With the Academy Awards slated for this Sunday night, I'd like to suggest that George Clooney deserves an Oscar for something and that Judi Dench should also have been nominated for supporting actress for her portrayal of Lady Catherine de Bourg in "Pride and Prejudice."
But why wait for Sunday? Let's hand out Oscars to the movers and shakers in our economic and political world right now.
Best Picture – "Good Night, Google, and Good Luck." Google's CFO George Reyes announced slower growth ahead for the search industry company early this week. Investors were suitably dismayed and sent the stock down 13% on Tuesday, February 28. Our analysts at ElliottWave.com have been wondering for a while when reality would catch up with the high flyer.
"There’s a good chance that the clash between the manic belief in Google’s fantastic future and the reality of making a buck selling advertising is beginning," EWI's Pete Kendall writes.
Best Director – Karl Rove. He has done a great job directing the White House for the first four years, but the fifth year saw a few productions flop in theaters, including the Hurricane Katrina disaster movie and the Operation Iraqi Freedom documentary that's now overshadowed by talk of a civil war. He needs to take a break from his current duties to storyboard his next major release, "The Valerie Plame Story."
Best Director, Lifetime Achievement – Alan Greenspan. The newly retired but almost Fed-chairman-for-life gets the lifetime achievement award. He's starting to shop a book to publishers that will "tell all," but if he doesn't get a decent ghostwriter, it might be a hard slog through the syntax. Suggested chapter title: How I Got a Great Deal When I Refinanced My Home.
Best Actor – Kenneth Lay. The chairman of Enron presided over the biggest blow-up and bankruptcy of a U.S. company in 2001, and now he's on trial. Is "Kenny Boy" the civic-minded leader of a highly regarded energy company and friend of George W. Bush who was duped by his executives? Or is he the savvy businessperson who sold his employees and shareholders a bill of goods as he cashed in his company stock? Does he bear a strong resemblance to Henry Fonda who played a villain only once in his career as a gunfighter without a conscience in Serge Leone's "Once Upon a Time in the West"? You be the critic.
Best Actress – Martha Stewart. She got her get-out-of-jail card and then posted lousy ratings in her knock-off of 'The Apprentice' television show. But we love those spunky types who try to make a comeback.
Best Supporting Actor and Actress – The former power couple, Andrew and Lea Fastow. As CFO of Enron, Andrew Fastow found ways to support Enron's balance sheet with off-the-books partnerships, while Lea, a former assistant treasurer at the company, signed a bogus tax return to hide income.
Best Costume Design – Michael Brown of FEMA. As New Orleans became a miasma after Hurricane Katrina hit, he wrote about the shirt he bought at Nordstrom in an email to his staff. By putting his wardrobe above other concerns, Brown earned his Oscar and his sobriquet, Heckuva Job Brownie, which has become the national put-down du jour.
Best Original Song – "Whistle While You Work." The economy seems to be strong with 3.5% GDP growth last year and the last quarter's growth revised up to 1.6% from 1.1%. Yet, the government also reports that wages are not keeping up with inflation. Workers' average weekly earnings have been falling (0.4% lower this January than last), while the CPI grew 0.7% in January. If inflation continues to eat away at earnings, we're just going to have to work harder and whistle faster while we work.
Best Foreign Language Film – The Dubai Ports Fiasco. Port management by a company run by the United Arab Emirates with subtitles in English. Both Republican and Democratic critics jumped all over this one.
Best Visual Effects – The inverted yield curve. Usually the yield curve slopes up gently, but lately it's doing the opposite as short rates remain higher than long rates. New visuals for the economy are interesting, but this is probably one that Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke would like to change back.
Best Film Editing – The U.S. budget. This film wins for what's been edited out: it doesn't include the costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. You might call that the biggest budget buster since Kevin Costner's "Waterworld."
Best Makeup – Harry Whittington. He's the 78-year-old Austin lawyer whom V.P. Dick Cheney accidentally shot in the face and chest on a quail-hunting trip in south Texas. Sometimes you can't choose the category you compete in.
Best Sound Editing – Hisssss, the sound of the housing market deflating slowly. This sound is the one we want to keep hearing, because a large POP sound will only mean trouble for everyone who has grown to depend on the strength of the housing market. Whoops, here are the latest figures: Sales of existing homes fell by 2.8% in January while sales of new homes fell 5%, leaving the largest number of new homes on the market ever. Is that hissing sound getting louder?
Best Screenplay (Adapted) – Democrats in Congress. For all their criticisms (many deserved) of the economic missteps by the Bush Administration, the Dems still haven't articulated a convincing "policy screenplay" of their own.
Best Screenplay (Original) – Scooter Libby, former assistant to V.P. Dick Cheney, for his note to reporter Judith Miller of the New York Times. Remember these poetic lines from last September? "You went into jail in the summer. It is fall now. You will have stories to cover – Iraqi elections and suicide bombers, biological threats and the Iranian nuclear program. Out west, where you vacation, the aspens will already be turning. They turn in clusters, because their roots connect them. Come back to work – and life."
Susan C. Walker writes for Elliott Wave International, a market forecasting and technical analysis company. She has been an associate editor with Inc. magazine, a newspaper writer and editor, an investor relations executive and a speechwriter for the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta's president. She is a graduate of Stanford University.