Oh, the beauty of the an illusion. Once you pull away the curtain you know exactly what’s standing there by now, right? Oz, the envisioned glory town, Kansas – the reality. Up in the Air writer Walter Kirn writes up his experience in 2009 brilliantly which I hope he’ll turn into a book – I advise you read the whole thing but I will just quote this bit:
The broadcast. I’d almost forgotten that’s what it was: an event in which the intended audience was elsewhere, in anonymous living rooms stocked with chips and wine. You knew this because of the time-outs for commercials that broke the show’s momentum every few minutes, reducing it to a series of short, lame bits that forced us—the supposed chosen ones, who were really just extras brought in to fill the shots—to cravenly, insincerely applaud a show that sucked even worse in real life than on television.
Television. That’s where I ended up watching most of it anyway, out in the lobby, on a set above the bar, where I kept getting stranded because the warning lights that signaled us to rush back and take our seats after each of the endless commercial breaks flashed faster than I could bother to move my legs. Plus, the show just looked better on screen, which allowed me to see into the front-row drama pit where Clooney and Baldwin were joshing with each other in a way that convinced me the Best Actor contest had already been decided in George’s favor. Meaning my favor, really.
But I was wrong. Six times in succession, the film I called “my movie” failed to gain the Academy’s approval. The first losses struck me as a direct rebuke, until I realized I needn’t take them personally, since they related to others’ failures, not mine. All I’ddone was pen the underlying material; what had appeared on screen was Hollywood’s fault. I did feel bad for Clooney, though. The junkets had endeared the guy to me. He’d hit on my girlfriend, which I took as a compliment. He’d refrained from sleeping with my girlfriend, which I counted as a favor. He’d gossiped with me about Sharon Stone and asked me the proper spelling of “mammal.”
The show ended suddenly, like its televised version, turning instantly back into a pumpkin. I shouldered past Miley Cyrus with my daughter, whose face had that sated, bored, post-birthday-party look. After forcing her to shake hands with Christopher Plummer—a scrapbook moment that I insisted she’d cherish later in life, when she realized who he was—we climbed back into the limo and drove away.
That night confirmed my suspicions: The heart of the matter with the Oscars, and with Hollywood generally, is that there is none. Just when you think you’ve reached the epicenter, the VIP room within the VIP room, a shift occurs, a reversal of perspective, and you find that you’re on the inside looking out with much the same sense of longing and displacement you felt when you were looking in. There’s always another, cooler party behind the next locked door.
I know. I was there. And I can’t wait to go back.