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In Need of a Good Thanking 

Jennifer Hudson snubs American Idol and The Departed's screenwriter forgets to thank the original writers of his story

Monday, Feb 26 2007
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We begin with a few Oscar notes: Ellen did fine with her lark-over-snark comedy. The show was way too long. Will Ferrell should be required to do something every year. Errol Morris’ opening interview montage was a nice idea but too arty to buoyantly kick off the telecast — at least it made painfully apparent how the nominees are mostly white men.

But enough about the Academy Awards show itself. What I kept wondering was why The Departed screenwriter William Monahan didn’t thank the creators of the 2002 Hong Kong movie Infernal Affairs — writers Felix Chong and Siu Fai Mak — without which he wouldn’t have had the fascinating characters, underlying themes and snappy plot twists to lay his fierce Irish gangster wit over, and surely without which he wouldn’t be holding that statuette and now go on to become an even more highly paid screenwriter. It was Adapted Screenplay, dude. You acknowledge the source-material writers, especially if they’re not 19th-century authors and long dead. (Then again, the voiceover patter as Monahan took to the stage called the original film “Japanese”: so much for getting the details of this landmark “international” Oscar year right.)

This next one you may wish to debate me on, as a fellow telecast watcher did. But shouldn’t Best Supporting Actress winner Jennifer Hudson have acknowledged American Idol in some way, considering that without it she wouldn’t have become a name that gets a shot at a role like Effie in Dreamgirls? The revisionist take on Hudson and Idol is already annoying enough: no, the talented Hudson shouldn’t have won Idol her year; anointee Fantasia Barrino was the more spectacular, heart-pounding vocalist. But I’ll bet the experience of being an Idol contender — warts and all — prepared her for the journey that brought from her a rich, full, movie-launching performance like the one in Dreamgirls. My disagreeing friend tells me it’s as silly as thanking your high school when graduating from college, that it’s a different league altogether. And yet we love it when honorees give a shout out to high school acting teachers who, believe me, weren’t standing off-camera for their award-winning performance. Anyway, it seemed a little weird. Thanking is like any art: what you leave out can sometimes say just as much.

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