A highly dubious source confided this morning that a secret high-level meeting of Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences bigwigs happened two nights ago at Kate Mantilini. I wasn’t able to verify if Academy president Tom Sherak, COO Ric Robertson, and CEO Dawn Hudson actually met at 10:30 pm in a rear booth. I’ve only been told that a conversation might have unfolded as follows:

Sherak: I know it’s late, but thanks for coming, guys. (To waiter) I’ll have a Chardonnay and a bowl of whatever the soup is. What’s the special?

Waiter: Split pea with ham chunks.

Sherak: Uggh! I hate split pea.

Waiter: And also tomato basil, chicken noodle and gazpacho.

Robertson: That sounds good.

Sherak: Tomato. I’ll have the tomato.

Hudson: And I’ll just have a Merlot, thanks. So what’s up, Tom?

Sherak: Well, first of all, this meeting isn’t happening because we really can’t discuss what I’m about to bring up. But I feel we need to at least broach the subject.

Hudson: Is this about the 2013 telecast date?

Sherak: That’s for later. I’m talking about the Academy’s reputation in general, and Jean Dujardin‘s Best Actor chances in particular. Dujardin’s SAG award win last Sunday means he’s got a pretty good shot at winning the Best Actor Oscar, and that means The Artist will have a three-Oscar sweep — Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor.

Robertson: That’s bad?

Hudson: I love The Artist. It’s perfect.

Sherak: Me too! I’m easy. It’s fine. But it’s a very soft movie, and this looks to me like another Oscar watershed year — a year in which the honorable Academy membership will affirm its shallowness like they did when they gave the Best Picture Oscar to Driving Miss Daisy in ’89 and The Greatest Show on Earth in ’52 and Around the Wrold in Eighty Days in ’56. Its one of “those years” that will leave a lasting mark, and I’m thinking that’s not good at this stage of the game. Younger audiences see the Academy as a bunch of dilletantes with laughably mediocre taste.

Robertson: People have been taking shots at the Oscars for years. Goes with the territory.

Sherak: Yeah, but it’s worse now. We’re under siege. We have to protect the brand and stand for something besides flabby emotional consensus choices among the Boomer and older GenX lightweights. I’m thinking 10 or 20 years down the road. It’s a matter of honor, of values and of organizational integrity. The Artist is nice movie, but this is embarassing.

Robertson: What can we do? You can’t mandate good taste.

Hudson: I love The Artist! And the dog…what’s his name? Poochie?

Robertson: Uggie.

Hudson: Huggie?

Robertson: Uggie, like the boots. (to Sherak) What are you thinking?

Sherak: What I’m thinking about is something I haven’t been thinking about, if you catch my drift. I know there’s no stopping The Artist or Michel Azzanavasheetos.

Hudson: Vasheetos?

Robertson: Pete Hammond says it rhymes with Dr. Seuss, but Sid Vicious is the safest way to go.

Sherak: So there’s no stopping Sid Vicious. But I’m not comfortable with Dujardin winning Best Actor. He just grins and tap dances and mugs and doesn’t shave in Act Three when his career goes south. We’re talking privately here, and I’m telling you there’s no honor in Dujardin winning. If it happens it’ll be seen as a concession to all the things I’m worried about…all the things that people seem to despise the Academy for. George Clooney or Brad Pitt or Gary Oldman winning, fine. I like Oldman, if you wanna know. Pitt is a happy man, and George is loved by everyone. He’ll be nominated again in a year or two.

Hudson: I love Jean’s moustache. And he’s so charming in person!

Robertson: What can we do about it, Tom?

Sherak: Nothing. Obviously. I guess I’m just venting. I want somebody else to win Best Actor and I wish I could do something to help bring that about.

Hudson: We’ll be fine. It’s going to be a great show.

Sherak: The show will be fine. I’m not talking about the show. I’m thinking about our brand, about our future.

Robertson: I’m afraid we can only do, absurdly, what has been given to us to do. Right to the end.

Explanation & apology: I don’t know what happened but somehow an earlier version of this post disappeared. I managed to find the coded version but the comments were lost.