Wednesday, March 05, 2014

In-Laws, Rules, Levant, Legacy and Napping.

Attending The Oscars with S. (my first time ever)
Part 2 - For Part 1, scroll down. 

Our dressed-to-the-nines behinds were in the seats with a few minutes to spare before the countdown so we took the opportunity to check our phones for precious Facebook and twitter moments. In a stunning 21st century social media turn here’s what we found: my mother-in-law had spotted us on “E” Entertainment TV in the way-back of the split red carpet situation, several layers deep, far beyond June Squibb and Jared Leto as he was proposing to Junie. Eagle-eyed and sharp as she is, Barbara managed to get off a thoroughly modern screenshot of this moment, send it to my husband who sent it off  to S’s husband. Both husbands then tweeted the pic and who can say, really, how twitter managed to not crash right then. Said photo is now known as “The shot seen ‘round the house.” I share it with you, here (with thanks to my mother-in-law):

“Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome your host, Ellen DeGeneres!” and the 86th live telecasting began. Then the show went as well as you saw it with little difference other than size based on distance and a scant few regrettable passages of time taken up by genuine breathless concern over who may or may not have had a stroke or be having one live on-camera and also, this guy:

You're probably wondering, so I’ll tell you; I did as told. I was a guest, after all. I did not applaud for my dead friends and acquaintances or those I knew only by reputation and contribution to the industry, those whose work I so admire who passed away this year. But I wanted to. I really had to sit on my fancied up hands. Let the Academy hide the fact of our applause from you by pulling the audio plug if they must, but the fact that we care, feel moved, sentimental, reverent or however we do about our colleagues often comes out in the form of spontaneous applause for the wonder of their work. It’s a last and maybe only chance for us to celebrate in a room together the lives of those lost to us. For the health of the community, AMPAS, let your people clap. There are already too many ruley rules. And Eileen Brennan, I will love, love, love you forever and I’m clapping now. And for you too, Joan Fontaine—and not just because you are the fave of Self Styled Siren’s Farran Smith Nehme, who for me is the only and last word on Kim Novak’s appearance: 

Among some of my friends there is snark and cynicism when it comes to OSCAR™. I’ll admit that for me, a true fan and sometime-member of the community—if not the Academy—the nominations, the show, can irk, over or underwhelm. I’ve always loved the movies and OSCAR™ is part of that love. Warm. Statuette.

My first Oscar will always be Oscar Levant who said “Strip away the phony tinsel of Hollywood and you will find the real tinsel underneath.” I’ve always liked tinsel. He’s one of the first movie stars I loved (in An American in Paris!).
I love the movies and the people who make them and OSCAR™ (and also Oscar) and I love The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for preserving the history of film. Getting to dress up and go to The OSCARs with my friend Sharon Mizota, one of the responsible crew of archivists and librarians at A.M.P.A.S Margaret Herrick Library who go to work every day with a sincere appreciation of all that is encompassed in the world of film—even caring for my small contributions—was a special honor, indeed. Shout out to the preservationists: “Alright, alright, alright!” That’s my report.
Photo by Andy Zax

Monday, March 03, 2014

Guys, Dolls, Guns, Pancake and Penicillin

Attending The Oscars with S. (my first time ever)
Part One

It's just as you would think. It is way more fun to dress up and be there than  to watch it on television. Having said that though, S. and I both remarked that you can see the suits and dresses better on the broadcast and television seems to obliterate a lot of wrinkles—but only in fabric—not skin. Up close and in-person you can see every wrinkle and tear and all the supposed fixes in the fabric of the human and also on the outfits that you might manage to ogle. This is only one reason why Sidney Poitier’s daughter looked more put together than anyone else. Her dress was made of (silver) leather and must have weighed quite a lot, so it stayed in majestic shape throughout the night. That dress and Cate Blanchett’s were my flawless favorites of the ones that I truly saw. And yes, dresses get torn because women without nominations actually wear dresses with trains as if they’re nominees or maybe brides, even. I don’t know. Academy and Dolby Theater employees urge the crowd ever forward toward the theater throughout the carpet-walk and with haste: Attendees Beware! The risk of uncoupling a doyenne or two from her prized caboose is not to be underestimated. Enemies were made.

