It's started. You can tell from the adverts in Variety headlined "for your consideration." You can tell from all the decent, highbrow movies that are only now hitting cinemas, so as to be fresh in people's minds when votes get cast. The Hollywood awards "season" has finally arrived. Golden Globes shortlists are unveiled in a fortnight; the Oscars will round things off in March. In between, it'll be a riveting few months, full of drama, intrigue and tearful acceptance speeches. Yet as I dig out the moth-eaten dinner jacket, one prospect inspires nowt but dread: red carpets.
From afar, red carpets seem exotic and glamorous; theatrical, even. When you're on them, they probably are. But to a member of Her Majesty's Press, waiting to one side with notebook poised, they represent nothing less than a seventh circle of Hell.
The reason is nothing to do with red-carpet interviews (yes, they can be vacuous, but they also have their place). Instead, it's wrapped up in protocol: America is supposedly a classless society. It's one of the country's great strengths. But come awards season, Hollywood adopts strict hierarchies.
One involves "talent". The more famous someone is, the later they arrive on the red carpet; the less famous, the earlier. Brangelina almost always come last to any event; character actors first. At this year's Oscars, Danny Glover appeared fully two hours before the curtain went up.
The second pecking order involves journalists. If you're CNN, or ABC, you stand atop the red carpet. The New York Times, or People magazine go slightly further back. Then you have overseas broadcasters like the BBC, and local US newspapers. Right at the end, sometimes 200 yards away, is the ghetto for "foreign" print media. Like me.
Combined, these factors mean that, by the time an interviewee reaches The Independent, they've already told scores of people "what they're wearing", and are (quite rightly) bored stupid. More importantly, they're probably not even very famous.
It's celebrity Darwinism at its most brutal. But I try. At the last Oscars, Danny Boyle kindly agreed to talk. "The two stars of Slumdog..." I stammered. "In real life... is it true they're an item?" No self-respecting journalist would call it a question to be proud of. But Boyle answered, broadly, in the positive. So it did provide a very minor "scoop."
Your correspondent experienced a brush with notoriety this week, when some emails I'd exchanged with Kevin Spacey's spin doctor were obtained by blogger Nikki Finke. Look them up online: they speak volumes about the secret mechanics of showbusiness.