SOCRATES: Welcome to the 86th Academy Awards. We are live here on the red carpet at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater, and the stars are out tonight. Like the lovely and talented fan favorite approaching now, a lady who just might take home her second Best Actress Oscar, Sandra Bullock. Good evening, Sandra. You look stunning, as always. Who are you wearing?
SANDRA: And? There’s no “and.” I’m wearing Valentino.
SOCRATES: Yes, obviously, your trainer-hewn physical form is draped in tangible designer fashions but, in a more essential, holistic sense, are you not also wearing, or, to be less metaphorical, bearing, the values, the views, the emotional residue of all—father, mother, siblings, peers, teachers, The Ex Who Must Not Be Named, et cetera—who have figured significantly in your life? Shouldn’t one’s emotional couturiers receive equal acknowledgement on this night?
SANDRA: Well, Socrates, I would argue countless influences, some knowable, others not, have acted, are still acting, on my innate, individual psyche to produce a wholly singular amalgam—me, my me-ness—which is an entity altogether separate and distinct from any affecting personalities. Such an inimitable creation needs make no attribution beyond her provider of free custom gowns.
SOCRATES: And yet isn’t it also true, according to your own words, as recounted in People magazine, you first resolved to enter the performing arts after seeing Susan Hayward in I Want to Live—ergo, your appearance here, impossible without your career as the performer you, indeed, became, is directly attributable to that epiphany and, thus, the 1958 Oscar winner is essential to this evening and, by extension, your strapless, bubble-skirted splendor here on the red carpet?
SANDRA: Why yes, that’s true, Socrates. Your logic is indisputable. I was foolish to have believed otherwise.
SOCRATES: Thank you, Sandra. Good luck tonight. And I’m now delighted to welcome Matthew McConaughey, nominee for Best Actor in Dallas Buyers Club. Congratulations, Matthew. Feeling good about your chances tonight?
MATTHEW: I know I’m not the first to say it, Socrates, but looking at the other actors in my category, it really is an honor just to be nominated.
SOCRATES: But, Matthew, consider: if, as you claim, it’s an honor just to be nominated, does that not render the remainder of the contest—the outcome!—superfluous, meaningless?
MATTHEW: Perhaps, but…
SOCRATES: And if winning is meaningless, is not the presence of said nominees extraneous?
MATTHEW: Well, it does seem…
SOCRATES: Thus rendering the entire process, event and evening moot, consigning this conversation to the realm of the absurd?
MATTHEW: Put that way, yes it…
SOCRATES: And must you not agree that a man engaged in the absurd is a fool?
MATTHEW: Yes, Socrates, I suppose I must.
SOCRATES: Then be on your way, I have no time for fools. But I do have time for this man: Director Martin Scorsese.
MARTIN: Always good to see you, Socrates.
SOCRATES: Tell me, Marty, you produce, direct and write many of your films. In other words, you have firm control over all major aspects of your art. Yet you’re creating product for Hollywood’s large studios, which are, in turn, owned by even larger multinational conglomerates, making you a contributor to the profits and power of a soulless, dehumanizing, commercial force. Tell me, does this make you, ultimately, an artist, a slave or an oligarch?
MARTIN: I’m afraid I cannot accept your premise, Socrates. Does the poor screenwriter who, to feed his family, sells his words to a studio executive necessarily become a tool of the studio? Furthermore, is he in some way responsible for all subsequent prequels, sequels, reboots and bastardizations produced by the studio based on his original script? What of studio rewrites or directors’ cuts? I contend if the screenwriter has created his work out of passion and honest intent, without pandering to the perceived tastes of a patron, he is not culpable for a royalty on, say, Mean Streets II: The Meanering.
SOCRATES: But, using your example, no screenwriter writes in a vacuum. If his family lacks food and his wife will not take a second job to see that said foods are purchased, providing him the freedom to go to Starbucks and write, isn’t it likely he’ll reframe his ominous drama about South Sudanese genocide as a more salable, star-driven, special-effects-packed action picture about a white superhero who can solve First World problems without fear of residual consequences or repercussions? And won’t the film’s profits—or huge losses—help determine what the studio will green-light for future production and release?
MARTIN: Perhaps. But as regards my work, specifically, I’ve followed only my passions, and neither the consequent box office revenue nor the prevailing power structure determines if or what I’ll create next. So, while I still reject your original premise, I can tell you unambiguously: art is my only pursuit.
SOCRATES: Marty. Friend. You’re. At. The. Oscars.
MARTIN: Touché, Socrates, touché.
SOCRATES: Thank you, Marty. You better head inside. Now, I see Robert Redford has just arrived. Bob! Bob! Over here! Loved your work in All Is Lost, and now we’re all dying to know whether you regard the transitory nature of physical beauty as cruel fate or futile struggle?