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An Oscar Story … Or How I Get Through the Academy Award Show

26 Feb, 2007 By: Jessica Wolf

Here we are, the day after. Just for fun, I thought I would add my voice to the clamor of Academy Award coverage.

The best thing about the Academy Awards, for people like myself — who live and/or play regularly in those several Hollywood streets that are shut down for literally a week in advance of the illustrious night — is when the show is over and getting around in those areas is just a plain old bad dream again, not a gory, gothic, horrific nightmare.

However, painful traffic notwithstanding, living in L.A., working for an entertainment magazine, has given me, like so many of us, an acute interest in the oh-so-glamorous and largely ridiculous and cheesy spectacle that is the Academy Awards.

And I have a few traditions for how to get through it.

My significant other and I celebrated our third annual private Oscar-party weekend. That celebration consists of a last-minute catch up on several movies, a stockpile of alcohol and cheese, lots of cheese.

Trust me. Cheese is key. After all, the cheese is pungently apparent throughout the Academy Awards — from the overwrought coverage surrounding the show to the overwrought tribute pieces to the overwrought God-fearing speeches on the show itself and everything in between.

So, in keeping with the cheesiness of the whole shebang, for the third consecutive year, my S.O. and I whipped up a big batch of fondue with all the trimmings, plugged the electric pot in next to the TV and loaded up.

Don't get me wrong, I love me some quality cheese, both onscreen Oscar night and drizzled over my skewered apples, bread, chicken, salami, bell peppers, maybe even a piece of paper here and there (hey! everything is edible either fried or drowned in melted cheese).

However, before the cheese began to flow, we made a point of catching up on a couple of movies in top contention. Saturday night we went and saw The Queen, and Sunday was spent in part watching Babel on DVD (just before cheese prep started).

Those were the only two films I had not seen among the best picture contenders this year, and after Babel's credits rolled on the TV, and as my boy and I filled out our respective ballots with our winner predictions, I found myself in a much different state of anticipation than last year.

Last year my mantra went something like this: “Anything but Crash. Anything but Crash. Anything but Crash… ooohhm … ooohhm.” (Alas, I must have been a horrible person in a past life).

This year, going into the show, I said: “I won't be mad if any one of them wins.” But, in my heart, I was really hoping for my favorite movie of the year — Little Miss Sunshine — to take home the prize, even as I fully expected that the interesting, ambitious and problematic Babel would top the night.

Suffice to say, I was elated to see Michael Arndt pick up best original screenplay for Little Miss Sunshine. I got a little choked up when he mentioned a family trip in a VW Bus that helped inspire him. We had one in my childhood, and my sister and father both owned several VW Beetles over the years — all with questionable clutches and brakes.

When Alan Arkin won for best supporting actor, I was pleasantly surprised and looked over at my boyfriend, waggling a fork pierced with cheese-covered chicken and apple and said, “Yeah, there's no way Eddie Murphy was going to win after the Academy voters got a good gander at all those Norbit billboards and trailers.”

I know it's all corny and staged, but I often get teary during the ceremony (of course, the wine helps a lot) as people accept their awards and offer up their dedications. Every time the camera went to Pan's Labyrinth's Guillermo del Toro, I had to smile. I was hoping that lovely movie would take away the statue for foreign film, but at least it wasn't left out in the cold completely.

I was charmed by Ellen Degeneres, her exploits in the audience, the acrobats and their little mini-skits based on the best picture nominees (yes, here's where the wine comes in again), and I loved the new strategy of the presenters reading moments from the nominated screenplays. Why didn't they start that years ago?

Now on to my dear, dear Departed. Ever since I saw this actioner at a Warner-sponsored DVD event at which the director appeared for a pre-screening Q&A, I have been rooting for Martin Scorsese to finally win best director. To see him accept his award from the Big Three of Francis Coppola, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas made me cheer out loud and get more than a little misty during his speech and the subsequent best picture win.

But back to the cheese. I highly recommend this Oscar-viewing technique. Keep the wine and mimosas handy, and take a viewing break now and then. Start out the show with some fast dipping and chowing, take a brief rest from the cheese just when the Awards start getting good, head back to the fondue pot during the middle and any filler, then settle back in to catch the big awards in a cheese-induced stupor.

The cheese won't let you down. No matter how long the show runs, it will be there waiting, bubbly and soothing and non-judgmental.

Of course, today, I am 3.5 pounds heavier and slightly ashamed of myself for the amount of times I teared up during last night's broadcast.

It was the cheese, I'm telling you. The cheese.

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