It’s the same thing every time. The Oscars, the Emmys, and, like last night, the Golden Globes. I spend months keeping track of what’s out. I analyze critical reception vs. audience reception. I go to the movies every week, picking my personal favorites and feeling hope, but being careful to keep my expectations in check.
The day comes. I’m excited. I prepare my husband – I’ll need the TV for at least 3 hours, but we both know it’ll go much longer. I sacrifice watching any red carpets, but follow all the best lewks and thirsty commentary on my master post in my Facebook subgroup. Oh, and the food! Either a whole bag of chips (sometimes with dip), or perhaps an elaborately-themed meal. Last year’s Oscars ceremony was accompanied by the instantly iconic “hungry boy” breakfast spread from Phantom Thread – my favorite 2017 release.
All of this preparation, all of this excitement and all of this lead-up and discussion and discourse. And it all comes crashing down pretty quickly. It could be a charmless host or a tone-deaf joke; it could be a rambling speech or a tedious musical number. The yelling at the TV gets more frequent, the ALL CAPS PUNCHING ON MY PHONE distracts me from my snacks and the less-deserving winners collect more and more statues.
I know this is what happens. Every single time, I get my hopes up, get worked up, and end up questioning everything. My husband gets annoyed by the awards, the celebrities, and mostly me. I end up going to bed too late, not because of the time the ceremony ends, but because I stick around for further complaining online. Eventually, I go to bed, and I week up feeling refreshed, like it never happened. Then I go online… and I get steamed up all over again!
Still, I fucking love awards season.
It stresses me the fuck out and I take it too seriously and I like to fight people about it. The Oscars, in particular, are colloquially referred to as the “Gay Superbowl,” and it makes sense. I watch the Oscars like some would sports. I understand that the biggest difference between football and the Oscars is that the sports team wins the game with only their athletic skill, while, no matter how good an actor’s performance is, their victory is determined by a bunch of other people’s votes.
There’s a lot going on behind the scenes when it comes to awarding actors and films, though. Running an excellent campaign will put you at an advantage (see: Allison Janney charming every talk show host last year while Laurie Metcalf focused on rehearsals for Three Tall Women on Broadway). There’s “category fraud” – where a film’s people decides to pass a lead performance as a supporting one, or vice-versa (see: Viola Davis’ lead performance in Fences being relegated to supporting). Sometimes, even, it’s doing something a little out of the box (Melissa Leo’s self-funded campaign of glamor shots for The Fighter), or just being genuine about how much you really, really, really want to win (Anne Hathaway) will pay off!
And is there anything better than a huge surprise win? “There’s been a mistake. Moonlight, you won best picture.” Glenn Close taking it over odds-on favorite, Lady Gaga at last night’s Globes got everyone riled up, from Little Monsters to Glennemaniacs (is that what Glenn Close stans are called?).
I’m keen on following the critical receptions of all of the (potential) nominees of any awards show. One of my favorite podcasts, Vanity Fair’s Little Gold Men, is a year-round awards season podcast, where I learn about how movies were received at Sundance, South by Southwest, Telluride and beyond. And I trust their opinions, and mostly agree with them (even though Richard Lawson and I didn’t see eye to eye about I, Tonya, I probably trust him the most). I heard somewhere once (maybe on Little Gold Men), to not use Rotten Tomatoes as gospel. It’s a fine indicator of a general consensus. But use RT to actually read the critical reviews and find critics who seem to have tastes similar to yours. Letterboxd is also a great resource – my aforementioned Facebook group is full of thoughtful pop culture junkies such as myself. We’ve all connected on Letterboxd and when they say something’s good or that it sucks… they’re usually right!
My favorite movie of the year, Support the Girls, a low-key independent dramedy about sisterhood, was nominated for, and has even won various critics’ awards. We won’t know the Oscar nominees til January 19, but I’m not expecting much in terms of StG, or other smaller Oscar contenders that could’ve been, such as Eighth Grade, Hereditary and Tully. I’ve come to expect my faves to not get this kind of recognition, but I’ll admit, it feels nice when they’re included in the Oscars conversation, let alone the race.
I haven’t watched any of this year’s critically-reviled crowd-pleasers – Bohemian Rhapsody, Vice and Green Book. Honestly, I feel like I might have to since the screeners have probably leaked online by now. But here’s what I do know about these flicks; Bohemian Rhapsody – directed by an alleged rapist whose time is way, waaaaaayyyy past up – has homophobic overtones (the only thing everyone can agree on is that Rami Malek plays a great Freddie Mercury, but one great performance does not make a movie good). Vice is basically a yuk-fest about a war criminal that we don’t need in this current political climate. And the family of Dr. Don Shirley has renounced Green Book’s misrepresentation of the musician, which critics have noted as white washing and giving the film a problematic “white savior” narrative (not to mention star Viggo Mortensen’s use of the n-word while doing press for the flick).
Crowd-pleasers tend to be the ones recommended by a friend, relative, co-worker or acquaintance. And it’s fine for them to legitimately enjoy those movies! I’ve enjoyed a few crowd-pleasers, myself! I’m prone to emotional manipulation and fudged facts just as much as anyone else is. And in the grand scheme of things, even though the awards are technically “meaningless,” it bummed me out knowing that both Green Book and Bohemian Rhapsody have been “legitimized” for the casual viewer.
So, I know my faves won’t win. I get upset when my faves don’t win. I know to expect it, but I still end up wanting to be surprised. I rarely am. But I’m a pop culture junkie, and award shows are a big part of my fix. I love seeing what Tracee Ellis Ross and Janelle Monae wear! And seeing Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban being cute! I love yelling about who should host next year at my TV! I just really love yelling at my TV, okay?!
Finally, I know that the whole thing is ridiculous and subjective. And that I’m ridiculous for caring! But watching awards shows while yelling about them online and IRL is a tradition, a ritual. You have yours and I have mine. And with that, I’ll leave you with a tweet from Roxane Gay last night…