Pro account, which is for industry professionals a.k.a. those willing to shell out hundreds of dollars a year for a subscription. Fortunately, my wife is an industry professional with those credentials, and I log in with her ID and password. Take that, IMDB. But now they won’t let me upload a picture from my computer, only from a website. What? How do I get around this. I can’t figure out… uh… retreat!

An hour later I return reinforcements. My wife sits with me and we find my image linked on a website. We also put in requests for the Fade to White writing credit change, a link to my manager, and a few other credit changes. IMDB accepts our suggestions (pending further review, of course) and say that acceptance, if it happens, will take 2-14 days. Now we wait. First day battle victor: inconclusive.

Day 3. Reinforcements are coming to my aid! The intrepid Elizabeth Lucas, director of Fade to White, says she will attempt to fix my credit on this movie. She also suggested that she also try and correct all my errors, with the thinking that if we both attack, the masterminds at IMDB will take my requests more seriously. That could be true, or the multiple attempts will confuse them and they will ignore all change requests. I’m leaning towards the all in attack. Godspeed, Elizabeth.

Day 4. Victory! A small victory, but a change nonetheless. The Fade to White credit has been moved to the correct page! Whether it was Elizabeth, or me, or both of us, the credit is now where it should be, and Alex Goldberg (IX) no longer exists. Fueled by this, I pressed on and made the rest of the corrections, dropping the various acting, directing, producing and miscellaneous credits that are not mine. Here’s hoping it all works. Still, we are still 3 days out from submission, and no changes to the photo or anything else.

Day 6. Another victory. There is a link to my manager’s info (only IMDB Pro members get to see that, which is standard). However, everything else is still up in the air, as I am still an amalgam of a bunch of different people. I want to be me!

Day 7. When this all began, the actor section was a mess. There were four credits, of which only one (Today Will Be Yesterday Tomorrow, which I also directed) was correct. The other three were erroneous. Two of those three were Spanish language TV shows. Now, one of those telenovela credits have been removed! Don’t know why only one. I guess IMDB is EXTREMELY deliberate. Also, there’s no movement on the acting credit for Alex Goldberg (VIII) which is actually mine. Baby steps. Onward and upward.

Day 11. All quiet on the cyber front. No other changes. IMDB states that changes could take anywhere from 2-14 days. This is day 11, so I should be patient for a few more days… but I have doubts. They say it is always darkest before the dawn, but I believe it’s darkest when you are in a cave and the batteries on your light go out. Later that day, I check back in and there is progress. The documentary film that I did not write, direct or produce is no longer on my page. In fact, for the first time, all the writing credits attributed to me are, in fact, mine. Small steps.

Day 18. Well, the 14 day deadline has passed without any further changes. To date, here is my IMDB page. The defeats outweigh the victories so far. Sure, my writing credits are now 100% mine, but there is still no picture, they still think I’m an accountant, and only half of my telenovela acting credits (?) have disappeared. I knew this would be a difficult struggle, so for round two I’ll have to up the ammo and strategize harder. I will purge the enemy of error, and take back my identity! But it might take a while.

A Brand New Season

In case you were wondering, it has been nearly four months since my last post. That’s a lot of time spent at the window of your computer, silently weeping, and anxiously awaiting my return. At least, that’s how I like to envision it. Worry not, readers… I’m back!

Rather than dwell on what caused the absence in this blog, I would rather pretend that I was on hiatus for the summer and now we are in a new fall season. With that in mind, welcome to the season premiere of the Makin’ It blog, about one man’s attempt to make an independent film.

I supposed I should update you, and recap what happened since we last went on hiatus. Firstly, there’s this guy:

Smiley Leo

What’s up, blog readers? I’m brand new!

Yes, it’s a new season, so the producers decided that we need to add a newer, younger and cuter member to the ensemble. That’s so Raven.

