Call it Oscar fatigue. Emmy antipathy. burn out grammy
I’ve spent a good chunk of my professional life covering various awards shows and now I can hardly bear to watch them. There was just so much stress involved: the battle for credentials, the parking problems, rushed red carpet interviews, and brutal deadlines. Really, the best part about covering the awards ceremony was telling friends and family about it afterwards.
On Sunday, I won’t be upset about whether “Everything Everywhere at Once” will beat “Tár” for best picture. (It will.) Or if Jamie Lee Curtis finally gets the career respect she deserves in the form of a gold statuette. (Could be Kerry Condon’s year.)
My awards demonstrate the mantra: Just wake me up when it’s over.
Next Monday morning I’ll be watching slide shows of stick figures in beautiful dresses and laughing at the fashionistas proclaiming it The was the year of the décolleté, the color yellow or the return to elegance. As if the themes that pop up on the red carpet are more than mere coincidence and product placement for thirsty designers, who often pay a hefty price to get “worn out”.
I scan the list of winners, looking for just one film, the documentary Navalny, because an Oscar for best documentary could serve as a kind of life insurance policy for the anti-Putin dissident who is in prison while the Russian strongman it is trying to destroy him and the democratic movement he built. (The film is a compelling account of how Navalny, his colleagues and the incredible internet sleuths of Bellingcat identify and then confront the men who poisoned him with a nerve agent in 2020.)
It’s not often that Oscar wins are as dramatic as life and death, although winning awards can certainly decide a career, and the whole spectacle is a sub-industry unto itself. The show generates millions of dollars in the city treasury and advertising revenue for ABC. The studios are spending millions on lobbying in the run-up to Sunday. I respect that. I just don’t care anymore.
In 1985, I covered my first Academy Awards as a reporter for the Los Angeles Daily News. In a tiny lot rumored to be reserved for me, I squeezed onto the rope line in front of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, jostled by sharp-elbowed photographers, hoping to snag something more meaningful than a designer endorsement from the passing celebrities. (Although, to be honest, “Who are you wearing?” was a practical question if you couldn’t think of anything else to ask.)
I’ve been outside the Oscars auditorium and inside the Oscars auditorium, outside the Governor’s Ball and inside, outside the Vanity Fair party and inside where reporters were forbidden to carry notebooks and forced to run to the bathroom to Write down things they did not want to forget.
At the 2006 party, I sat next to Russell Simmons, who was smoking a joint, and turned away abruptly when I identified myself. I met Jacqueline Bisset in the bathroom. Near a bar, I stood next to Michelle Williams, who was disgusted by lollipop party favors with the face of then-underage Dakota Fanning. “This is almost pornographic!” Williams yelled at the thought of people sucking Dakota’s face.
I attended the first post-#MeToo Oscars in 2018, when Hollywood was still in shock and just beginning to come to terms with its knee-jerk protection of powerful men who misbehaved very, very badly. The city was still in a state of moral confusion.
After all, Kobe Bryant won an Oscar this year for his short film Dear Basketball, despite being accused of raping a woman in Colorado in 2003. (The charges were dropped when the victim, whose life was threatened and who had attempted suicide, stopped cooperating with prosecutors. Bryant issued a public apology to her.)
But just a year earlier, writer/director/actor Nate Parker was snubbed for his remake of The Birth of a Nation. Parker’s film was a sensation at the Sundance Film Festival, and at a time when the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite was going viral, the film’s and its writer’s success was seen as an important corrective. “Birth” should be a big Oscar contender. In interviews for the film, Parker admitted that he was accused of rape while a student at Penn State in 1999; he was acquitted. But Parker was branded as being unduly defensive after it was revealed the alleged victim had died by suicide in 2012. Hollywood avoided him; the film sank almost without a trace.
In my view, Bryant’s Oscar win, coupled with Parker’s bizarre rejection, is a shining example of Hollywood hypocrisy.
This unfortunate trait was evident even after last year’s infamous slap, when Will Smith took offense at Chris Rock’s joke about his wife Jada Pinkett Smith and took to the stage midway through the ceremony to attack the host. I was stunned by the number of people who apologized for Smith’s reprehensible behavior.
Dramatic, unscripted moments like these can turn a boring event into a spectacle. Before the slap, of course, there was the kiss.
Both were acts of aggression, although the wide-awake audience at the 2003 Oscars didn’t seem to perceive the full-body hug Adrien Brody forced on Halle Berry as a moral breach.
“I bet you didn’t know that was part of the gift bag,” Brody joked, as if Berry was the equivalent of a gift certificate for Spago. For her part, Berry looked stunned.
I remember that evening at the editorial office enthusiastic page designers and editors decided to blow up the photo for the cover of the calendar section. It was definitely the most dramatic picture of the evening.
Berry later said it was a shock. She went with it, she told an interviewer, but her main reaction was, “What… happens?”
Later I got the feeling that we had upgraded a form of attack.
Sunday night I’ll be sitting at home in front of a fire and probably watching a movie. Good luck to all the nominees, but especially to the reporters, editors and photographers who are facing their impossible deadlines. I wouldn’t trade with you for anything.