My night with Bob and George and Oscar
And the nominees were... tense.
Thursday 30 March 1995
Sat 25 March Up at 2am. Take more pills. Up again at 6am. Attend fitness spa already filled with guests at their treadmills. Ask a somewhat over- muscular, short, middle-aged attendant wandering around in shorts and sweaty vest for a towel. Realise too late it's Sylvester Stallone.
Attend Independent Spirit Awards on Santa Monica Beach, the independent alternatives to the Oscars. It starts at noon; by the time I leave around 4.30pm, it's barely into its stride. Even Harvey Keitel is deeply boring. As most of the awards go to films also nominated for Oscars, the distinction between the independent and the studio picture has become impossibly blurred.
Sun 26 March Spend morning in meetings. Figures for the opening weekend of The Madness of King George are faxed to us from London. It's a hit! Spend the afternoon by the pool. It's snowing in London.
Supper at the beautiful home of Peggy and Sam Goldwyn Jr. The house was built by his father - they still use the same projection room. I fantasise about the films that must have had their first screening here. Return to my hotel and learn I've been upstaged by my colleagues, Allon and Sara, who have been playing pool with Keanu Reeves.
Mon 27 March Oscar day. The television and papers provide saturation coverage. It seems there is only one film for the night - Forrest Gump all the way. Still, strange things can happen.
Limousine arrives at 3pm, for a ceremony four miles away starting at 6pm. We arrive at The Shrine, a Freemasons' hall which seats 6,000. The inside is decorated with Masonic symbols presumably understood by top Hollywood executives. This is a company town and, welcomed though we are, we are the outsiders. The ceremony's totally geared to TV; even the presenter, David Letterman, is exclusively a TV star.
The highlight of the evening is a golden period of no more than five minutes when Channel 4 wins an Oscar for Bob's Birthday, the animated short, and Ken Adam and Carolyn Scott for art direction on Madness. We thought we were on the start of a roll but it was the climax. There are of course other moments of delight: Tim Rice thanking Denis Compton, a joke hugely appreciated by maybe 20 of us; Letterman asking Tom Hanks whether it would have killed him to have worn a tie; Hugh Grant bringing some much needed charm to the proceedings; and Jessica Lange's tribute to Tony Richardson. The tackiest moment comes during the "In Memoriam" section, where the announcements of the deaths are received by applause of quite embarrassing variations of enthusiasm.
By the end of the evening we are exhausted from jet lag, nervous tension, and, let's be frank, downright disappointment. Well over three-quarters of the audience had reached a similar state as the bandwagon for Gump took over. In the perceived battle between the established Hollywood studios and the brash new cinema spearheaded by Quentin Tarantino, there was no doubt as to who'd been pulped.
n David Aukin is head of drama at Channel 4 Television
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