Call it Oscar burnout. Emmy dislike. The Grammy sold out.
I have spent a large chunk of my professional life covering various awards shows and now I can barely stand to watch them. There was always so much stress: the scramble for credentials, parking hassles, rushed red carpet interviews and brutal deadlines. Really, the best part of covering the awards show was telling his friends and family afterwards.
On Sunday, I won’t be concerned with whether “Everything Everywhere All at Once” wins the “Tár” for best picture. (It will.) Or if Jamie Lee Curtis will finally get the career respect she deserves in the form of a golden statuette. (This could be Kerry Condon’s year.)
My awards show mantra: Just wake me up when it’s over.
Come Monday morning, I’ll watch slideshows of stick figures in gorgeous outfits and laugh at the fashionistas who proclaim it This it was the year of cleavage, the color yellow or the return to elegance. As if the themes that appear on the red carpet are more than mere coincidence and product placement for thirsty designers who often pay a heavy price to “wear.”
I’ll scan the list of winners based on just one film, the documentary “Navalny,” because a Best Documentary Oscar can serve as a kind of life insurance for the anti-Putin dissident, who sits in jail as the Russian strongman tries to destroy him and the democratic movement he built. (The film is a riveting account of how Navalny, his colleagues, and the incredible Bellingcat Internet technicians identify and then confront the men who poisoned him with a nerve agent in 2020.)
It’s not often that the stakes at the Oscars are as dramatic as life and death, though winning awards can certainly make or break a career, and the entire spectacle is a sub-industry in itself. The show brings in millions of dollars for city coffers and advertising revenue for ABC. Studios spend millions lobbying ahead of 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. I roped myself out of Dorothy Chandler’s booth into a tiny piece of real estate she’d supposedly reserved for me, jostled by sharp-elbowed photographers, hoping to get something more substantial than a designer endorsement from the celebs they’re scanning. (Though to be honest, “Who are you wearing?” was a pretty handy question if you couldn’t think of anything else to ask.)
I’ve been out of the Oscars and into the Oscars, out of the Governor’s Ball and in, out of the Vanity Fair party and in, where reporters were banned from carrying notebooks and forced to run to the bathroom to write down what they did i don’t want to forget
At the party in 2006, I sat next to Russell Simmons, who was smoking a joint and abruptly turned away when I recognized myself. I fell into Jacqueline Bichet in the toilet. Near a bar, I stood next to Michelle Williams, who was mesmerized by lollipop favors with the face of a then-teenage Dakota Fanning. “This is almost pornographic!” Williams exclaimed at the thought of people sucking little Dakota’s face.
I was at the first post-#MeToo Oscars in 2018, when Hollywood was still in shock and just beginning to deal with its reflexive protection of powerful men behaving very, very badly. The city was still in a state of moral confusion.
After all, that year he presented an Oscar to Kobe Bryant for the short “Dear Basketball,” despite being accused of raping a woman in Colorado in 2003. (The charges were dropped when the victim, whose life had been threatened and attempted suicide, she stopped cooperating with prosecutors. Bryant publicly apologized to her.)
But just a year before that, 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 had gone viral, the success of the film and its writer was seen as a major correction. “Birth” was supposed to be a major Oscar contender. In interviews for the film, Parker acknowledged that he had been accused of rape in 1999 while a student at Penn State. he was acquitted. But Parker was inappropriately defensive after news broke that the alleged victim had killed himself in 2012. Hollywood shunned him. the film sank with almost a trace.
In my view, Bryant’s Oscar triumph along with Parker’s strange cancellation is a shining example of Hollywood hypocrisy.
This unfortunate quality also surfaced after last year’s infamous slapstick, when Will Smith was offended by Chris Rock’s joke about his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, and took to the stage in the middle of the ceremony to attack the host. I was amazed at the number of people who made excuses for Smith’s reprehensible behavior.
Dramatic, unscripted moments like this can turn a boring event into a spectacle. Before the Slap, of course, there was the Kiss.
Both were acts of aggression, although the memorable 2003 Oscars audience didn’t seem to perceive Adrien Brody’s full-body hug on Halle Berry as a moral violation.
“Bet you didn’t know that was part of the gift bag,” Brody joked, as if Berry was the equivalent of a Spago gift certificate. Berry, for her part, looked surprised.
In the newsroom that night, I remember excited designers and page editors who decided to blow up the photo for the cover of the Diary section. It was definitely the most dramatic image of the evening.
Berry later said it was a shock. She went through with it, she told an interviewer, but her main reaction was “what the… is going on?”
Later, I realized that we had exploited a form of attack.
Sunday afternoon I’ll be at home, in front of the fire, probably watching a movie. Good luck to all applicants, but especially to the reporters, editors and photographers facing their impossible deadlines. I wouldn’t trade places with you for anything.