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Trump, Triumph and Speaking Truth to Power: Politics Take a Bow at 2017 Writers Guild Awards

Politics were front and center at the Writers Guild Awards; expect more at the Oscars.

Oliver Stone - TIFF 2016

Oliver Stone

Daniel Bergeron

When you think about the Writers Guild of America, which hosted two award ceremonies on Sunday night in two Blue cities, New York and Los Angeles, it’s no surprise that the writers spoke out. (Check out videos of some of the best bits below.)

For example, while accepting his life achievement award, filmmaker Oliver Stone got two standing ovations. After conservative James Woods was targeted at the top of the evening by WGA West Awards show host Patton Oswalt, retaliating by going onstage to steal his shoe, Woods presented the WGA award to the ultra liberal Stone, who starred him in “Salvador,” won three Oscars for “Midnight Express,” “Born on the Fourth of July” and “Platoon,” and penned “greed is good.”

Stone thanked mentors Robert Bolt and Ernest Lehman as well as WMA agent Ron Mardigian. He reminded that when he told Billy Wilder about his “Nixon” running time of 3 hours 10 minutes, Wilder told him, “You’re never going to make a dime.”

READ MORE: Writers Guild Award Analysis: It’s Still ‘Moonlight’ and ‘Manchester’ At the Oscars

“He was right,” said Stone. “Sometimes there are other reasons to make a picture.” Stone reminded the room that U.S. wars were “not started by one leader but a system…under the guise that these are just wars.” He continued: “The strengths I had as a director grew from the writing — that cut through the materialism around us.”

And he exhorted young writers to ignore the crowd, listen to the silence, stay the course and fight the fight. “I’ve fought the people who make war my entire life. It’s a tiring game and mostly you get your ass kicked. Never give up.”

At the WGA East ceremony, host Lewis Black used his opening number to upbraid the Donald Trump administration and the current state of the world.

The raspy-voiced comedian reminded the crowd that “we are living at the intersection of satire and reality…We are living in fictional times. Meaning: if you were to take the reality we’re living in and make it into a movie and you saw the movie, you’d say, ‘Great movie!’ What the hell is fiction anymore, when our reality comes off as fiction?”

Later, Black took shots at various members of his cabinet and inner circle to raucous applause, including Kellyanne Conway (“She’s not the person you hire when you need to explain what a crazy man meant, she’s the person you need to get when you want to get rid of your daughter’s cheerleading rival”), Ben Carson (“The first time I heard him speak, I thought, ‘Wow! I could have been a brain surgeon!'”) and Steve Bannon (“I don’t care about Breitbart, you know what scares me? Because he looks like how I feel when I have a hangover.”)

Black saved his most biting commentary for last, deeming Trump “the big baby himself,” before adding, “it’s actually an insult to call him a baby, because babies have more control over their colon then he has over his mouth. And that’s a hell of a movie, and this is only the trailer.”

Meanwhile back at the Beverly Hilton, Anthony Atamanuik brought down the house with a dead-on Donald Trump impersonation. “I thought the WGA stood for the White Guys Association,” he said, “and judging from this room that’s mostly true.”

WGA West president Howard Rodman exalted the role of writers in turning back “this circus of horrors.” Long form original winner Susannah Grant (“HBO’s “Confirmation”) said the Anita Hill hearings would never have happened without a free press and demands from the public.

Even host Black moved away from the sardonic wit when it came time to remind the audience of the importance of the writing profession, and that “now more than ever” spirit was echoed throughout the evening by various other winners and honorees, most notably John Waters, presented in New York with the Ian McLellan Hunter Award for “A Lifetime of Penning Trashy Screenplays,” Jelani Cobb (presented with the first Walter Bernstein Award) and the writers of late night winner “Last Week Tonight With John Oliver.”

Other heavy-hitting honorees including Aaron Sorkin (“West Wing,” “Sports Night,” “The Social Network,” “Newsroom,” “Steve Jobs,” “A Few Good Men”), who accepted the Paddy Chayefsky award by making a persuasive list of reasons (see below) why most of us are not the ones who are out of touch. Sorkin asked storytellers to use the most powerful system for delivering stories.

And Richard Curtis (“Four Weddings and a Funeral”) won the humanitarian award for fighting against children’s hunger, poverty and climate change. He once wrote a letter to J.K. Rowling, he said, which inspired her to write two pamphlets — that raised $28 million, “off my little letter.” He exhorted the writers to take the time to do charity. “When you open the door to people’s good side it’s like a super-power.”

READ MORE: 2017 Writers Guild Awards Winners: ‘Moonlight,’ ‘Arrival,’ ‘Atlanta’ and ‘The Americans’ Win Big

Newly minted WGA winners Robert Smigel and his Triumph the Insult Comic Dog took their political humor in a slightly different direction. While presenting a handful of awards mid-show — for, of all things, children’s series — Triumph (and Smigel, uncomfortably but gamely wedged into an on-stage podium retrofitted for the occasion) poked fun at the uptick in politically-minded comedy.

After not quite landing a joke about how much President Trump loves “The Americans” — a show, of course, about Russian spies infiltrating America — Triumph added, “That joke wasn’t funny, but it was important. This is not the time to be funny! This is the time to be important, because that’s where the money is. We’re going to out-important the shit out of the SAG Awards!”

Check out the videos below.

Host Patton Oswalt opener:

Jeff Daniels presents to Aaron Sorkin:

Jeff Goldblum presents to Richard Curtis:

James Woods presents to Oliver Stone


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