On behalf of schlumps everywhere

My visits to the cineplex were few and far between last year, so aside from Pan’s Labyrinth I didn’t really have a rooting interest in any of the big-time Academy Award nominees. Nevertheless, I watched just about every minute of the Oscar broadcast, which has become very bearable now that the producers have dispensed with those awful Debbie Allen musical numbers that were absolute death on legs.

The most attractive thing about last night’s broadcast was the tribute to screenwriters, and the frequent mentions given to William Monahan, the screenwriter for The Departed, the big winner of the night. Martin Scorsese, the director, even managed to get in a plug for Infernal Affairs, the Hong Kong movie Monahan adapted for The Departed. The man’s got class. So Monahan goes down in history as, I think, the only Pushcart Prize winner to take home a golden guy as well.

You don’t think this is a big deal? I remember the night when Forrest Gump won a basketful of Oscars. You’d have thought that during six trips to the stage, somebody might have mentioned that none of it would have been possible unless a guy named Winston Groom had spent a chunk of his life writing a novel that Robert Zemeckis then took a shine to as a movie property. Nope. Zip. Zilch. Nada.

So I liked the collection of film clips showing inkstained wretches at work, even if none of the actors looked remotely like full-time writers, and I liked the fact that William Monahan looked exactly like a full-time writer: doughy, schlumpy and afflicted with inadvisable ideas about personal grooming.

Because that’s where it starts. Any film is an inverted pyramid in which the broad base of strutting peacocks rests on the shoulders of one person, or at most a couple of people, hunched over a keyboard. That’s a lot of weight to bear for people who don’t always have the same muscle tone as the actors, but bear it they do. All hail the schlumps!

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