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"There were some big surprises in this year's Academy Award nominations," mused Olenin. It had been a cloudless winter day, but now, as dusk settled over the frozen road that stretched from Moscow to Stavropol, a few snowflakes had begun to drift through the inky twilight. Olenin was walking with his brother-in-law, Eroshka Ivanovich, a man nearly a decade his junior. "It will be very interesting," the older man continued, "to see just who takes home Oscar gold at the 76th annual ceremony at the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles."

"There sure were some shockers, Olenin," said Eroshka Ivanovich, clasping the gnarled head of his wooden walking stick. "Everyone expected Cold Mountain, an epic historical drama backed by the promotional muscle of perennial Oscar contender Miramax Studios, to get a Best Picture nod -- but no dice. On the other hand, it was no surprise to find Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King garnering eleven nominations. This may finally be the year that the Academy rewards Peter Jackson for bringing Tolkein's Middle Earth to such vivid life on the big screen."

They strode on, tugging their cloaks over their necks against the lashing cold. Dark thoughts consumed Eroshka Ivanovich. He was a murderer. Olenin did not know; nor did Vasili Andreevich. But God knew. Surely he would be punished for his heinous crime -- for the fit of reckless passion that had soaked a summer night in blood. Presently, Eroshka Ivanovich spoke.

"Best Actor is a very strong category this year. Lots of big names: Penn. Kingsley. Depp. Law. Murray. Murray...I mean, Murray's got to be the sentimental favorite. A lot of folks are hoping that the beloved funny man will take the prize for his portrayal of an aging movie star in Sophia Coppola's Lost in Translation."

"And what about Best Actress?" There was an urgency in the usually mild Olenin's voice that startled Eroshka Ivanovich. "Charlize Theron is the odds-on favorite. She won the Golden Globe, and her physical transformation --"

Eroshka Ivanovich interjected, "-- the former fashion model packed on thirty pounds and underwent a grueling daily make up regimen to resemble serial killer Aileen Wuornos --"

Olenin continued, "-- her physical transformation will surely remind some Academy voters of another classic performance: Robert DeNiro's Oscar-winning turn as Jake LaMotta in Martin Scorsese's Raging Bull(1980)."

The thunder of hooves could be heard in the distance. The newspapers had lately carried ominous reports of Napoleon's advance across the Nieman. An hour passed, as the pair walked on in silence. A distant church bell tolled in the gloom. At last, Olenin turned to his friend.

"Of course, Theron faces stiff competition. The biggest surprise in this year's field is 13-year-old Keisha Castle-Hughes, nominated for her portrayal of an Aboriginal girl who makes Aboriginal sex-love to whales in the indie hit Whale Rider. And then there's Diane Keaton, whose revelatory work opposite Jack Nicholson in Something's Gotta Give should remind us all that romance doesn't end after 50. You go, girl!"

Eroshka Ivanovich smiled at his friend, his spirit brightening. "A worldwide audience of more than a billion," he observed, "will tune in to catch all the emotion -- and the glitz and glamour -- of Hollywood's biggest night." In the distance, they heard the faint crunch of the night-cabman's sledge, kneading the snow as it plied the wintry road.

