Let's Talk Oscars
Entry 3: The red carpet is now bigger than the ceremony.
Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images.
Dan Kois, Troy Patterson, and Dana Stevens will be on Slate’s Facebook page at 11 a.m. ET on Monday to chat with readers about Sunday’s Oscar ceremony.
Though I'm not strongly persuaded by Dan's theory that The Help could mop the floor with the competition, I am highly intrigued by the idea, and these Oscars need some intrigue, stat. This very obviously has been the boringest Oscar season of my adult life. If it hadn't been for the early spasm of Ratner buffoonery—and the approaching steps of Harvey Weinstein as he colossally strides the media scene and shakes the furniture with his footfalls—many of us in the Oscar-watching world would be comatose.
What’s more, if The Help swept to victory, we admirers of the lowest form of wit will have a grand Monday appreciating what headline writers have wrought. If I were the editor of a newspaper tabloid and The Help pulled an upset, I think I'd go with "DOMESTIC DISTURBANCE" for the wood.
Dan mentioned that he had no luck tracking down other individuals who share his idea on the topic. But I have! I discovered them gathering virtual dust in my inbox, where the Oscar-themed press releases include a note from a distiller suggesting that we toast Brad Pitt with a "High Moneyball" and Woody Allen with an obscure drink called the "Manhattan." I clicked open an urgent announcement from "a leading online shopping site." Its flack wants you to know that a "survey of 526 U.S. online shopping consumers conducted February 14th – 22nd" finds that 34 percent of the people willing to waste their time on a survey like this think that The Help will win. The Descendants and The Artist tied for second place, with 16 percent each, in this straw poll, which is so perfectly meaningless that it might be on to something.
The Oscars have entered a decadent phase in which they are secondary to their own hype. If I understand ABC's schedule for "Oscar Sunday"—a new calendrical institution to rank with Black Friday and Super Tuesday and Football Night in America—the show airs at 8:30 p.m. ET. But the pre-show ("On the Red Carpet at the Oscars") starts at 7 p.m., and the pre-pre-show ("On the Red Carpet at the Oscars") starts at 4:30 p.m., and the post-show, also called "On the Red Carpet at the Oscars," starts at 11:30 p.m. ET. This is not to mention a syndicated ante-pre-pre-show ("On the Red Carpet") running in "select markets." There's a break for the "news" somewhere in there.
Even if this year's Oscar telecast is more hideously bloated than usual, ABC will be airing more hours of red-carpet coverage than of the actual event, and viewers will be blinded with the hot light of glossy waves of hair as tossed in a thousand ads for shampoo-conditioner. The red carpet is possibly bigger than the ceremony. Certainly, it's a more valid indicator of where the culture is at.
This is all to say that I'm psyched to see who Rooney Mara wears. (In my dreams, she wears Rodarte, and in my nightmares, Nick Nolte wears her.) I'm excited to make fun of unfortunate evening suits. What are you guys excited about? Who is willing to predict Muppet surprises? Which screenwriter would you prefer to hear an acceptance speech from: Kristen Wiig or Woody Allen? Aaron Sorkin or Alexander Payne? Why hasn't America fallen in love with The Artist's Bernice Bejo, despite the best efforts of Weinstein and her personal publicists and the photo editors of Hearst and Conde Nast?
I'm off to peep—and, perchance, to tweet about—the nominated short films.
Troy Patterson is Slate's television critic.