Circus-like nature of Oscars
When the big stars started to arrive, the noise from the bleachers is deafening. Movie fans of all ages lose all self-control, frantically waving and squealing with excitement. Everyone cranes their neck, to see who's on their way. The bigger the roar, the bigger the celebrity.
Nothing could have prepared me for the intensity and circus-like nature of the Red Carpet at the Academy Awards in Hollywood. Complete and utter mayhem.
On one side of the red carpet were 300 over-excited members of the public sitting in the bleachers, who hit the big time when they were picked from an online lottery. They started arriving about 7 hours before the celebrities, armed with digital cameras, food and water, paper and pens for autographs and a voice ready to yell. On the other side of the carpet were dozens of media crews, packed in like sardines running the length of the carpet. The cameramen and reporters were armed with lights, microphones, spray tans, dazzling pearly white smiles and firm elbows to push aside the nearby competition, in the jostle for celebrities' attention.
When the big stars started to arrive, the noise from the bleachers is deafening. Movie fans of all ages lose all self-control, frantically waving and squealing with excitement. Everyone cranes their neck, to see who's on their way. The bigger the roar, the bigger the celebrity. The publicists are in overdrive, cherry picking which TV stations they want their client to appear on. Two minutes here, five minutes here. No darling, don’t worry about them, they’re not American that's an overseas network. Keep moving, sweetie. A velvet rope separates the red carpet into two lanes. The A-listers on the left, closest to the TV cameras. The B to D-listers closer to the public. I spotted many people on the far side wistfully staring at the A-list lane, no doubt dreaming of the day they get to cross over. It takes a full 3 hours for everyone to move down the red carpet and make their way inside.
Then it's show time.
All of Hollywood had been talking up two movies: Avatar and The Hurt Locker. David and Goliath. The blockbuster and the independent. No-one could deny that James Cameron had taken movie-making to a whole new level, with his 3D spectacular. And the $2-billion in worldwide ticket sales make it the most successful movie of all time – nothing to sneeze at. But there was definitely a groundswell of support for Kathryn Bigelow's heart-stopping film about US soldiers in Iraq. It cost $15-million to make and brought in around $18-million in the cinemas. Not exactly a financial winner. There was a great sense of anticipation leading up to the ceremony.
In addition, there was a delicious sub-story of the directors' personal lives. Cameron and Bigelow were married for two years in the 1990s. They both insist they're still friends with no animosity. But who can resist a tale that includes the battle of the exes?
The night truly belonged to The Hurt Locker. It seemed it was heading that way early on, when The Hurt Locker won the first three of the head-to-head awards, Film Editing, Sound Editing and Sound Mixing. Historically, the movie which wins Best Film Editing goes on to win Best Picture. Avatar made up some ground when it won Best Cinematography, Art Direction and Cinematography. But the big two – Best Director and Best Picture – went to the war movie. It was a popular choice in the media room and in the audience.
There were no surprises in the acting categories: Christoph Waltz, Mo’Nique, Jeff Bridges and Sandra Bullock were all favourites.
The backstage Press Interview room is a really fun place to be on Oscars night. The winners come out - clutching their gold statues to their chest, looking shell-shocked and overwhelmed by the occasion - and answer questions from the media. It's pretty raw and honest, and there's no orchestra counting down the seconds, just waiting to cut them off mid-way through their answer. Mo'Nique, who won Best Supporting Actress for her role in "Precious", took control of the room and had the reporters howling with laughter. She's a stand up comedian and is clearly used to being in charge, calling everyone "sugar" or "baby" and giving cheeky, direct answers. It's a unique way of seeing these movie industry players and a great sideshow to the more formal ceremony.
The red carpet at the end of the evening bears no resemblance to the hysteria at the beginning. It's sedate and calm. The public have gone home, most of the camera crews are packing up their equipment. The losers walk out of the Kodak Theatre with their heads hanging low – most notably those nominated from Up In The Air and Inglorious Basterds – and no-one bats an eyelid. They’re the same movie stars they were a few hours ago. But no-one cares anymore; the 2010 Oscars race is over. Better luck next time.