Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Entertainment Bleakly

The following excerpt is from Entertainment Bleakly by Ben Shakey. It will be published by Alan Smithee books in June 2009

One year ago John Travolta ambled up to the podium of the Ford Theatre to present the award for best screenplay. Then millions of viewers were greeted by a blank television screen.

That blank screen would be the part of a vicious terrorist plot that didn’t go according to plan that day in Hollywood. The terrorists are in the middle of a cultural war and chose to attack American culture directly. Rather than confront what we call freedom and art - and what they call decadence and sin – on the battlefield, they set off several massive bombs under the Ford theatre.

The first attack came a few months earlier when a terrorist assassin gained access to the set of the Jay Leno show and began to regularly expose the guest sofa to a germ warfare agent. Slowly, Jay and other guests began to grow very ill and the rapidly unhealthy Jay Leno was thought to be the carrier and possible patient zero of the strange illness. It wasn’t until several guest hosts and many more guests died that the devious sofa was uncovered. By then hundreds of America’s celebrities were dead, many more terminally ill.

The late talk show host and many guest were meant to be honored that evening but and second attack on American culture came before respects could be made. This year those final condolences can be offered at the Oscars.

Of course it would be impossible to destroy the entire entertainment industry. There are too many dreamers to stop them all but industry analysts estimate that almost 75% of bankable box office draws were lost during the year of what is now called the entertainment war.

Productions continued, changes were made and casting rushed, but this year’s Oscars will really determine if the industry can ever return to its previous heights. The nominees in the Academy Awards will not only have to prove they deserve to win but prove that Hollywood as whole can survive.

Go to any movie now and you might only recognition one person in it, usually someone from a television show that has quickly replaced the deceased star.

In recognition of this confusion, Entertainment Journal is proud to present a guide to the best actor category.

(Note: due to the lack of production and voting academy members this year’s best actor and best actress category has been combined. The remaining time left from the many cut categories will be filled with tributes to lost performers)

Paul Rinaldi – The Mayor of Gangsterville

Paul Rinaldi may be the closest thing to a recognizable face in this year’s list of nominees. That is because he looks just like Robert DeNiro. Previous to his film debut Paul was the owner of Paulie’s Italian Eatery where every weekend he would put on the WiseGuy’s dinner show with a Joe Pesci impersonator.

The night of the attack Robert DeNiro was there to present to award for best editing. His long time editor Thelma Shoemaker won. Afterwards Paul stepped in and rescued the troubled production The Mayor of Gangsterville, of which DeNiro had already filmed two scenes. With the help of some CGI, the transition from DeNiro to Rinaldi was seamless.

Off camera Paul is soft spoken and actually has a rather high pitched voice but he insists that if he wins he will accept the awards as DeNiro. “It’s his award,” he insists “We are all here to honour him”

Doyle Archer – The Mousetrap

If Hollywood were a sports team this would be a rebuilding year. This isn’t a year for wild hot doggers or plans so crazy they might just work. This is time for the fundamentals and the tried and true on which a solid foundation is built.

In entertainment there are fewer more tried and true players than Agatha Christie. Her play The Mousetrap is the longest running play in history and its popularity always swelled in times of war or depression when the predictability of distraction is comforting.

Doyle Archer was playing the lead role in the mousetrap when Oscar attack happened. He was part of a group of Silicon Valley programmers that made huge sums of money in the nineties and spent the past ten years pursuing hobbies while working freelance. Some of the hobbies include Segway polo, LARPing, of course the Silicon Valley Amatuer Theatre society.

“We thought we were pretty good. People liked the play, and when this hit we saw that there was a opening in the market. We decided to put a bunch some money together. We all acted for free and brought bag lunches. The only cost was the crew and film. Even (TV commercial director) Dwayne Guest worked for free because it was his first feature.”

Doyle can’t help but smile when he talks about the nomination. All actors claim they don’t care if they win but Doyle actually seems to mean it. He is more proud of the film than his personal performance.

“ 3 years ago this film would never be noticed, but the whole landscape has changed now. It’s like the early days of internet. It’s the Wild West. It’s democracy.”

Andrew Cohen - The Backpacker's Inn

Andrew Cohen is the closest thing to a celebrity in the year’s pack of nominees. You may recognize him from the first season of the reality show Roomies, in which 5 roommates live together for 6 weeks in a enclosed compound on the back of a flatbed truck that is driven to random part of the United States before they are ejected with no money and must try to find their way home.

Andrew was a popular cast member after entering into a relationship with fellow roommate Crystal Beansmith. They were filming a spin off reality series when the disaster struck the Oscars.

“After the attack this country needed entertainers and I heard that call” Says Andrew, his eyes growing moist. “We wanted to entertain the peoples like mad. We reediting the footage and released it as movie. The theatre needed something. People needed us.”

When asked about the controversy of submitting him min the actor category Andrew is less sentimental. “That’s Bull. I am acting like a mother in the movie. All those fights with Crystal, those weren’t real. We did three or four takes of each one, so people could get the coverage. We made up each of the fights ahead of time. You should see the original footage of this thing. It was a game show like Road Rules or something. We cut it into When Harry Met Sally or something.”

“We knew when that camera was one and we made up great stuff. We should get the screenwriter’s award too.” Of course there is not screenwriter’s award this year as it cut to make time for a longer tribute.

Sunil Sol - Mumbia Gershwin

Sunil Sol wasn’t in America to film a movie. He already had a successful film and music career in India and was performing a sold out musical engagement in San Diego.

“I was devastated when I found out and drove up to Hollywood to survey the site. I was wondering through the streets of L.A. just trying to understand the destruction when I started talking to the man beside me. We talked about our favourite movies for a while and then looked at him. Really looked at him and tried to ignore the baseball hat and the glasses. It was Woody Allen.”

Allen was spared as he rarely attends the awards or promotes his films.

“He asked what I did and it was very hard to explain without sounding defensive or insecure. You know, I’m a big deal in India. You sound like Tom Waits, all big in Japan. But when I explained the concert a few days ago, that I had a huge world wide audience with no interest in these movies. He called me the saviour of filmdom and asked me star in his newest film.”

The film did require some rewrites though. “I told him the only way that this film could get funding is if we made it a musical. My films need to appeal to a wide audience and there has to be comedy and romance and music. He trusted me and we changed to character from a sportswriter to a Bhangra singer.”

Allen seems very protective of vision. How did he take these suggestions? “He wanted to make him a clarinet player but my playing was so bad he relented” says Sunil while laughing.

Sidney Choas - Born Yesterday

Sidney Chaos is familiar with the film industry as well. She is star of 44 adult films and now one mainstream entry.

On O-day or Oscar Day most of the cast of the remake of Born Yesterday was lost. The producer had 48 hours to recast or the insurance company would take control of the operation.

Sidney was dating his neighbour, rock star Danny Cranx. They met in the driveway.

“He said I seemed ditzy enough that I didn’t have to act and the all the tattoo and piercing would make to scenes where I met high society seem funnier. I didn’t like him saying that cause I’m really smart but I wanted the part.”

Now Sidney is more than happy that she didn’t say anything.

“This all that I ever wanted. I am a real movie star now, at the Oscars. I thought I had destroyed all my chances at the age of 22 but look at me. This is great.”

How does she feel about the somber mood hanging over the awards this year?

“Every cloud has a silver linning. I am this one’s. I am so happy. Everything worked out in the end.”

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