Monday

Don't Tell Me About It, I don't Want to Hear It (paranoia and the Academy Awards)

To celebrate/commemorate/exacerbate Oscar’s Day (it should be an official international day of holiday for film lovers) here is a piece I wrote in 2007 about the paranoia that comes with the event, at least for me. Short commentaries on the winners soon....

Once a year while Hollywood basks in the immediate aftermath of the Academy Awards I spend an afternoon in paranoia, avoiding media broadcasts like the plague. Radio, TV, internet spells danger, danger, danger. If I hear the radio I block my ears. If I see a TV switched on I run for the hills. I don't visit web sites; I don't open Outlook. I approach people warily, ready to leap away like a frog from a dynamite pond if conversation happens to steer in the wrong direction.

It's not really paranoia if the whole world is trying to tell you who won the Oscars.

Essentially a protracted mishmash of mooshy acceptance speeches, expensively dressed celebrities and well rehearsed autocue puns, the Academy Awards never really passes for great entertainment. It is however a good conversation starter, a fine wager-maker and - like a splash of MSG in your noodles - an enticing additive for film fans worldwide. Ultimately the ceremony survives off one essential thrill, which is (duh) discovering who won.

If you live in America, a live feed reveals the results to everyone simultaneously. But if you're watching from a country like Australia, where the telecast usually begins well after the ceremony has concluded, keeping the results unknown for the day can feel like a hopelessly redundant battle - like going to the pub on grand final night and deciding you don't want to know who won the game.

The Oscars ceremony usually begins at 7pm LA time (approx. 10am EST) which means media outlets in Australia have all day to break the story. Unsurprisingly Channel 9 like to wait until prime time hours and this year they began televising red carpet arrivals at 7:30pm EST. Only at quarter to eight I felt comfortable enough to turn on the tube and plonk myself down for the long haul. After a nervy day playing duck and weave with the media, I could finally relax under the blanket of 9's telecast. Or so I thought.

It's understandable that rival networks have no qualms about declaring Oscar results before the telecast; that's an old philosophy called "we didn't get the rights so screw 'em." This year however I was mortified to discover that Channel 9 themselves were the perpetrators of an unforgivable cat-out-of-the-bag blunder. During an Oscars ad break a Channel 9 news update featuring newsreader Peter Kitchener gave Oscar viewers an all too timely report, showing footage of a chuffed Martin Scorsese brandishing a shiny golden statuette. Gee, I wonder who scored best director?

Luckily I didn't see the footage msyelf. As soon as I saw Hitchener and heard the word "Oscars" I bolted like a bat out of hell towards the door, my arms flailing madly, my mouth sputtering hysterical gibberish to block out the audio. In the future - when I'm jaded, Howard Hughes anal and on the cusp of senility - that's the kind of shock that could give my ticker a very bad jolt. How would you like cardiac arrest on your conscience, Mr. Hitchener? Mental note: poporn and beer might not be enough for the future. Stock up on popcorn, beer, defibrillator.

Soon after the telecast returned I received the following SMS from a disgruntled friend: "How's Peter Kitchener's form, giving stuff away on the newsbreak? Clowns!" Poor old Peter might just be a talking head, but surely he could have done something. Block the transmission. Pull the plug. Disregard the autocue and move onto another story. Something. Anything. Hitchener may have been doing his job, but now he's got at least two people in the country more than happy to fork out for a voodoo doll with his face on it. Mental note: if John Safron can arrange a fatwa for Rove McManus, surely I can tee one up for Hitchener and his producers...

Because revealing award night results during the actual telecast in any way, shape or form is a sick thing to do - it would be like interrupting a broadcast of The Sixth Sense with a special news bulletin proclaiming that Bruce Willis's character was dead all along, or cutting from The Crying Game to a Hitchener announcement that the leading lady is actually the leading man. It would be like going to the cinema to see The Empire Strikes Back during its original theatrical run only to have to listen to a newspaper vendor - hired by management - cry out in the middle of it "Extra! Extra! Darth Vader is Luke Skywalker's father!"

A little sensitivity, please, for those who appreciate the element of surprise. So next Oscars day, if you happen to learn the results before the television broadcast, spare a thought for the terrorized movie geek who may not want to know. If you're listening to the radio, wind your window up at the traffic lights. If you're watching TV, keep it down to a dull roar. If you're on the internet, don't announce the results to the rest of world. And if your name is Peter Hitchener, don't, whatever you do, follow the autocue.

1 comment:

  1. haha! I love it! You know this post could really work against you...if you make any enemies before next year they could use this against you! It's your Achillee's heel!

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