Constance describes her experience of attending the Oscars, and analyses the flaws and bathos of the system
It is 10 years ago and I am on my way to the Oscars.
I am very excited because there is a limousine – with free water and gum! Watermelon flavoured. Then I am very excited because almost the entire cast of Harry Potter is there, and one by one I drag someone along with me so that I can be introduced. My uncle is very excited because there is a famous nun who he attempts to find all evening. Then there is the red carpet, and all the cameras. The one photo of me up online is from the red carpet. I am standing next to my dad with a shawl wrapped around me, and a black dress on, looking like a very short elderly widow. My face is an odd colour: a makeup artist in Hollywood had lathered me in foundation. In the limo, I suddenly started crying, and my aunt had to wipe it all off with the tissues in her bag in an attempt to make me less orange. At various points down the carpet my father is interviewed, and occasionally they throw me a question too. A glossy reporter asks me: “Who are you wearing? How did you get dressed today.” “I put on a dress”, I say, looking up at her stupidly. Nearing the end of the carpet, a very tall man turns around, bends down to me and says: “congratulations to you young lady.” Later, my father said: “I know that this doesn’t mean anything to you, but that was Wim Wenders.”
“A glossy reporter asks me: ‘Who are you wearing? How did you get dressed today.”I put on a dress’, I say, looking up at her stupidly.”
The actual ceremony takes hours. There’s lots of dead time in between each nomination. And then there are signs at the front. 1 2 3 Applaud, Laugh. I sit at the back, in the section that is not televised, fidgeting. Billy Crystal is the host (though unfortunately I didn’t appreciate that yet, because it would be a few more years before I would watch When Harry Met Sally). When my parents’ category comes on, best adapted screenplay, I move into the televised section to sit by my dad. Angelina Jolie is the announcer. “Your mother would have loved that”, my father whispers to me sarcastically. She died whilst production started. The film is dedicated to her. Angelina pulls out the card from the envelope. It’s not my parents who win – it’s the George Clooney film. We go for drinks afterwards. All the decorations are gold, and there are chocolate Oscars on the table. I put as many as I can into my pockets. The one person that my father goes up to to say that he is a fan is Bret McKenzie, from Flight Of The Conchords, who had been nominated for best song. He apparently said thank you and looked “bemused”. Eventually I fall asleep at the table and am taken home.
“When my parents’ category comes on, best adapted screenplay, I move into the televised section to sit by my dad. Angelina Jolie is the announcer.”
Back in England we get more news: my father has been made an academy member. Now every year, around the holidays, it is Oscar season in our house. The first few DVDs come through the mail, and my father always groans: “it’s beginning”. It’s funny how quickly the novelty wore off, and how chore-like it has become. There are hundreds of films to watch and simply not enough time to watch all of them. Instead there is a shortlist of films with a good publicity push, films from the Industry, films everyone is talking about. So inevitably some great ones get left behind. Why, we both wonder, was Zola not nominated this year? Why is it that, despite the public pressure to be more diverse, it is only films that deal with race in a harmonious, trite way – like Green Book – that win? One advancement in recent years is the inclusion of foreign films into the best picture category, giving way to Parasite winning in 2019. But there are still lots of flaws in the voting system. My father is aware of token awards: a film that is well received but didn’t win best picture is given a consolation Oscar in a category that, maybe, it didn’t deserve. Then there is the cliché of the perfect Oscar film: middle of the road, well crafted, less experimental, makes you cry.
I haven’t watched the Oscars in the ten years since I was there. The day after this year’s ceremony, I woke up late. My dad said: “Did you hear about the Oscars?”
“No”, I said. “Who won?”
He shrugged. “I meant about Will Smith slapping Chris Rock.”