Put the knife down, Meryl: your guide to watching the Oscars
Cup of hotdog water? Check. Cruel jibes to aim at actors who are wearing their clothes all wrong? Check. Existential angst for the dead actors montage? Check. Okay, you’re all set
The “practice Oscars” are over (Baftas, Emmys and Grammys: pretend awards for losers), the cut-throat Wacky Races-style lobbying is at an end and now it is time for the 87th Academy Awards.
Founded at the peak of the gilded age (May 1929) when America was at its most humble, the Oscars were designed to celebrate excellence in the movie business. Each year the beautiful people gather in Hollywood, up on the hill beneath the H (probably), and people all over the world tune in for the “telecast” (except for young people, who prefer watching minute-long snippets on YouTube). Anyway, here’s how to watch the Oscars:
1 Having eaten nothing but hotdogs and popcorn for weeks (you have to get into the spirit somehow) you are a little weak. Pour a nice cup of hotdog water and turn on the telly. Alternatively, ask your butler to cue up the reel in your private cinema. I don’t know how you live.
EVERYONE'S A CRITIC
2 Criticise actors on the red carpet from the safety of your couch. Look at them, wearing their clothes all wrong, the fools. It’s also fun to imagine you’re on the red carpet yourself. “What are you wearing, Mr Freyne?” the ghost of Mr Blackwell might ask, and I might answer: “A kind of self-cleaning onesie and bib. I believe there’s a free buffet.”
ENJOY THE HOST
3 Enjoy this year’s host, likeable Neil Patrick Harris, doing a witty, self-aware dance number. Television’s Doogie Houser MD replaces that nice Ellen DeGeneres, who replaced Seth McFarlane’s wide ensmuggened face. An Oscar host’s job is to tease the stars enough so that they feel like they’re being good sports, but not so much that they question their life choices.
WATCH FOR PHALLIC SYMBOLS
4 Contemplate the purity of the Oscar statue. Look at it in all its perfection: male, golden-skinned, defiantly square jawed and brandishing a phallic symbol. It’s so universal.
5 Applaud the diversity. Diversity is an important issue in Hollywood. Without diversity, white, straight, wealthy men wouldn’t be able to win Oscars for pretending to be gay or disabled or working class or, once upon a time, black. Yes, there have been complaints over the limited nominations for Selma and black actors in general. But think about it for a minute: Hollywood is the most diverse place in the world to be white, straight and male.
ADLIB THROUGH THE BORING BITS
6 Accept the boredom. Okay, now that we’re watching it, it’s clear that the ceremony is terribly dull. Turn down the sound while the dead-eyed chemistry-less celebrity duos read from an autocue. Instead recite your own little introductions. It’s easy. They only need begin with: “In an age of troubles we need heroes . . . ” or “We in Hollywood weave magical tales . . . ” or “Intrepid explorers of narrative are we . . . ” Feel smug and self-important. Yes, movie folk are the true heroes.
7 Gripe about the great films of 2014 that weren’t nominated, like a New York Winter’s Tale, in which a lovelorn Colin Farrell and a time-travelling flying horse battled Russell Crowe’s Irish accent. It was magical. So why wasn’t it nominated? The masons, probably.
8 Gaze at the mind-becalming mug of Oscar winner, saint and best supporting actress nominee (for Into the Woods) Meryl Streep. Look at her, sitting there being all sedate and Meryl Streepy. If only there were other female actors of her age. But no, there’s just her, thus restricting the number of parts male screenwriters are able to write for older women. Damn those older women and the vice-like grip they have on Hollywood.
9 Anticipate a stage invasion from Kanye West. It happens at every other US awards ceremony, so security at the Oscars must be pretty tight. There are probably pictures of him up at all the entrances. If Harvey Weinstein has to chase Kanye around the stage, shaking his fist and shouting “Why, I oughta” in order to stop Kanye getting his oar in, then so be it. No straight-talking rap genius is going to make the Academy Awards look silly.
ENJOY THE BACKSTAGE GONGS
10 Pretend to be interested in the technical awards. Shame others by having a favourite sound designer, gaffer and costumier. Correct people when they say the names of the foreign films (“Actually, it’s pronounced . . . ”) even if you don’t know the language or the film or the person speaking.
11 Contemplate mortality. At some point the Oscars will ruin your night by including in a musical montage of deceased film professionals a childhood favourite you did not know was dead. “We all return to dust,” you will think, and morosely sip your hotdog water.
12 Guess who’s going to win. Ooh, it’s hard. The films are so . . . Oscary. There’s a self-aware comeback in which Michael Keaton lampoons his previous work (Birdman), a film in which Bradley Cooper bulks up and that has “American” in the title (American Sniper), a film in which quirky characters don moustachios and monocles and act European (Grand Budapest Hotel), a film in which Steve Carell wears a prosthetic nose and chases foxes (Foxcatcher; I haven’t seen it) and a film in which the actors age 12 years over 90 minutes (Boyhood, not Birdman, in which the audience does).
13 At some point, tweet a selfie of yourself with your-celeb-filled television using the Samsung phone you bought after Ellen DeGeneres’s product-placing, star-filled-selfie last year. Ha ha. It’s like these Oscar nominees are your pals. Tips: your eerie smile will look more natural if there are no tears in your eyes; also, put on pants.
14 Be outraged by that out-of-touch thing that is said by that out-of-touch celebrity (“When my maid carries me to bed . . . ” or “But do we really need ‘the French’?” or “On safari I like to hunt ‘man’ ”). Practice: “OMG. An out-of-touch person said something out-of-touch. I am appalled.” Say it like that, without exclamation marks.
15 Bask in people’s gracious loser faces. Yes, embiggen your soul with the fleeting disappointments of the wealthy. Picture it: Sixth Sense star Haley Joel Osment is about to announce a winner when the nominees appear in a Brady Bunch grid on your telly. There’s Benedict Cumberbatch in one quarter of the screen, Steve Carell’s prosthetic nose across from him, Optimus Prime is shuffling in his seat in the bottom-left-hand corner, and then there’s Meryl Streep (no, I don’t know what category this is either), her knuckles white as she grips the arm rests. “The winner,” says Osment, “is Benedict Cumberbatch, for Olden Days War Film.” Cumberbatch rises smugly and gracefully like a majestic meerkat. Optimus Prime and Steve Carell’s prosthetic nose clap stoically, making “Oh, of course!” faces. But Streep jumps angrily to her feet. “I’ll cut you, you f****rs,” she yells, as the ushers hold her down. Brilliant.
16 Go to an Oscar “after-party”. By which I mean bed. Go to bed. Seriously, it’s really late.