Some observations on my Oscar experience

Even though I’ve written a book about the Oscars, I’ve never actually attended any of their events, or come much closer than watching the show when it airs.

That changed earlier this week, when I attended the announcement ceremony from the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Hollywood. I had to wake up at 3 a.m. to get there for the media breakfast and be in place for the announcements, which took place at 5:38 a.m. (so that they were in time for the East Coast broadcasts of the morning news shows). It was a surprisingly lively event. Here are some of my thoughts at it was happening.

• The lobby is covered in red carpet — I guess that saves a lot of time laying it out every 15 seconds so celebs know where to go.

• The security is tight but the people are friendly. This is L.A. after all — you can never be sure who’s some journo from Dallas and who might be a segment producer for Access Hollywood. Or Harvey Weinstein’s personal assistant.

• An old man at my table at the media breakfast just got his foot wrapped on my bag’s strap, which was pressed next to my chair. “I’m gonna kill myself on that! Putting it under the table is better.” “Picking up your feet when you walk isn’t a bad idea, either,” I mutter. He then sat down and nearly took the table cloth with him when it gets caught on his foot. What’s the common denominator here? My bag or this guy?

• Some folks are wearing swag from previous Oscars. I am not among them. I decide this is a good thing, because then people might want to talk to you about it and I’m just a faker who bought my swag anyway.

• The breakfast looks busy and well-attended to me, but a few veterans of the event note that there are “fewer and fewer every year… They’re all going to Sundance.”

• Small world: I just bumped into Amy, a publicist for ABC. I had met her only the day before, at a friend’s house — she is the girlfriend of his roommate. She does a mean Madonna impersonation, though not here.

• I’m surprised that more people are not talking about the Oscars themselves, or even the movie business — handicapping who they think the nominees will be, what films they expect to get snubbed. I wonder if they are playing it close to the vest or really have become so bored by it this is just an inconvenient assignment. Or maybe they are afraid to look too anxious and fan-boy crazy.

• There is one exception. A guy I’m sitting near apparently has a gig as a handicapper of the visual effects category. He says Hugo isn’t feeling the love and neither is Harry Potter — those will likely be passed over. The surprise nominee, he predicts, may be Real Steel, though he wonders if it and Transformers 3 — two robot movies — will both get nominated. He does predict Rise of the Planet of the Apes is the frontrunner to win “as compensation for not nominating Andy Serkis.” Captain America also seems a lock…

• Only he’s wrong. Yes, Rise and Steel both get nods, but so does Transformers and so do Hugo and Potter. Captain America is overlooked.

• After so much cool, a few minutes before the velvet rope is removed to allow folks into the theater, and without any public announcement, the “first admit” passholders magically start lining up like airplane travelers jockeying for the shortest wait. They care…

• Finally, the ceremony is over and folks are pouring over the press release, looking not just at what movies got nods, but who. They are not all journalists here — some probably are Harvey Weinstein’s assistants, or at least folks from corporate who have bosses in the running. Or personal grudges. “No, he didn’t make the list,” one says into a cell phone. “Ohh, she got nominated — he’ll be pissed!” another observes. Half of show business is business…

—  Arnold Wayne Jones