Tonight, I will take my perch upon the couch and spend three hours engrossed in the Academy Awards, guessing at the winners, cheering when I'm right, booing when my idea of art is ignored. And even though I know that when it is over, and I announce something akin to "that was a waste of three hours of my life," I will return again each year to spend the evening with Oscar.
I take my preparation seriously, aiming to see as many of the nominated films as possible, ensuring that I am an educated viewer able to pass judgment on film excellence. Since they changed the best picture nominees to a field of 10, I often fall short, as is the case this year. After a whirl of frantic filmgoing, I just couldn't keep up, and so Life of Pi and Les Miserables, I apologize. The other night I devoted hours to viewing all the nominated live action shorts and began viewing the animated shorts. As for the foreign films and documentaries--oh Oscar, I have failed you--although I do believe I have seen the best pics in each of the categories.
But it is not just the guessing that sirens me in each year. It's a cultural history, a ritual born in my early teens. Oscar night always meant a chance to stay up beyond my bedtime. Growing up on the East Coast, the ceremony usually went until 11:00 p.m. or beyond. Not only did staying up late mean a treat, but that night always held an element of surprise--not just in terms of unexpected winners, but in the pomp and circumstance of the speeches. I remember Jane Fonda's anti-war speech when I was 11, Littlefeather's speech (in lieu of Brando) about the treatment of Native Americans when I was 13, a shocked David Niven when a streaker commandeered the stage when I was 14, and Vanessa Redgrave's Palestinian fervor when I was 17.
Each year I'd look forward to the host (Billy Crystal's opening song and dance), the opportunity to banter about the choice of dress, the clips of best picture and other nominees, and the memorial clips of people who had died in the past year (always bringing on tears). Tonight, I will await the musical performance of Adele and clips, wondering when the night's memorable moment will fall.
But before then, I still have a few hours, Oscar, to take in the rest of the animated shorts.