The Valley Line: Evenings of Oscars, gowns, books and writers

The “Big Show” — the one I wait for each year — has come and gone. It was Oscar night. Each year I invite my best girlfriends over for snacks, sips and gown-watching as the Academy Awards are handed out.

Well, it wasn’t the best fashion night, as far as I was concerned. There just wasn’t enough of a “wow factor.” However, J-Lo has sparked some controversy. Was there, or wasn’t there, a wardrobe malfunction?

I was thrilled to see that the Scripter Award winners, Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, took home the Oscar for their adapted screenplay for “The Descendants.” It was an exciting double victory for them.

I really got a laugh during their acceptance speech Oscar night when Rash did a parody of Angelina Jolie’s leg pose on stage.


An exciting pre-Oscar event took place in the historic Edward L. Doheny Jr. Memorial Library on the USC Campus Feb. 18.

The event was the 24th annual Scripter award, presented by the Friends of the USC Libraries. The award honors each year’s best cinematic adaptation of the written word. Scripter is the only award of its kind that honors screenwriters, as well as the author of the work upon which the adaptation is based.

More than 300 guests, all dressed formally, first gathered in the marble-clad library’s foyer and passed around hors d’oeuvres and cocktails. There was a buzz in the air and speculation about which of the five nominated films, their authors and screenwriters, would be named the Scripter winners.

Also lending a sprinkling of movie stardust to the event was filmmaker Taylor Hackford, a 1967 grad of USC, and his wife Academy Award winning actress Helen Mirren. They were honorary chairs of the dinner. They stepped to the podium to share there own love for the power of books and films.

The winners of the Scripter are Kaui Hart Hemmings, author of the book, “The Descendants,” and screenwriters Nat Faxon, Alexander Payne and Jim Rash, for the film of the same name. Payne, who also directed the film, was unable to attend the award ceremony, but Faxon and Rash were there to take their bows.

“An adaptation can sometimes bring so many more readers that I never would have had, and to have those readers say that they love both the book and the film, and that they work so well together, is such a blessing,” Hemmings said about her book.

Rash, one of the trio of screenwriters, said in his acceptance speech, “This is such a wonderful honor, and to be part of something that celebrates and puts books on a pedestal. None of this would have been possible without Kaui’s wonderful book. It was such a wonderful journey for us to fall in love with the book and have the opportunity to turn it into the film.”

“The Descendants” was named the best drama of the year at the Golden Globes and was nominated for five Academy Awards, including best adapted screenplay.

The dinner was held in the Times Mirror Reference Room of the library and diners were surrounded by walls of books, many with embossed gold titles that shimmered in the dim light of the room.

Catherine Quinn, dean of the USC Libraries, welcomed guests from the podium at the front of the room. She said, “By joining us tonight, you are supporting our work to provide excellent library collections that will inspire creativity and discovery among the students, faculty and staff of this great university. It is impossible to have a great university without a great library and I thank you for contributing to the excellence of our libraries at USC.”

Quinn then introduced Paul Haggis, screenwriter, producer, and director, as the 2012 Scripter Literary Achievement Award winner.

Haggis is the recipient of two Academy Awards; one for his original screenplay for the 2005 film “Crash,” and the other as a producer of the same film. He was also nominated in 2006 for his adapted screenplay for “Million Dollar Baby,” and in 2007 for his original screenplay for “Letter from Iwo Jima,” (co-written with Iris Yamasgita.) In 2006, he won the Scripter Award for “Million Dollar Baby.”

In his acceptance speech, Haggis said,

“You have to be a little emotionally unstable to be in this kind of profession — it’s a ridiculous profession, writing.”

Haggis continued, “I’m trying to learn the lesson my parents taught me: to encourage your children to … take on ridiculous challenges, choose ridiculous careers. Only by doing that do they really have a chance to be great.”

Quinn then introduced co-chairs for the evening, Naomi Foner and Howard Rodman. They, in turn, introduced the nominated films of the evening: “A Dangerous Method,” “The Descendants,” “Jane Eyre,” “Moneyball” and “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.”

Also recognized that evening was Glenn Sonnenberg, president of the Friends of the USC Libraries and co-founder of USC Libraries Scripter Award in 1988.

It was a beautifully presented evening of fine food prepared by Peggy Dark and the Kitchen for Exploring Foods. Stunningly beautiful floral arrangements of white French tulips, hydrangeas and roses adorned the long dining tables.

A jazz combo, made up of students from the USC School of Music, entertained guests as they dined, and later, as guests gathered in the lounge to celebrate the university, the awardees, books and films. At the post-party I was introduced to a fellow resident of the Foothills, Stephen Greenfield, a USC alum who is president of Write Brothers Software for Writers. He and his wife, who are new to our neighborhood, enjoy living in our beautiful community.

Other locals I chatted with that night were Patsy Dewey, Sue and Jim Stauffer, Jill Wondries and Janet and Frank McNeff.

It was a magnificent evening.

JANE NAPIER NEELY covers the La Cañada social scene. Email her at

Copyright © 2018, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad