Variety's awards guru basks in the warmth of statuette fever
We’ve survived four months of a frenzied awards season, with only three months to go. Did I hear someone groan? Stop it right now. You can either enjoy it or, as the Brits said in WWII, keep calm and carry on.
I actually like awards and kudos season, because it’s all of showbiz in a condensed form (well, if you consider a seven-month slog to be “condensed”). Awards are what showbiz is all about: artistry, marketing, ego and money. If you’re in the right mood, it’s goofy fun.
And don’t worry, I’m not that sappy. I will have another column talking about what I don’t like about awards season. But Harlan Ellison is so eloquent and withering in his assessment, we thought it would be fair and balanced, as they say, to provide a little counterpoint.
One of the main reasons I like awards: They are a time capsule of tastes and moods. For better and for worse, pop culture reflects the world, and awards pinpoint that fact. “The Greatest Show on Earth” wouldn’t even get made today, much less win the best picture Oscar. Some of the winners of the past have dated badly, yet others hold up well. “Vertigo” and “The Honeymooners” didn’t win much, but “Lawrence of Arabia” and “I Love Lucy” did, and they show the sensibility of the era.
I also like awards because they put a spotlight on some amazing work. As a culture, we are over-entertained, with diversions available to us 24/7. But awards are a way of sending a signal, saying, “Here’s something worth seeing.”
And awards are like a personal Rorschach test: Tell me who you’re rooting for, and I’ll tell you who you are. It’s a clue to your personality, whether last year you favored “Amour” or “Argo” or “Life of Pi.” What’s your favorite TV series, “Homeland” or “Sons of Anarchy”?
I even enjoy the campaigning. Yes, Variety makes some money off it, but so do numerous other outlets, so that’s not why I like it. Campaigns have given me the opportunity to meet some amazing people people: to name a few, Julie Christie, James Cameron, John Irving and Ben Sliney. (If the last name doesn’t ring a bell, he was the Federal Aviation Administration national operations manager who played himself in “United 93”; his first day on the job was 9/11 and he made the decision to stop all planes from using U.S. airspace.) All of these people are as impressive as you would hope.
After covering awards for so long, however, I worry that my level of geekiness is out of control. I can rattle off Oscar’s five best picture contenders of 1998, but I’ve forgotten America’s 13 original colonies. I know how many Emmy noms Ray Romano received, yet I can’t remember how the Electoral College works. I’m like a Rain Man of the kudos world. (“Rain Man,” 1988, eight Oscar noms, four wins. I told you I’m a geek.)
There is something bogus about any showbiz prize; by definition, there can be no “best.” One can measure a shot put or a pole vault, but you can’t measure artistry. But awards season is a reminder that it’s not only about results, it’s about the journey. And that’s the final reason I like awards: They’re so zen!