The Wire Oscars: The Best Movies We Sort Of (Not Really) Made Happen

Who needs the Academy? Here are the best movies that we personally had a hand in making (or accidentally stumbled on to the filming of.)

This article is from the archive of our partner .

We could not believe our ears when we heard the Academy Award nominations this morning. "Meryl Streep again? " No Tom Hanks?! But the worst snub of all? Not one member of The Wire staff was nominated for an Oscar despite our extensive backgrounds in movie production.

You may not know this, but we at The Wire are kind of a big deal, Hollywood-connections-wise. We're known to hobnob with the stars and turn down high-paying roles because they don't fit our artistic visions. In fact, most of us have been personally involved in the filming of some of Tinseltown's greatest masterpieces.

But who needs the Academy, right? We're going to announce our own nominations, right here, right now,  Here are the best movies that we personally had a hand in making (or accidentally stumbled on to the filming of in our hometowns.)

We're not interested in anything unverified, so we're picking through the (very, very broad) pool of excellent films we have personally witnessed being filmed. Or heard about being filmed. Or accidentally walked onto the set of. Or been asked to partake in as a featured extra. Basically, if we have witnessed (or know someone who witnessed) in some way, the creation of the film, it's in the running.

Everyone says that just being nominated is an honor, but here at The Wire we're taking that useless sentiment to the next level because there are no nominees at all! Every one one of these films is a winner, plain and simple. Enjoy your fake awards, everyone!

And The Wire Oscar goes to....

Best Costume Design: Liam Neeson, A Walk Among the Tombstones

A Walk Among Tombstones is the movie I watched Liam Neeson film across the street from my apartment for two whole days. It's not out yet. The scene I saw them film involved Liam Neeson walking into the front door of an apartment building. Then he walked out of that same apartment building. I watched them film these two scenes, over and over again, for the better part of a day, from my 2nd floor Hell's Kitchen apartment. It was absolutely riveting. Liam Neeson is wearing the cardigan to end all cardigans in this shot, so when you see the movie, look for that. An intense, cardigan-wearing Liam Neeson, walking into an apartment building. - Joe Reid

Best "Comedy": Son in Law 

When my wife was in middle school in California, a location scout figured that her next-door neighbor's house would be the perfect place to film a movie about how Pauly Shore tricks a young woman's family into thinking he's not a bizarre idiot. My wife's house got the better end of the deal, though: in exchange for allowing the catering set-up on their property, they got to help themselves.
So that was how she spent a week (which she took off school): watching Pauly Shore run around doing his thing, snacking on Hollywood food, and so on. The apex, though, was when she got to be on-screen.
There's one scene, as any fervent Son In Law fan remembers, where Shore and his love interest attend a barn dance. There, in the background, you can see my wife. She's in the picture below, or you can see her at about the 1:15 mark in the movie's trailer. They had to find a particularly short cowboy-type to dance with her; after all, she was 12.

Otherwise the movie is terrible and you shouldn't watch it. - Philip Bump 

Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy About Kids and Prostitutes: Some Third Grader

When I was in the third grade, we moved from Northridge, Calif. to Huntington Beach, Calif. I didn't have many friends, because I was kind of shy. I was also an ugly kid. My teeth looked like as if they were allergic to my lips. But there was one kid who became my friend instantly. His name was Michael Carter. He was really nice to me, and played soccer with me. I had heard he was an actor.  Then, one day, he just stopped showing up to class.

I would later find out that he was one of the boys in Milk Money, the heartwarming tale of three suburban boys who raised/saved enough money to procure a lady of the night so that they could see her naked. 

That was not my only brush with fame. The girl who played Heidi in that Disney movie and Dylan's little sister in 90210 went to my school too. She wasn't my friend. I was still freaky-looking. —Alex Abad-Santos

Best 1990s Period Piece: You've Got Mail

Growing up in Manhattan, I got to do a lot of really cool things, like wait outside a brownstone on the Upper West Side for hours, hoping to get a glimpse of huge stars who I had never heard of like Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. The stars were filming You've Got Mail just a few blocks away from where I went to middle school, so I joined a (small number) of fans trying to spot the starring actors. I think the scene in question was one where Tom is romantically waiting outside Meg's door, but I'm not entirely sure. I'm not even totally sure that scene happened. But I do remember standing across the street from some men operating high-wattage lights shining into a window, where, presumably Meg Ryan was acting inside, and some men were pointing cameras at Tom Hanks, I think, who was standing outside the steps.

The nice thing about You've Got Mail, for me, is that it actually does capture the neighborhood I grew up in, so it will always hold a special place in my heart. I also later worked for AOL, so there's that. - Danielle Wiener-Bronner  

Best Non-Visible Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis, The Ballad of Jack and Rose 

Shortly after Daniel Day-Lewis emerged from his self-imposed exile to star in Gangs of New York and before he won another Best Actor for There Will Be Blood, Mr. Day-Lewis starred in a small 2005 indie drama that literally no one saw. This movie, The Ballad of Jack and Rose, despite having a cast that today would instantly make movie bloggers drool (Jason Lee, Jena Malone, Catherine Keener, and a pre-Blood Paul Dano), was filmed around the corner from my house. 