Date Written: January 28, 2004
Author: Craig Lewis
Average Vote: 4.3636

02/4/2004 Ewan Snow (4): I'm going to give this short four big ones, even though it didn't get more than a couple giggles out of me, and was a little too long. First, I'm a sucker for the War and Peace / Crime and Punishment shtick, which is pulled off here more or less perfectly. It is one of the better-written guest shorts I’ve read in a while. Second, the Oscar bit (though it went on too long) was an interesting juxtaposition. I liked how Napoleon was on his way and Charlize Theron was up for Oscar gold. This had the feeling that it was adapted from an actual ET transcript. Was it? I think this could have been a five if it had been a little tighter (not gone into so many Oscar nominations) and had played up the Russian thing a bit more. For instance, it could have mentioned how far they were walking in “versts” rather than miles, included a “titular councilor” and/or other “petty officials”, and other crap like that. Anyway, this is a very interesting first short from Craig Lewis.
02/4/2004 senator: I'm withholding a rating for the time being. Well written...I didn't laugh. I have trouble rating shorts when I don't laugh.
02/4/2004 Dylan Danko (5): Very funny. Like many of those Russian novels, I couldn't keep track of the names. For instance, does God also know where the fuck Vasili Andreevich came from or is it just a patronymic?
02/4/2004 Will Disney (4): A joy to read. A little bit long, but the length does serve the form somewhat. Four stars!
02/4/2004 Texxx (4): I like it.
02/4/2004 Craig Lewis: I wish to thank Texx, Disney, Danko and Snow for their kind words and generosity of spirit. Rest assured, the Oscar-talk here was not cribbed from an ET transcript: I made it up all by myself. Does this mean that I'm a prose genius, or does it say something troubling about mass media saturation and celebrity culture? For the answer to this and so many other questions, we must consult McLuhan. Anyway...Snow's criticisms are well taken. I will try to make subsequent shorts shorter, and am kicking myself about not using "petty officials," "versts," and the like. As for senator's not having laughed: bummer. Your "2 foot-double-sided-ribbed-gelatin-dildo" quip CRACKED ME UP.
02/4/2004 senator: Craig, I appreciate that; however, I go for the "cheap" laughs. It is hard not to laugh anytime you envision a "2 foot-double-sided-ribbed-gelatin-dildo". This is a clever short. I'm rereading this...still haven't rated. Everyone else sure seems to be impressed.
02/4/2004 Jon Matza (5): Yeah, excellent. The tabloid TV film-speak is note perfect.
02/4/2004 Craig Lewis: Based on my 4.5 star rating, I feel confident that mine is the most auspicious debut since Haley Joel Osmet's Oscar-nominated portrayal of a young boy haunted by visions of the dead in M. Night Shyamalan's box office smash The Sixth Sense.
02/4/2004 Dylan Danko: Does the author need to be reminded of Ricky Schroder's moving tribute to a son's enduring love for his troubled father in 1979's "The Champ?"
02/4/2004 Texxx: Or the heralded performance of Jaye Davidson's junk in "The Crying Game"?
02/4/2004 Dolemite (3): I liked the contrast between the Russian-lit atmosphere and the Access Hollywood-speak, but after a while, I was like, "OK, I get it already." Or maybe I didn't warm to the short because I'm a jaded asshole working in Hollywood, and the banality of their commentary hit a little too close to home.
02/4/2004 qualcomm (4): i give it a reluctant 4. it's very well-written, the minor chekhov tone/style is splendid, but it's too damned long. dolemite's right -- the joke is done by the third paragraph. also, despite the fact that it's a great idea, i just didn't laugh. still, its style is too good to give it anything less, especially coming from a guest. this condescension is not aimed at craig, but other guest writers who think that sloppy style is forgivable. i expect great things from lewis.
02/4/2004 Slappy White (5): Five stars because the kid is new and needs the love. I love Ewan thinks Tron porn is hackneyed, but War and Peace imitation with pop references is so bold and fresh.
02/4/2004 Slappy White: 2/4/2004 12:14:17 PM - Joe Frankenstone: Zing! Ewan, so you know, the funniest thing you could write right now would be, "STOP TALKING ABOUT MY MOMMA!" But of course that's not going to happen........................................................................ 2/4/2004 10:28:53 PM - Slappy White: NOW I GET IT! I forgot, Ewan Snow in ABC's '88 thursday night lineup at 8:00pm, "Stop Talkin' 'Bout My Momma!" No wonder he's so bitter. Beaten by The Coz. I'd be bitter too if I found out Cosby was cheatin' on Camille doin' my mom up DA AZZ as well. "MMMMMmmm.... Imaaaaaaagine I aaaaaaaaam stickiiiiiiiiiiin in your AAAAAASS a Jello Puddin Pop!" I give this comment *****, yes five stars for transitioning from the faux sitcom reference to a cyber Cosby imitation.
02/4/2004 scoop (4): This may have earned a five-star rating had it employed Vladimir Nabokov's writing style instead of aping that of the inferior Russian classic authors, say, like Dostoevesky. The joke is long, too long perhaps, but the writing is real good like, so that makes up for it some.
02/5/2004 qualcomm: hey slappy, speaking of hackneyed versus fresh, you know what's not hackneyed at all? the phrase "da azz". for example.
02/5/2004 senator: Wow, Craig...this was quite the debut. I think I may be jealous. But not enough to change my sloppy style, and work the cheap laugh routine. How long did this take you to write?
02/5/2004 Joe Frankenstone: I for one am shocked that "da azz" appears on the entire internet only 279 times. That's 429 fewer times than "Texxx."
02/5/2004 anonymous: Now Scoop, I told you not to do that!
02/5/2004 Slappy White: Feldspar, I fuckin DEFY you to go tell that shiznit to Snizzoop. Beeyatch. Your mom's AZZ is hackneyed.
02/7/2004 Benny Maniacs (5): I thought the idea made up for it not being laugh laugh funny. It was a deep humor. A very fucking good idea. Plus, the length thing is only an issue because we've been trained to give merit to six sentence zingers - it's still comparitively short. It didn't get old for me, because it kept changing (was the Russian dude going to kill the other Russian dudes? Wait - isn't this two hundred years old? etc.)
10/26/2004 TheBuyer (5):