An email might have landed this week in your inbox from a friend. “Hey, I had an idea,” it read, “why don’t we all get together and watch the Oscars live? We can get food and booze, and do a sweepstake on the winners, It will be fun.”
I’m here to say to you now: it will not be fun. Don’t do it. Be strong. It’s not too late to back out. Walk away.
I come to this as a reformed awards show junkie, like a former smoker, booze booster or drug freak, who’s had his fun and is now sanctimoniously preaching abstinence.
My name is Larry and I’m addicted to awards shows. I’ve been clean for coming up to six years now (there’s no need to applaud).
From when my pop culture obsession kicked in mid-teens - replacing an earlier sporting one - awards shows were the fruit at the top of the cocktail. There were many, many to choose from: the Oscars, the Golden Globes, the Grammys, the Brits, the Baftas (film), the Baftas (TV), the Emmys, the Comedy Awards, the MTV VMAs, the MTV EMAs, the MTV Movie Awards, the Mercury Prize, the Booker Prize, the Turner Prize...there never stopped being ways to see someone dressed up and thanking their agent. I watched all those suckers.
Sure, we had some good times: Woody Allen’s unexpected post 9/11 New York speech at the 2002 Oscars;Jarvis, obviously, flapping away at the 1996 Brits, Bob Dylan winning an Oscar; Brandon Block and Ronnie Wood fighting at the 2000 Brits; Michael Jackson mistakenly thinking a birthday tribute at the 2002 VMAs was some randomly assigned Artist of the Millenium Award - Jack Black parodying it a year later (incidentally, that may been the last time Black was funny).
I watched them for vicarious celebrity gloss; I watched them for the serious art and literature and music reasons; I watched them for the drunken and the cringeworthy moments.
I watched them for irony - the World Music Awards, I’m mainly looking at you here. This petri-dish of lame, with patron Prince Albert of Monaco seated in the audience alongside whatever has-been special guest popstar they could muster, seemed like a lab based attempt to create the cheesiest and most pointless event known to man.
These were all largely extremely dull processions of platitudes, interspersed with very occasional moments of joy or excitement, but I kept watching, hooked.
Then came the 2006 Oscars at the Kodak Theatre. To steal Hunter S Thompson’s elegant phrase, “that place where the wave finally broke and the water turned back.” In truth it was no more or less remarkable than previous years: it passed without major incident; Jon Stewart hosted, making the odd decent joke; a decidedly average film won Best Picture. Same as it ever was. But something had clicked.
I’d stayed up with a few friends to watch the ceremony live as it dragged on into the small hours. We put money down on a sweepstake to keep things interesting. It didn’t matter. Boredom swept the board at the Oscars. With the main prizes back-loaded, we just didn’t care who won what as the hours wore on. By the time they got to the final award we just wanted them to hand it to whoever was closest the podium and be done with it.
And like that, it was gone. The mist of tedium cleared and I no longer needed to watch, no longer needed to care. I was done with such ceremonies. This awards racket is all over. We’re sorry but Larry Ryan could not be with us this evening...
Granted there have been some lapses and fixes since. In ‘07 I was living in America, so got to see the Oscars at a normal hour and yet it was even more dull. I even slipped up this year and allowed myself to watch a sizeable portion of the Baftas. It was not good, as you’ll know. When the most exciting thing that happens at an awards show is news that one mid-range star is vomiting backstage (#prayforeddie), you can be sure the whole endeavour is in trouble.
We all know awards shows are tedious. This is not new. Maybe new host Seth MacFarlane will be able to pull it out of the bag and Sunday’s Oscars will be an enlivened and exciting affair. I wouldn’t be hopeful. If it is indeed another dud, organisers will likely declare a return to a back-to-basics host next year; your Crystals, your Martins, your Goldbergs...It won’t make a difference.
The best you can hope for, if you do go for an all-night live Oscar broadcast on Sunday, or even a truncated highlights package later, is for an unexpected epiphany, like mine in 2006. Awards shows being neither important nor fun, you’ll be relieved if it does come. If you’re lucky, said epiphany might land early, say when one of the supporting actor awards is being given out and you can get a good night’s sleep.