That’s right, on July 29th, 2014 the result of the most important collaboration in my life emerged, blinking, screaming and instantly lovable. Of course, everything changes from this point forward. My wife and I vowed that we would incorporate family into our pursuit of our creative endeavors, rather than sacrifice what we have built and achieved in order to provide guaranteed stability. This is not to say that we are destitute, and this boy is just one lost paycheck away from being dropped off at the doorstep of Our Sisters of the Wayward Accident or put in a reed basket and floated down the L.A. river, where he would undeniably float for five feet, then get washed “ashore” on the concrete embankment. (It’s very dry here.) No, what I mean is that we will continue to do what we do, and if we have to give up a vacation here, a fancy meal there, or going to the movies again ever, in order to continue on track, we will do so.

With that in mind, I am happy that I am able to continue what I have been doing, sacrificing mostly sleep. Closure, the script I plan on shooting, is coming along. I have completed the second draft, and will send it off to my manager this week. That said, this blog may take a dramatic and unexpected twist as another script of mine, which was previously unavailable, may become my next project to direct. More on that later this season.

Other highlights include wrapping up the first draft of a script I was hired to write for 13 Stories Productions, a new production company based on the Sunset Gower studio lot that is launching in January.

There is another screenplay I may be hired to write, details pending signing of the contract. And a new TV pilot.

Also, my new play Mayor of the 85th Floor is complete and will be workshopped later this season. Hopefully, it won’t be as disastrous as my last staged reading.

So stay tuned. I promise regular updates, and more than that, progress on bringing a script of mine into production, with me at the helm, soon.

Welcome to the 2014-15 season. It’s going to be a fantastic journey.

So there’s that…

In my last post, I wrote about burying the lede, and in fact buried a big lede in the end of that story: I’m going to become a father. No one responded, which means one of four things:

1) No one noticed.

2) All those who noticed already knew the news, so why comment.

3)The internet is broken.

4) No one reads this blog anymore.

Ah whatever, I’m not going to harp on this issue. “Take your impending fatherhood and shove it up your butt, Alex. And get back to what this blog is about.”

Precisely.

This blog is about making an independent movie, Closure. Since this blog began (over a year ago) I have come up with the concept, written a first draft of the script, and had a table reading. All of this in my spare time, between jobs and other projects (hear that? It’s my own horn a’tootin’.)  Now, more than ever, with a big “project” starting soon, I have to remain focused.

But I do have time. After all, my muse, the lead actress in this movie, my wife, is currently…how shall I put this delicately…PREGNANT…and it is not the time for her to be starring in this particular movie.  But that doesn’t let me off the hook from continuing to work on it.

So I haven’t! These past few weeks I’ve budgeted my time well, and done revisions on the first 35 pages. Then, the script is starting to veer off down a different avenue, and that will take more work. But I know where it’s going (somewhat) and I’m ready to do the work.

But there’s the baby coming and much furniture to assemble…and there are a few trips…and there is a LOT of work coming down the pike (more on that in a later post)…and I’m just not finding the hours to make progress.

So I’m making time.

I’m making damn sure that THIS baby gets some attention each week, before THAT baby comes along and gets (deservedly) more attention.

It’s all about scheduling and prioritizing.

And so far it’s working…

…but I’m going to put away my tootin’ horn until I finish the second draft.

 

Burying the Lede

“Burying the lede” is a newspaper phrase that has been around as long as there’s been an evening edition. When one buries the lede, they are not discussing what the story is really about right away, but rather dropping it somewhere deeper in the story.  For example: “The pace of the production of Our American Cousin moved along briskly, except when it was slightly delayed by the assassination of President Lincoln. ”

This is a common mistake in writing, be it journalism or screenwriting. Sometimes I’ll finish a script and someone will read it and point out that what was most interesting, what the story should really be about, is not the main focus. Some times those people are right, and I’ll go back and retool the story. And if what they point out is not what should be the most interesting aspect of my story, that’s a sign that I have to go in and make changes to make sure the story I want to tell is clear and exciting.

This happens in life as well. We have goals for ourselves. Projects we want to finish, or start. Ideas we want to bring to fruition. But, as John Lennon once said, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” Of course, I bring this up because this blog, which I generally update once or twice a week, has been neglected for well over a month now. And this blog has been neglected for the simple reason that there is no progress on the script Closure to report.

