February 7th, 2003

movies, oscars

Writers Guild Awards

If there's one thing that will inspire me to write in my journal, it's entertainment industry awards. Today it's the Writers Guild Awards.

The Writers Guild of America represents writers in the writers in the motion picture, broadcast, cable and "new technologies" industries. "New technologies" encompasses "CD-ROMs, Internet videos, original creative sites, digital animation (including Flash and Shockwave animated presentations) and other innovations." I think they added this category back when people thought interactive CD-ROMs and episodic web sites (remember The Spot?) were thought to be the next big thing. I wonder how many "new technologies" Guild members there are? The WGA website doesn't answer that question, but since they don't give awards for new technologies writing, my guess is, not many.

They do give awards for television and film writing though. The nominees for the adapted screenplay award are About A Boy, About Schmidt, Adaptation, Chicago, and The Hours. No surprises there, except perhaps that so many of them start with the letter A. The original screenplay nominees are a bit more surprising: Antwone Fisher, Bowling for Columbine, Far From Heaven, Gangs of New York, and My Big Fat Greek Wedding. I don't recall Antwone Fisher as being all that well received, so it surprised me that the WGA thought highly enough of it to give it a nomination. And the nod for Bowling for Columbine is interesting because you don't see documentaries nominated outside of documentary categories very often. Chalk it up to the influence of Hollywood lib'ruls, I guess. And some people might be surprised to see My Big Fat Greek Wedding nominated as an original screenplay, since it's rather well-known that Tom Hanks decided to finance the film after seeing Nia Vardalos's one-woman show of the same name, but in fact the screenplay was written first, and she based the stage show on it after she was unable to sell it. But I wasn't surprised because I already knew that.

The television awards are always more fun than the film awards, because the writers get to nominate their own scripts, so you don't necessarily see the same things nominated for WGA awards as you do for, say, the Emmys. What's more, the writer can submit any version of the script, so the nominated script may bear little to no resemblance to the episode that actually aired. (Famously, Harlan Ellison submitted his original script for the Star Trek episode "The City of the Edge of Forever," because he was mad about the changes Gene Roddenberry made for the shooting script. The original version won the WGA award, but the shooting script version won the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation. Draw your own conclusions.)

Anyway, on to the current nominees. There's a new animation category this year, and Fox swept it. The nominees include three episodes of The Simpsons, one each of Futurama and King of the Hill, and an animated special called Santa, Baby. I'm particularly pleased with the nomination for Futurama; the nominated episode, "Godfellas," is, in my opinion, among the top ten episodes of that series. Interestingly, two of the three nominated Simpsons episodes involved the family traveling to a foreign country (Canada and Brazil).

In the Episodic Drama category, we have the usual suspects -- The West Wing, Six Feet Under, ER and The Sopranos -- but a couple of unexpected nominees as well. The pilot episode of The Education of Max Bickford got a nomination. You know, Max Bickford wasn't a great show by any stretch of the imagination, but I do agree that the pilot was well-written. I tend not to have strong emotional reactions to fictional characters, but I found Max to be deeply annoying and almost completely unlikable. Any script that can create that kind of emotional reaction in me must be pretty good. The other unexpected nominee in this category was the Showtime series Resurrection Blvd., which I've never seen and about which I know only what I just looked up in the IMDb.

In the episodic comedy category, we have three episodes of Sex and the City (ugh), the pilot of The Bernie Mac Show, an episode of Frasier, the episode of Ed in which Carol didn't get married (which, come to think of it, actually describes every episode of Ed to date), and ... wait, what this? I don't believe it! The pilot episode of Scrubs! Finally, a little love for the Scrubsters. I love Scrubs. Too bad it was bumped last night in favor of a lackluster Friends rerun. And speaking of which, the lack of nominations for Friends reinforces my perception that in recent seasons the cast has elevated the scripts, which in my experience is unusual. It's usually the other way around.

I don't really care about the rest of the television categories, or the shows nominated in them, so I'm going to ignore them and jump down to the radio categories, which are surprising in that there are no nominees from NPR. Nor, having looked back over the nominees from recent years, have there ever been any nominees from NPR, at least as far back as 1996, which is as far back as the records go online. There must be some rule that prohibits material that airs on NPR from being considered. Maybe NPR writers aren't allow to join the Guild? Unfortunately, the WGA website was of little help to me. How dare they!

The awards will be announced March 8, but will apparently not be televised. What's up with that? I'd watch.
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But I'm a liberal!

I've been thinking about it a lot since the State of the Union address, and though it sickens me to say so, I've reluctantly come to the conclusion that invading Iraq is probably necessary.

I never believed the administration's claims that Iraq posed an imminent threat to anyone. My original thinking was that if there was a genuine imminent threat, the US would have done something about it instead of talking about it for a year. I agreed with the administration that Saddam Hussein was a dangerous man, that Iraq probably was continuing to develop weapons of mass destruction, and that everyone would be a lot better off if Hussein was removed from power. But I didn't want to go to war over it.

But then two things happened. First, the situation in North Korea flared up. That proved me wrong on my theory about what the administration would have done if Iraq had really been an imminent threat. Rather than rushing to war against North Korea, the US has done nothing, except take some tentative steps toward the bargaining table. Indeed, the US can't do anything, because they know that if they attack North Korea, North Korea will attack Seoul, and they're not willing to sacrifice the 10 million residents of Seoul to get rid of Kim Jong Il. Compassionate conservativism in action!

The same would be true in the Middle East. If Iraq successfully developed an arsenal of nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons, millions of people in Israel and Kuwait would be dead or dying before the first US warplanes got back to the aircraft carrier.

Then Colin Powell gave his presentation to the UN Security Council. Powell was not altogether convincing: the photographic evidence was open to interpretation, and defectors and double agents are not known for their unbiased reports. And the links to al-Qaida were flimsy; the same level of connection could be made between al-Qaida and many other Muslim states, and odds are good that much stronger ties exist between al-Qaida and Saudi Arabia or Pakistan.

But then there were the wire intercepts. The intercepts were solid evidence that Iraq is continuing to develop weapons of mass destruction, and that they are actively trying to hide that from UN inspectors. They also proved that the effort to disarm Iraq has been a failure. The initial UN disarmament resolutions didn't work. The first, second, and third inspections didn't work. Saber-rattling didn't work. We've been trying the peaceful approach for more than a decade now, and it hasn't even come close to working.

So what else is there? If Saddam Hussein is a potential threat, if wanting to disarm Iraq is a good idea, if we want to avoid another North Korea, what other choice is there but occupation? I don't like it, and I wish there was some other way. And who knows? Maybe France or Saudi Arabia will convince Hussein to voluntarily go into exile. But if we're serious about disarmament, we have to be prepared to admit that a negotiated solution isn't possible and disarm Iraq by force. I don't see any other way around it.
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