The Hollywood awards season coming to a close for the year. After months of campaigning, press tours and precursors ladled out by everyone from the National Board of Review and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (otherwise known as those weirdos responsible for the Golden Globes) to the Screen Actors’/Directors’/Writers’/[insert other random film industry profession here] Guilds and the recent BAFTAs, we’re finally approaching the queen bee of awards ceremonies: the Oscars. The star-studded, at least three-hour-long event will be held tonight at the Dolby Theater in Los Angeles at 7:00 PM EST. For those who follow or are involved in these sorts of things, the arrival of the Academy Awards will probably come as something as a relief, the end of an exhausting and seemingly endless process that began in October with the announcement of the Gotham Independent Film Award nominees and that, by the end, will have spanned roughly five months; if you really want to get into it, awards season arguably starts in January of each year with the Sundance Film Festival.
There was a time when I followed the movie awards season with an obsessiveness that I now mostly devote to baseball, spending hours on end scouring the Internet for even the most trivial bit of news and memorizing useless facts (can you name every Best Picture winner since 1988? ‘Cause I still can). I paid attention to the film festival circuit, watching eagerly to see which movies garnered the praise and buzz needed to propel them into the front of the Oscar race and which ones would be worth catching in theaters whenever they eventually arrived. I kept up with the latest “expert” prognostications from Variety, Entertainment Weekly, The Hollywood Reporter, Indiewire.com and all those other entertainment magazines and websites, and I read about the controversies and industry politics. I even used to come up with my own awards predictions, sometimes months in advance, and to argue about all these things on Internet message boards. Long story short, I was a total nerd.
I’ve gotten beyond that phase now, though it’s not because I have any more of a life (trust me, I really, really don’t); I just channel all that pointless geekiness in different directions. Let’s face it: the Oscars are a glorified celebrity ass-kissing party masquerading as an important, prestigious celebration of film. The amount of time, money, hype and effort that so many people put into this self-indulgent event, and the fact that an entire industry still essentially revolves around it, is rather incredible. Besides, the awards season often seems to contain as much political maneuvering as actual political campaigns, complete with studio-paid For Your Consideration ads, special screenings and luncheons for Academy voters and press tours filled with magazine covers, interviews and talk show appearances. It’s a media circus that renders the whole affair a cynical publicity stunt and undercuts the idea that the Oscars are supposed to be about artistic merit and achievement.