I have legitimate excuses: I have other writing jobs. My wife and I recently moved over the hill into the valley…yep, THAT valley. Stuff needs to be unpacked. IKEA furniture needs to be assembled.  Extra screws and bolts need to be thrown away and never discussed.

But the script has been nagging me in the back of my brain. There was one major issue that was haunting me, and this issue affects nearly everything in the script. Every now and then it would pop back into my head, taunting me. I can’t figure out the problem. Therefore: I am a terrible writer. Might as well do something else for the rest of the week.

But then, as I walked around the neighborhood one day (I’m enjoying walking through the ‘hood until the valley turns into one giant frying pan, which it will likely do in a few months) the solution came to me. Clear as day. Eureka! Now the hard part: making the solution work, and making the script work around it. And, of course, making the time to do it.

So I could beat myself up about straying from target. But I won’t. I won’t let it scare me that I am about to become a father for the first time and with that comes a whole new world of responsibility and potential  loss of writing time. Even though our baby boy is due in August, I’ll try not to bury the lede and stay focused on what I am supposed to be doing with my work.

Oops.

Ah, shit.

And the comedy Oscar goes to…

We are reaching the pinnacle of award season; The Academy Awards are the summit and the rest of the hill is littered with Globes, SAG Awards and regret. If there are any guarantees each year with the Oscars it is that comedy will largely be overlooked. In our culture, comedy is viewed as a lesser art to drama. Actors rarely get recognized in award season for comedic efforts and if they are, it’s usually for comic relief in a drama (like Jonah Hill in Moneyball, for example).

While my writing spans comedy and drama, my instincts are to always find the funny in a situation, and good comedy can make good drama even stronger and more poignant. I’d like to dedicate the rest of today’s column to some talented men and women and what I believe are incredible, Oscar-worthy performances. If I had my way they would be nominees. Keep in mind this list includes only a fraction of performances I believe are worthy. However, the following names are definitely very influential in shaping my art and comic sensibility.

Best Actress, Diane Keaton, Sleeper (1973)

Diane  Keaton

Of course, Diane Keaton has been widely praised for her comic acting. I mean, she actually WON an Oscar for comedy (Best Actress in Annie Hall, lest you heathens forget). She has been nominated a number of other times for comedy and drama. Like many of Woody Allen’s early movies, Sleeper is a broad comedy which deftly dances between slapstick and political highbrow humor. Not many actors are capable of handling both the gravity of Chekhovian comedy along with the fast paced antics of a Marx Brothers movie, but she does it very well. Plus, her impression of Marlon Brando in Streetcar is pitch-perfect and hilarious. She plays Luna Schlosser, a socialite and sublimely shitty poet in the year 2173 who is pampered, upper class, and oblivious to the totalitarian state she lives in. After she is kidnapped and dragged from her comfortable home, she falls in with revolutionaries and embraces the life without fully understanding the politics.

Favorite moment: New rebel Luna proudly sings her truly godawful song of rebellion: “Rebels are WEEE…born to be FREEEE…just like the FISH in the SEA…” And that Brando impression.

Best Actor: Steve Martin, The Jerk (1979)

I have a soft spot for The Jerk, and not just because it was the first R-rated movie I saw. As a kid I found Steve Martin’s idiot character Navin hilarious. Plus, his dog (and this is spoiler to people who have only seen this movie on network or basic cable) is named “Shithead!” As I got older I find it a subversively masterful performance. In any other hands, the white man who was born the son of a black sharecropper would be insulting or, at best, a political statement. Race barely comes into play in this script, other than when told that he was adopted, Navin screams “you mean I’m gonna STAY this color?” It’s just an element that objectively colors his world. And what a fantastical, oddball world that has not existed before or since. A perfect universe of bizarre kooks, with Steve Martin at the center of the orbit.

Steve Martin

Favorite line: Navin gently speaks to his new love Marie, as she sleeps: “I know we’ve only known each other four weeks and three days, but to me it seems like nine weeks and five days. The first day seemed like a week and the second day seemed like five days. And the third day seemed like a week again and the fourth day seemed like eight days. And the fifth day you went to see your mother and that seemed just like a day, and then you came back and later on the sixth day, in the evening, when we saw each other, that started seeming like two days, so in the evening it seemed like two days spilling over into the next day and that started seeming like four days, so at the end of the sixth day on into the seventh day, it seemed like a total of five days. And the sixth day seemed like a week and a half. I have it written down, but I can show it to you tomorrow if you want to see it.”

