This Sunday I will be celebrating the 20th time that I watch the Academy Awards Ceremony, more widely known as the Oscars! And before you start you own oscar-count and abridge my accomplishment, let me just mention that I am just turning 30 this year -making me only 11 years old in the distant 1995 when I first saw the Oscars- and that living in Greece means that the Oscars are broadcasted at 03:30 am!
Having said that, and on the occasion of this year’s ceremony, I will attempt to present oscar history through the perspective of my sleepless nights of the last 20 years!
You always remember your first time!
It is 1995 and it is an amazing year for films! Forrest Gump, Pulp Ficiton, Four Weddings & a Funeral, The Shawshank Redemption, Bullets Over Boradway, The Quiz Show! However the only film I had watched at the time was Forrest Gump. therefore as an 11-year-old boy I watch the oscars wishing every golden statue ends up in the hands of someone involved with this film, while all the other titles sounded to me strange and unfamiliar, equated in my mind with the villain of a fairy tale that must be defeated!
Next year, 1996, is the personal triumph of Mel Gibson with his Braveheart, but still fascinated with Tom Hanks and space I keep up the same motif, cheering for one film only: Apollo 13! It would be about a decade later that I realised that Massimo Troisi and the outstanding Il Postino were nominated in that very same year. These first couple of broadcasts were very odd. Cable TV was not yet introduced in Greece, so the ceremony was televised the following day squeezed in a show just over an hour, presenting only the glamorous awards and mentioning the rest during the end credits!
The first all-nighter and the fortunate event of a bank holiday
As of 1998 the Oscars have been broadcasted live from the cable channel of Novacinema. And that year was the first time I fully understood the extent of an Academy Awards Ceremony: approximately 5 hours of ponderous awards starting at 03:30am, endless thank you speeches and live performances of the nominated songs, followed by 30 minutes of the important staff of performance, directing and best picture oscars!
The unfortunate fact was that the ceremony was finishing around 08:30 to 09:00 o’clock in the morning at the time, a little bit later than school starting time! The fortunate event was that the ceremony was always held around the 25th of March, which is Independence Day for Greece and schools are on a bank holiday! In the seldom case that school was on, I had parental approval to miss an hour! After all, art comes first!
So the routine those years had as following: going to bed around 21:00 o’clock, setting two alarm clocks, a regular one and the kitchen timer counting down just in case, in order to wake up in time -at the age of 14, staying up all night and the next day without any sleep was not an option- getting comfortable in the couch with a cup of hot cocoa and count the moments:
+ Titanic winning 11 oscars, tying the record of Ben Hur, – Gwyneth Paltrow winning for Shakespear in Love, + Jack being always the coolest guy in the room, + Matt Damon & Ben Affleck unpretentious win reaction, -/+ Russel Crowe and Denzel Washington winning the oscar for the wrong performance, + the irresistible smile of Julia Roberts, – Gangs of New York leaving empty-handed despite 10 nods, – Lord of the Rings winning every oscar, + the hilarious moment of Roberto Benigni.
Group therapy and the years of the list!
In 2005, almost a senior in my media studies, I am preparing for my 10th ceremony and discussing the year’s film production with R. over coffee. R. and I know each other from school, both passionate about films. What I didn’t know was that, just like me, she stays up for the oscars along with her friends since for ever! And just like that my lonely oscar nights became an annual group gathering of endless debates!
Along the oscar group therapy, came my printable oscar ballot, a home-made list of all the categories, on which everyone marked their predictions and at the end of the night we crowned the one with the most wins! And if you think that this is easy for the major categories, imagine the moments where we predicted the winners for the animated short just by the name of film or the bizarre haircut of the nominee!
R., X., M. and I were the regulars, among friends, who shared and argued over Hugh Jackman’s -all time best- opening act, the surprise win of Crash, the cocky acceptance speech of Hellen Mirren, the moving moment of Heath Ledger’s posthumously win, R. celebrating like crazy when Cotillard won for La Vie en Rose, the intolerable and awkward hosting by Anne Hathaway & James Franco, Natalie Portman’s great performance in Black Swan, the greek from Alexander Payne!
Missing one, travelling for one and the 2014 one!
Since 1998, I have never missed a ceremony except once! It was 2008 and I was serving my last months in the Greek Navy. The ceremony had already moved to the end of February, and once I got the monthly schedule, I put myself in a vain race to swap the oscar weekend duty with one of my fellow comrades. Despite the fact that I was willing to exchange a two-days duty with a week-long stay in the barracks, no one took my offer. Therefore I spent the entire day avoiding any spoilers and witnessed the worst haircut in Oscar history on the repeated broadcast that night!
Three years later I found myself in London, doing an MA in film! One would think that finding a place to watch the oscars live in the metropolitan capital of Europe would be easy. Alas reality tends to differ! After a thorough research, I realised there is no public place showing the oscars. Eliminating all my options of crashing into friends with Sky TV in London, the solution came from West Yorkshire. Huddersfield is a small town, some 30 km from Leeds. V., another friend from school, is practising medicine there and she had Sky channel. So there is only one option: ride the train and spend a weekend in the english countryside. After all it was the year that England prevailed with the King’s Speech!
This year is the first time since 2005 that we won’t be gathering all together, as the 5-month pregnant last year R. is now the mother of a sweet boy that wakes up every two hours, but has no interest whatsoever for the awards! Not yet anyhow!
And that brings us to today! Last week we were talking with M. about the oscars. M. studies matters very thoroughy, but once she reaches a conclusion gets very opinionated! Drawn by the absence of Robert Redford from the Best Actor category for his performance in All Is Lost – unanimous acclaimed as one of the best of the year- she denounced the value of the oscars as a film event that celebrates glamour over essence and industry policies over artistic value. And yes, I do agree in some extent, as Orson Welles, Alfred Hitchcock, Charlie Chaplin, Peter O’Toole never won a golden statue the same time that the honorary roll includes names such as Sandra Bullock, Reese Witherspoon, Nicolas Cage and Kevin Costner! But nevertheless the Oscars remain the most prestigious and fun watching awards of the movie industry! After all M. will be joining me on the Sunday all-nighter for the oscars!