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'The Oscar Picks: Betrayed': The Great Goldberger Squirrel Conspiracy of 2017
By Michael S. Goldberger, iBerkshires Film Critic
05:20PM / Friday, February 17, 2017
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OK, maybe the Academy Award leak previously alleged to exist, the one the squirrels in my back yard either engineered or facilitated and which allowed me to successfully predict a good percentage of last year's Oscar winners, indeed exists. But first a little backstory for those unfamiliar with the bushy-tailed adventures of the Goldberger Squirrels.

Thankful for the assorted nuts I've occasionally thrown on the lawn to ensure their strength and safety against neighboring squirrels and other varmints who would illegally cross property lines to take what is rightfully theirs, last year the Goldberger Squirrels showed their loyalty with a bold act. Braving the gridlock caused by the "Traffic Study" on the George Washington Bridge, they nonetheless persevered, doing their version of a high-wire act to get to Manhattan, meet up with their Hollywood connection, Deep Rat, obtain the Oscar picks, and deliver them to me.

Grateful, I enlarged the nut allowance and, sadly proving that no good deed goes unpunished, upset the backyard geopolitics in the bargain. Seeing the Goldberger Squirrels flourishing, the neighboring squirrels increased their incursions into Goldberger territory, some even assimilating into the culture. Protests arose, although some groups of squirrels claimed the protesters were really shills paid with expensive macadamia nuts. Still, they were cute with their little signs — some of them quite witty, like the one that read: "Squirrels against Goldberger using animal metaphors. How about cutting out the Aesop/Orwell stuff and just being creative?"

This demanded action. Dressed up as Teddy Roosevelt in an attempt to appear strong but just, and standing on the set of a train's rear platform that I hastily constructed on the back deck, I gave what has since become known as my Rodentia Whistle-Stop Speech.  It read:

"Ich bin ein squirrel. Thus, when in the course of squirrel events it becomes self-evident that a backyard divided cannot stand, let it be known that from here on in all squirrels, regardless of coat color, eyes, type of incisor and bushiness of tail, will be welcome to traverse freely across these henceforth borderless lands in the pursuit of tree climbing, running around like crazy with no apparent direction, burying and unearthing nuts, and whatever else isn't prohibited by the Constitution of the Backyard."

In reaction, the original Goldberger Squirrels, the ones claiming ancestry dating back to my purchase of the house, were miffed by my dictum. Thus they irrationally elected a new leader who ran on the campaign slogan, "Promise them anything, but give them Arpège," which actually still has a lot of political thinkers scratching their heads. Suffice it to note, he was mean and bad.

Now, it bears informing that much of what followed is uncertain in its details, and will imminently be thoroughly investigated by a panel of independent chipmunks. But it's definitely a conspiracy meant to undermine the peace, tranquility and high-minded principles that have long comprised the noble doctrine cherished and adhered to by my backyard's fauna.

It is not known who exactly the culprits are. However, leaks far more serious in nature than those that supplied my Oscar picks last year suggest that a splinter group of the Original Goldberger Squirrels, known as the Gray Supremacists, fomented the treachery. Suspiciously, it's this wing of the Original Squirrels most opposed to an investigation. One chipmunk, speaking on the condition of anonymity, quite succinctly noted, "It's all about the nuts. Follow the nuts."

Here's the theory. One member of this splinter group who, through treasonous plotting with known predators of squirrels on the promise of power and wealth, convinced a couple of his number to gnaw a hole beneath an eave of my house, allowing the squirrels to then occupy and stash their bounty within its walls. They noisily and cavalierly made their presence known. Note, this is an action strictly prohibited by the Geneva Convention, Article 1, Section 3: Squirrel Containment.

The plan was, as best can be discerned at this juncture, that I would think it was the now freely migrating squirrels who committed this most egregious violation of human-squirrel rules of sovereignty. What was hoped for by the Gray Supremacists, especially after I had a wall with a one-way door constructed over the gnawed hole, was that I would now build a great wall around the entire perimeter of the backyard to keep out all new squirrels. Then, after the conspirators were finished brainwashing the otherwise loyal Goldberger Squirrels and began systematically limiting their squirrel rights with a campaign of fascistic misinformation, the wall would serve to keep the now disenfranchised squirrels in. I have vowed there will be no wall. It would be nuts!

Needless to note, the squirrel community continues to be bitterly divided, each looking at the other group with trepidation and distrust. Now, I'm not sure who's responsible for this packet I've just received containing a list of every Academy Award winner for 2016, right down to sound mixing. But I assume it's the squirrels' way to curry favor, and yet another investigation will be necessary — after I've released my picks.

Of course, my choices will all be correct — big league. And, even if they're wrong, in tribute to the new doublespeak that's become so popular of late, I'll staunchly contend that I was right, claiming that those who voted for the Oscar winners were not really members of the Academy, but rather, fraudulent voters flown in in from Bad Foreign Backyards to diminish the greatness of my picks. I mean, what's the harm? It's just the Oscars. It isn't as if the future of Democracy itself was at stake.

Here are the winners:

Best Picture: "Moonlight."
Best Director: Barry Jenkins, "Moonlight."
Best Actor: Tie — Casey Affleck, "Manchester by the Sea," and Denzel Washington, "Fences."
Best Actress: Isabelle Huppert, "Elle."
Best Supporting Actor: Michael Shannon, "Nocturnal Animals."
Best Supporting Actress: Viola Davis, "Fences."
Best Song: "Audition (The Fools Who Dream)," "La La Land."
Best Animated Feature Film: "Moana."
Best Foreign Language Film: "Toni Erdmann."
Best Documentary Feature: "I Am Not Your Negro."
Best Original Screenplay: "20th Century Women."
Best Adapted Screenplay: "Moonlight."
Best Original Score: "La La Land."
Best Live Action Short Film: "Silent Nights."
Best Animated Short Film: "Pearl."
Best Documentary Short Subject: "Joe's Violin."
Best Film Editing: "Moonlight."
Best Cinematography: "Arrival."
Best Visual Effects: "Doctor Strange."
Best Production Design: "La La Land."
Best Makeup and Hairstyling: "Star Trek Beyond."
Best Costume Design: "Jackie."
Best Sound Editing: "Arrival."
Best Sound Mixing: "La La Land."

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