Best Actress: Ellen Greene, Little Shop of Horrors (1986)

Ellen Green was primarily a theater actress with few movie credits when she starred in the off-Broadway production of the the musical Little Shop of Horrors. As it can be in Hollywood, when the film was greenlit they didn’t offer the part to her because she wasn’t famous enough. Fortunately, after Cyndi Lauper, Madonna and Barbra Streisand turned it down, she was given a chance.  She elevates the role of Audrey, that of a typical 50s era battered girlfriend who is just wanting to live “somewhere that’s green.” Her relationship with Rick Moranis’ Seymour is sweet, tender and the opposite of her abusive relationship with Steve Martin’s Dentist. What really earns her a spot on my list is her vocal prowess, and how she uses the wide range of her singing voice to maximum comic effect. In “Somewhere That’s Green” and “Suddenly Seymour” her voice seamlessly transitions from baby doll girlie voice to full-bodied soul belter. It’s unexpected and hilarious, telling us that with a little love and respect, we can all grow up from a sheltered child to a sensual and passionate adult in an instant.

Ellen Greene

Favorite line: Not really a line, but when Audrey hears that the plant is named after her, she emits a barely audible squeak of pleasure.

Best Supporting Actor: John Amos, Coming to America (1988)

John-Amos

If  the Oscars truly honored comedy the same way they honored drama, Coming to America would be up for many awards (it was actually nominated for two Oscars, Best Costume Design and Best Makeup). Traditionally, Eddie Murphy would be up for Best Actor, and Arsenio Hall would be up for Supporting. But, these are my awards and this is my blog, so I can honor whomever I want. John Amos has had a varied career playing drama and comedy, but in Coming to America he plays Cleo McDowell, an up-from-your-bootstraps father who worked hard, opened his own small business, became very successful, and will be damn sure that his daughter marries well. It’s a blueprint for a cliche stock character, but John Amos makes him hilarious, tough, and even sympathetic. All he wants is for his daughter to marry the wealthy asshole Darryl and stay away from poor immigrant Hakim. Cleo McDowell maintains high status throughout the movie…until the end, when he discovers Hakim’s true identity. Instantly his perma-scowl turns into an enormous shit-eating grin. His fall from grace is especially rewarding as he more than earned his hubris. We delight in watching him fail, mostly because he is such a delightful foil. The grande finale plays out like a classic farce, complete with slamming doors, deception, and hidden intentions. Cleo needs to keep Hakim and his daughter in the house, and will stop at nothing to make sure his daughter marries her true love (now that he is rich).  As it unravels, it is a joy to watch, and a textbook lesson in playing the status in comedy.

Favorite moment (outside of the big finale, of course): Hakim tries to get in good with Cleo by discussing football even though he has no grasp of the game. Cleo deadpans: “Son, if you want to keep working here, stay off the drugs.”

Best Supporting Actress: Glenne Headley, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988)

If you’ve seen this movie, then you are aware of the masterful comedic battle royale between American Freddy Benson (Steve Martin) and Frenchman Lawrence Jamieson (Michael Caine) as they vie to be the best con artist in a small, seaside French town. But, it’s Glenne Headley as Janet Colgate, the “Soap Queen” from America that elevates the game. Like Ellen Greene in Little Shop and probably most movies in the world, Headley was not the first choice for the role. Imagine if Sean Young had taken the part! Steve Martin carries the lion’s share of the comedy in this movie; his performance is delightful, and Michael Caine certainly holds his own. As much as comedy is underrated, the role of straight man to the comic foil (or foils, in this movie) is woefully under appreciated. Not many people can pull it off. Enter Janet Colgate.