This is significant because I grew up in Prince Edward Island, Canada, a small province — the smallest province, actually — on the east coast, where movies are not filmed. (Think of a place slightly bigger than Rhode Island, but smaller than Delaware.) Especially movies starring all-time greats like Daniel Day-Motherflipping-Lewis. Hey, 2005, it was a weird time. But the producers thought they found the perfect place in my sleepy Charlottetown neighborhood — a dark, spooky old-timey Victorian house with long porches and a lawn filled with birch trees. I'm fairly certain it was the house that had the best Halloween decorations every year and gave out full chocolate bars. It was a perfectly fine house.
They held open auditions for locals to work as extras in the movie. You could meet Oscar winner Daniel Day-Lewis! Or Jason Lee, who starred in Kevin Smith movies and also a few skateboarding movies, and who, at 15 years old, was why I auditioned. That guy who fish-hooked people in that bad Scorcese movie? Blech. At the time I was on the tail end of my lucrative acting career, which included many local musical theater productions and one full season on and educational Canadian kids television show. I was a star. I was a sure thing.
I did not get to work as an extra near Jason Lee, or Daniel Day-Lewis. We did watch from my best friend's driveway to see if we could see anybody famous. We never did, of course, but I think one of my friends saw Jason Lee downtown. No one ever saw Daniel Day-Lewis. He probably wanted it that way. - Connor Simpson

Best Singer Playing an Actor: Justin Timberlake, Runner, Runner
Last year at Princeton, I got the chance to watch Justin Timberlake play the most convincing 30-year-old college student when Runner, Runner was filmed on campus. The early scenes of the movie were filmed the day winter break started, and a few of us were still around, so we poked our heads into the area. The scene was pretty straightforward, as Timberlake and Ben Schwartz walked up the street right along campus, talking about poker playing or Ben Affleck or something. I don't know, I never saw the movie. Sometime during the two hours it took to film the scene, I snuck into the corner of the university store and got a clear line of view at the actors through the glass windows.

Yeah, we totes made eye contact. I felt it. Here's the door as seen in the movie (or the trailer at least), just to the left and behind Schwartz's big head.

There's a possibility that you can see me through the window from another camera angle, but, again, I haven't seen it so I don't know. The movie didn't do so hot, and The Wire's former entertainment guru Richard Lawson didn't think Timberlake was much of an actor, but I was there. I saw what I saw. True genius. Give that man a (Wire) Oscar. - Eric Levenson

Best Sentimental Drama: Charlie's War

When my mom was selling her house in the country outside Nashville, one day a guy in a Hawaiian shirt and sunglasses drove up and asked if she would consider letting it be used as a movie set. My mom assumed it was a porn, but in fact, it was Charlie's War (not Charlie Wilson's War). It's kind of a Fried Green Tomatoes-style thing where women come together in the bonds of sisterhood and kill a pedophile and hide his body. The cast includes Olympia Dukakis, Lynn Redgrave, and Oprah's dad. It's not very good.

But Charlie's War was the biggest thing in our small town that year, so neighbors were constantly scheming to get on set. One day my mom had been away from the house for several hours, and when she returned, one of the movie people said, "We met your mother today!" Which slightly creeped out my mom, because my grandmother had been dead for 10 years. It was not a ghost, just a crazy local. - Elspeth Reeve 

Best Short Film: Music Video for "Flags on the Christmas Tree," by Leeland Martin

Once you get known as someone who doesn't freak out over entertainment people, they come back to you again and again. So after Charlie's War, our house was used for a few music videos. "Flags on the Christmas Tree" is the most 2003-ish song ever made. It's a country song about loving the troops at Christmas made right in the middle of Iraq War mania. ("Well I never had to fight for my country, like my grandpa so bravely did / But I respect the things that he taught me, and I'll pass them on to my kids.") You can see some of my relatives in the sepia-toned photos of military heroes that decorate the house.  - Elspeth Reeve 

Best Miserably Dated Nineties Campus Satire: PCU

Okay, I'm cheating: I didn't see this movie being filmed. I was only three at the time, anyway, and far more concerned with 101 Dalmatians and Lady & the Tramp.

I did, though, later end up attending Wesleyan University, where the film's writers had gone and where they found direct inspiration for their goofily dated depiction of PC culture and campus slacktivism gone horribly awry. To most viewers it's a forgotten Animal House send-off most notable for the young Jeremy Piven it stars, but to Wesleyan students, it's like the long-tail Buzzfeed list of nineties cinema: You're totally in on the joke, even if you know it's a cheap and insular one.
So as a freshman, I was thrilled to find myself living in the dorm that pops up in the movie's opening sequence (the rest of the film was filmed in Toronto, probably for money reasons), and I was curious to find how the film resonated on campus 15 years later. (Turns out no one really gets the joke when you refer to a frat as "The Pit" or ask where the Bisexual Asian Studies Building is.) Digging through newspaper archives, I did learn that a 1994 screening of the film on campus resulted in somewhat of a riot, and when I interviewed a former president of the college, he told me that he told the filmmakers in person that their movie sucked.
If you're out there, Adam Leff and Zak Penn, I promise not to insult your masterpiece. Please say there's a 20th anniversary deluxe DVD set in the works? - Zach Schonfeld

Best Use of a Season in a Title: Autumn in New York
One day, many years ago, I was walking through Central Park in fall, when off in the distance I spotted an attractive couple that looked suspiciously like Richard Gere and Winona Ryder. Then I realized it was Richard Gere and and Winona Ryder. They were a few hundred yards away and a few people were following them around with a camera. Excited at my first opportunity to see a real life Hollywood magic in person, I stopped and watched the proceedings. Then a guy wearing a headset stepped out from behind a tree and told me I couldn't stand there. I never saw the movie. -Dashiell Bennett
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.