I can tell you the exact moment when I started getting way too wrapped up in the Oscars. It started in 1998, the year after Titanic came out. I was 13 years old, sitting in the living room, about to read Seventeen magazine or something, when my mom was like, "Let's watch the Oscars!" I only vaguely knew what the Oscars were: something about gold statue men, Very Important actors and actresses in expensive outfits giving speeches, and lots of old white dudes with beards and spectacles. Not much has changed. But my mom knew I really loved Titanic because I had seen it in the theater three times. That means I had spent nine hours watching Titanic, of all things. At the time, I'm pretty sure we all thought Titanic was a pretty good movie. And secretly, I'm still sort of fond of it. It was the last time we could put posters of Leonardo DiCaprio on our bedroom walls. It was when I was introduced to Kate Winslet (and subsequently watched Heavenly Creatures and she became -- and remains -- my favorite actress). This movie cast Billy Zane with a straight face.
So I decided to watch the Oscars and root for Titanic against movies like As Good as It Gets, The Full Monty, and Good Will Hunting -- all movies which I had not yet seen because I was 13 and I did not care about anything that wasn't The Craft or Leonardo DiCaprio or angsty music. My mom and I were really into the awards that night, and she let me stay up past my bedtime, so the Oscars were pretty awesome.
I started watching every year, even though I hadn't seen most of the movies that were nominated, but I loved seeing what everyone was wearing and listening to the speeches and the whole excessive hoopla surrounding this one night dedicated to deciding who deserved a golden statue for being the best at movies that year. And I do love movies, but as a teenager, I just didn't have time between blowing off school and getting in trouble with my friends and watching weird movies to watch the more prestige pictures. That didn't mean I couldn't cheer on the actors or directors I liked, even if I hadn't made time to see their latest film yet.
As I got older, I made it more of a priority to watch as many new films a year as possible, so that I could root for my favorites. And now as a full-fledged film critic person who is somehow paid to have an opinion on these things, it's my job to keep up with new films, both big and small, which means that by the time the Oscars roll around, I've seen almost all of the films nominated -- except for the shorts because who actually ever watches the shorts except for the people who have to vote for them. It's always something like My Father's Broom Handle, By Almrick Heimdauer, Germany, "A whimsical tale of tradition and the passing of time in war-torn Berlin."
And because I've seen more of the films, I've gotten much more pumped about it every year. Look, I know it's silly. I can tell you that when I watch the Golden Globes, I don't get nearly as wrapped up in who wins or loses. Jennifer Lawrence won a Globe for Best Supporting Actress this year, and there was no way she was better than Lupita Nyong'o in 12 Years a Slave or Sally Hawkins in Blue Jasmine. But it's the Golden Globes, and those awards are silly. They divide their Best Picture categories up into "Drama" and "Comedy/Musical," and they put Her in the latter category, so it's really not something to be taken seriously. And yet, I know I should probably treat the Oscars with the same attitude and I just don't. I approach it with the same reasoning for why I put my clothes on the love seat in my apartment instead of hanging them up in the closet: I need one messy area in my home. Just one. Everything else can be neat and mostly organized, but I need one little outlet where I can just not give a crap.
So while I approach film and criticism with seriousness and dignity for the rest of the year, this is the one time of the year where I just let go and let myself really get into something. It's fun! I'm not a sports person (nor am I always great with analogies), so my analogy may be thin here, but the Oscars are very much like my Superbowl. I pick my teams (movies, actors, actresses, et al.) throughout the year and root for them all the way through the play-offs (the other, lesser awards shows). And when it comes time for the big game, I go to Whole Foods and pick up a spread of fancy snacks and baked goods and cake-like things and champagne. I get into my game-day gear (pajamas) and watch the pre-game, which is the pre-awards show coverage that involves asking all the stars who they're wearing and watching them all arrive for their big day, like they're hoping to marry a gold statue or something. And then my Superbowl begins, which is not nearly as action-packed or competitive as real sports, but I'm still pretty stoked about it. My teams square off in each category, and yes, I cheer and I cry foul when the person I'm rooting for loses. I throw pillows at the TV while shouting profanities with a mouth full of sushi. This is how I do things. And I'm tired of people judging me for being into the Oscars. I know they're stupid. I know they ultimately don't mean anything. I know the movies I love are still great even if they don't win, and I know that no group of out of touch old white dudes can tell me the worth of something... unless they're telling me the worth of like, scotch or gold bars.
Just let me have this day. I let you guys have your stupid Superbowl and your stupid sports, which are, I'm sorry-not-sorry, just as meaningless and totally do nothing to better or further the advancement of society.
And rest assured, if Jennifer Lawrence beats Lupita Nyong'o or Sally Hawkins at the Oscars, I will throw a damn fit. If Sandra Bullock somehow wins for Gravity, or if, Satan forbid, Gravity wins for Best Cinematography or American Hustle starts sweeping the damn awards, my neighbors may call the police for fear that I am having a Grey Gardens breakdown in my apartment.