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels

She is the perfect foil: innocent and lovely, and she makes up for her lack of intelligence with the biggest heart on the Mediterranean.  To go into too much detail about her character would reveal too much about the plot, which continually twists, turns and reinvents itself. Janet Colgate does not enter the movie until nearly halfway through, but once she does she deftly plays the ping pong ball between the two con artists, a continual yet hilarious straight man. And she makes you root for her all the while.

Best moment: The final scene. She gets to deliver her own laughs…and gets to use three different accents.

Best Actor: Bill Murray, Groundhog Day (1993)

One of my all time favorite films. It’s probably on your short list as well. Bill Murray plays Phil Connors, an egocentric bored Pittsburgh weatherman who somehow is forced to relieve the same day, Groundhogs Day, in Punxsutawney. Trapped in a snow globe of a small town, he tries to figure out how to get out of the rut and along the way, becomes as powerful as a god and discovers enlightenment and love. A complicated philosophical movie which requires a juggernaut performance, and Bill Murray gives it. He showcases a wide range of emotions, and is the deepest shallow character you will ever see. And he’s hilarious.  Tom Hanks won the Oscar for Philadelphia that year giving a nuanced, deep performance that was emotionally taxing…and Bill Murray in Groundhog Day did the same.

groundhog-day

Favorite line: “I was in the Virgin Islands once. I met a girl. We ate lobster, drank piña coladas. At sunset, we made love like sea otters. THAT was a pretty good day. Why couldn’t I get THAT day over, and over, and over?”

Best Supporting Actress: Ellen DeGeneres, Finding Nemo (2003)

When acting in animated movies, it’s all about the voice. Sure, the animators may base some of the character on the physicality of the actor, but at the end of the day it’s an actor, alone in a padded black box, with a microphone. Not the most organic method of acting. Ellen DeGeneres is fine actor. She has certainly found her niche as a talk show host, but we forget that for years she had a decent career, but never really shone as an actor…until Finding Nemo. Her performance as Dory, a Pacific Regal Blue Tang with short-term memory loss, is RELENTLESS. She is all energy, positivity, and simultaneously an annoyance and savior to Albert Brooks’ nebbishy Marlin. The amount of dialogue rattled off in quick time, combined with the complete and constant change in direction (she has a REAL short-term memory) is staggering to comprehend, and takes multiple viewings to really appreciate what she does. Many people have great comic timing. Many people are extremely smart. Ellen DeGeneres is both.

Finding-Nemo

Favorite scene: when Dory believes she can speak whale.

Best Actress: Kristen Wiig, Bridesmaids (2011)

It is very difficult to create a likeable asshole. It fails often (see most Jim Belushi and Charlie Sheen roles), but when it hits, it’s magical. The three leads of the Larry Sanders show are self-serving assholes, but they are so well written and acted that you root for them always. You root for them to fail and you root for them to succeed. Same goes for the four women in Girls; all are entitled, selfish assholes, but I can’t wait to see what they do next.

Kristen Wiig knew what she was getting into with self-absorbed and miserable Annie Walker; after all, she co-wrote the script (which was nominated for an Oscar, as well as best supporting actress for Melissa McCarthy). Annie, jealous of her best friend’s engagement and new life, slides bitterly down a hole of despair, anguish, and depression…and it’s hilarious. She pushes the envelope of likability so far that one of my friends turned off the movie because she hated Annie so much. It’s bold and not easy to pull off, but because Kristen Wiig is so capable at expressing herself through these horrible comic moments, we continue to root for her and her happy ending.

Best scene: I could watch the airplane meltdown and the bridal shower meltdown on loop for hours.

Kristen Wiig

Lifetime achievement award: Christopher Guest

guest

There are many brilliant comedic performers who have created excellent characters in movie after movie, and Christopher Guest should be recognized for his entire canon of films. He completely loses himself in each character, and continually portrays wildly different yet extremely detailed personas. And in my world, the Lifetime Achievement Oscar isn’t a consolation prize, it’s truly an award for a lifetime of excellent work…so far. Keep making movies, please.

So that wraps up my Oscar comedy awards. I omitted a ton of people just to keep this as short as it is; who are some of your favorites?

And best of luck to all the nominees in the serious Oscars on Sunday.