Like everything except perhaps death, taxes and Bob Dylan tours, the Academy Awards have a defined “before”, “during” and “after” period.
The preamble to the Academy Awards is the worst part. Months of campaigning from actors, months of other awards where the winners get a chance to practise their speeches, and the red carpet roadkill where actors are asked “what are you wearing?” and basic courtesy stops 50% of the participants saying “The Same Thing”. This trend plummeted to its nadir when E! entertainment channel host Ryan Seacrest announced he was wearing… Ryan Seacrest Distinction. (This is a fashion line as opposed to a conceit of his own fashionability.) Or it could have been when the same network asked the other 50% of awards participants to head to a “Mani-cam” where their nails were given a close up. Because it is, in the end, all about “the work”.
The “during” of the Academy Awards is nearly as bad. It doesn’t last as long as what newspapers and TV channels are now obliged to call Awards Season, but feels like it. The winners are given a chance to deliver speeches they’ve been practising for months, and still make a hash of it. Actors who have been trained to cry on camera somehow fail in the simple ask not to cry on camera. If these people are paid to read things out loud for the rest of the year, no wonder so many of them are unemployed. The musical performances are fairly rotten and the last host to be consistently funny was Steve Martin in 2001 & 2003. (“Maybe critics are right, maybe Hollywood movies are too violent. I took a nine-year-old kid to see Gladiator and he cried through the entire film. Now, maybe it was because he didn’t know who I was.”)
The “after” of the Academy Awards is guaranteed to be the best of it. Post-Oscars was when the agent Swifty Lazar held legendary parties for Hemingway, Bacall, Nabokov. And Cher. (Vanity Fair would take this mantle on in the modern era.) The part of the morning (set time: 1:45-3:45am) Prince played Rolling Stones and Beatles covers at the party at his house. Madonna and Elton John regularly face off with bashes of their own. Speaking of bashes, it’s when No Way Out star Sean Young’s post-awards evening started with one way out of the Governors’ Ball party, thanks to an altercation with security, and then another way out of a prison cell at 3am. Just after the Oscars is where Hillary Swank was caught by the paparazzi tucking into an Astro Burger in her ballgown after winning Best Actress for Million Dollar Baby. It’s also where bleary-eyed British viewers see the A-listers sweeping past reporters on the Vanity Fair party on breakfast TV. Nothing says “I have to go to work on a grey February” as much as munching your cornflakes, looking at an actress in a ballgown grinning and clutching a gold man. This is either an Oscar or a haircut with a Californian tan.
The “after” of this year’s ceremony was a doozy. For a ceremony which rewards worthy dramas, it was great to see a musical recognised, followed shortly by a moment of high comedy. Was it Warren Beatty’s job to announce? No, Faye Dunaway. Was it La La Land? No, Moonlight. Was it Martha of Price Waterhouse Coopers who got the wrong envelope? No, apparently, Brian. Was it wise for actors to question the basic competence and fairness of its government from the stage? Possbly not after that.
This rivals any Academy Awards for fallout.
It has somehow maintained US news coverage in a week where the Attorney General’s links with Russia and Vice President’s hacked emails came to our attention.
The greatest post-Oscars photo was of course like many Hollywood moments, staged. In 1977, photographer Terry O’ Neill decided he wanted to display the morning after the night before of the Academy Awards. He captured Faye Dunaway by the pool with her statue for Best Actress and a shoal of newspapers reporting the event by the pool.
Dunaway had experienced a difficult shoot on Network, for which she won, with rows over her nudity clause, the script and after filming wrapped, the leading man Peter Finch passed away, leading to the first and only posthumous award for Best Actor.
“I wanted to capture the look of dazed confusion,” O’ Neill, who would go on to marry and divorce Dunaway, reflected recently to The Observer, “to capture that state of utter shock that Oscar winners enter, where they go to bed thrilled, then overnight, it dawns on them that they’ve changed, that they’ve just become a star.”
Confusion, shock, the world’s eyes looking on her on the morning after an Academy Awards, Dunaway must have felt emotionally shredded.
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Thanks to Price Waterhouse Coopers’ Employee of the Month, some of those feelings may have returned on Monday morning. A shame Terry O’Neill wasn’t on hand to take the shot.