This morning in Los Angeles I attended the live announcement of the Oscar nominations at the Samuel Goldwyn Theatre in Los Angeles.
It had occurred to me that there wouldn't be a huge amount to gain from attending the event - the announcement is broadcast live around the world and there is no press conference or any other chance to ask questions.
But as I am currently going through the process of attempting to gain media accreditation for the actual Oscar ceremony itself on February 28, I thought I better front up. Here is what I experienced:
Because of the time differences between the East and West coasts of the USA, the nominations announcement famously takes place at the ungodly hour of 5.30am in Los Angeles. A series of otherwise sternly-worded email instructions has informed me that a hot breakfast will be served for journalists at 3.30am.
As much as 95% of my life is dictated by when and where hot food will be offered, I can't quite face a 3.30am start, pancakes or no. I end up extracting myself another packing nightmare-infused sleep at around 4.00am, and after driving through the eerily empty Hollywood streets, I arrive at the Samuel Goldwyn Theatre on Wilshire Blvd at around 4.30am.
150 or so journalists pack the lobby of the theatre, where the hot breakfast is still being served. Praise be. A shintzy, life-size Oscar statuette guards the staircase leading up to the theatre itself. I scarf several pieces of bacon and some egg white scramble. There is no toast. There is never toast.
Having worked as a entertainment journalist in LA for six months now, I am accustomed to the secondary status that comes with representing a country that is outside the top fifteen international film markets. So I am unsurprised that my accreditation lanyard reads 'B'. The 'A' journalists will gain access to the theatre 10 minutes before those of us in the 'B' team.
I finally recognise someone in the room, an English journalist I've met on several other junkets. I notice that her lanyard reads 'B' too. Has the British Empire really fallen that far?
She informs me that the 'A' people are doing on-camera/TV stuff, and that ALL the print journalists are deemed 'B'. It may be because it's still the middle of the night and I am a little emotional, but this is strangely heartening information to hear. The idea of America is alive and well - everyone really is equal, unless they're on telly.
The 'A' scrum heads in at 4.50am, the 'B' team follows at 5.00am. My English colleague informs me as we ascend the stairs that some news has just broken - Hans Gruber is dead. A pall is cast over the morning.
Inside the theatre, the TV peeps are setting up their cameras and doing mic checks while the rest of us take our seats. There are two not-so-shintzy life-size Oscar statuettes either side of the stage. I think I spot Leonard Maltin. But it may just be some old bearded dude.
The old bearded dude then comes over and greets a journalist sitting a few seats to my right. It's definitely Leonard Maltin. We are there as peers. Sort of. My twelve-year-old self is stoked.
Twenty minutes or so later, Guillermo Del Toro and Ang Lee come on stage and announce the first eleven categories. There is nothing particularly dramatic in this bunch, it's mostly the awards given when you're making a cup of tea - Best Documentary Short etc. Some of the announcements inspire concentrated cheers from (presumably) the journalists representing the countries highlighted in these nominations, especially during the Best Animated Feature announcement.
There is a short break featuring a movie montage narrated by Morgan Freeman, then John Krasinski and AMPAS President Cheryl Boone Issacs come on stage to announce the remaining categories. 200 hacks lean forward an inch or so in their chairs.
This is the part of the event I am most intrigued to witness - how will the group react? This is a country that cheers and boos trailers at the movies, so I am hoping there will be discernable collective responses to certain announcements.
Sparse clapping and intermittent "woohoos" are mostly what result, but there are a few notable reactions:
• Sylvester Stallone's Best Supporting Actor nomination for Creed gets a huge cheer. I participate in said cheer.
• Kate Winslet's Best Supporting Actress nomination for Steve Jobs inspires noteworthy silence in the room.
• Jennifer Lawrence's Best Actress nomination for Joy is also meet with a strangely muted response by the crowd, but Brie Larson's nomination in the same category for Room receives cheers.
• Alex Garland's Best Original Screenplay nomination for Ex Machina is received very positively.
• But not as positively as the Best Original Screenplay nomination received by Straight Outta Compton's four writers, which generates perhaps the biggest response of the morning.
• Matt Damon's Best Actor nomination for The Martian inspires audible (positive-seeming) gasps, as does Lenny Abrahamson's Best Director nomination for Room.
It ends of course with the Best Picture nominees, none of which really surprise anybody. But there's obviously no way to guage reaction in the room to any notable ommissions, the most glaring of which seems to be Straight Outta Compton. I was holding out vain hope that Anomalisa might gain a nod in this category. Oh well.
The event is over less than twenty minutes after it began. The sun still isn't up. I drive back to my house, get back in to bed and pick up where I left off with the packing nightmare.
• Were you happy with the Oscar nominations? Comment below!