Here’s a kind of timeline beginning with our arrival  Dolby Theater adjacent: Because there are many street closures, there’s a map to the Dolby furnished by the Academy. Once you’ve figured out how to get onto Hollywood Boulevard via the assigned route, there’s a police checkpoint. They use what, in effect are giant shoe mirrors on the undercarriage of your car and then check the trunk and sometimes the glove compartment. Our experience: Not at all sex-ay—but police were professional and polite. Next, you drive around a medium sized SWAT-type unit set up in the middle of the street, guns out. Guns were HUGE. I’m not talking about biceps. I’m saying, maybe Heckler & Koch MP5’s. They were definitely intimidating. Hurricane fences line both sides of the street at the sidewalk’s edge and people stand behind these hoping to see celebs, however unlikely it is in that location. When you get to Highland and Hollywood going west, you give the car over to the valets. There are scores of valets and also even more cops. From there, you get out your ticket and I.D. and if you’re like us, you arrive exactly as Jared Leto is arriving so as not to be noticed by anyone at all and to be afforded an in-person look- see to determine if Jared is “all that.” I’m still thinking about the man-tan pancake-makeup he had on.  It worried me in my two hours of sleep. I dreamed about Picrin and how to remove pancake from your standard white cotton jacket. Was I a dry cleaner in another life?

When you get out of the car, you’re already on a piece of the red carpet which for a few yards crosses the road and is The Red Carpet which then branches out into two sections. The employee carpet or non-celeb side of the same red carpet but divided by stanchions and velvet rope from the carpet that carries the famous. There, in spite of a wide berth, everyone unknown and less known understandably crushes toward the ropes to get a look at the nominee’s backs and an occasional front as they’re interviewed by the international press corps. That’s damned neat. I didn’t mind it one bit, but one of the good people working to keep our side of the crowd moving confessed to me that he was soooo over it. I was bumped into constantly and as you can see, this results in less than stellar iPhone photos. 

Once inside the building we had our picture taken-for the record-by the friendly Employee photographer. Ah, posterity! Then up the long stairway to mingle with cocktails, hors d’oeuvres and the crowd. By the time we got to the bar they were out of Champagne so we chose to go with the signature cocktail which was The Penicillin. Good choice. Here’s the recipe—or something very close to it.:
I ignored the snacks other than to note that among the selections were pork rinds and fried kale (you-go-get-your-salty-crispy-fat on, Wolfgang Puck.) I could not have fit a slivered almond into my gut without having to remove my dress (by Isabel Marant.)

S. and I lingered over our drink, people-watching and chatting with a co-worker or three of hers. As we made for the elevator to Mezzanine 3-which is somehow also Level 5—I saw Benedict Cumberbatch. And I wanted him to be slightly different than he was. He looked awkward and uncomfortable with himself and who he was with. Maybe it was a weird moment where he’d just forgotten someone’s name or face and had to pretend that he knew them. Or is that just my nightmare? I saw him in an un-suave moment and had to work my way up (or was it down?) to feeling that this vulnerability made him cuter. He was also, like almost every actor—let’s all say it aloud and in unison—smaller than he looks onscreen.

We made it to our seats in time to avoid the 20 minute penalty (you can’t go in until the next commercial break if you miss the curfew.) We landed center stage Row L Seat 46, but so high, in seats so raked, that the perspective flattened Pharrell's hat. When he got happy, I couldn't tell that he was wearing one. There are teevee screens up top but just two very small ones. My suggestion for the people of Dolby: install another few giant screens, care more about the entire audience being able to see the lit-up faces of winners and performers on stage. That bliss is to be shared, not just for the people on the first two of levels.
Before the show began, in a Hunger Games moment, there was a short speech from the announcer-voice-over dude about the kind of off-the-cuff impassioned speeches without notes the Academy was hoping the winners would bring. Hint-hint, comply. There were other moments like that, most notably when we were repeatedly told not to clap for the dead people we so miss and revere during the in memoriam montage.  Turned out they were super serious about this and they cut the sound feed completely due to a few hands that couldn’t stop themselves from coming together.

More to come…

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