The Oscars are a surreal night. First of all, the Dolby Theater is located in a West Hollywood mall, which means the most glitzy showbiz night of the year feels like it’s taking place in Dundrum city centre.
he red carpet is sandwiched between a Sephora, some department stores and a Hard Rock Cafe.
“It’s weird,” says 2FM’s Stephen Byrne, who has been covering the Oscars in LA since 2013. “You stand on the red carpet waiting for celebrities to arrive, and then you see someone walking by with their grocery store or grabbing a McDonalds. Everyone in LA is so used to it.”
50,000 square feet of Academy Red carpet will be heaved into place on Hollywood Boulevard this week ahead of Sunday night’s awards ceremony (it takes 900 hours to lay the carpet). In preparation for the biggest night of the showbiz year, the Oscars marquee and press boxes are set up and statuettes are polished and polished.
The very first Academy Awards took place in 1929 and was over in 15 minutes. But it’s since grown into a three-and-a-half-hour television show, with million-dollar dresses, over-the-top speeches, and publicists and activists working around the clock to make sure their film gets as much airtime as possible.
For the rest of the world, the Oscars might seem like one big shiny night, but in Hollywood it’s an entire industry unto itself.
This week in LA feels like a festival — there are fleets of stretch limousines on standby, gift suites where brands pay through their noses for celebrities to show up and pose with products, and parties, dinners and lunches non-stop.
“All the big agencies throw parties the week before the Oscars,” says Ed Guiney of Element Pictures. “And they’re huge and full of stars, in amazing homes, and very, very lavish.”
But for those hoping to take home one of the statuettes, the run to the big night begins months earlier.
video of the day
Oscar campaigns are an intense grind. They begin between five and nine months before the ceremony and include attending as many festivals and high-profile networking events as possible. These may include Sundance, Cannes, Venice, Toronto, Telluride in Colorado and New York.
“It’s a real machine,” says Ed Guiney of Element Pictures. Element was at the Oscars The favourite, lobster and roomand has received several awards after successful campaigns.
“The classic way is to go to the festivals, the chicest and most chic is Venice,” says Guiney. “For example, The favourite premiered in Venice and won prizes, marking the start of the campaign.
“What you’re trying to do is basically create a buzz.”
The Oscars are a popularity contest and the goal is to get as many of the Academy’s 9,000+ voters as possible to see and hopefully vote for your film.
This is done with plenty of networking and celebrity-packed lunches.
The last year has been a challenge for the activists as all meet and greets have been held via Zoom and it’s much more difficult to enjoy yourself over a video call.
But this year, as things return to normal, so will the Oscar campaigns.
A successful campaign can make or break a film, so publicists are among the most valuable and powerful actors in Hollywood.
The rating crisis
It’s no secret that Oscar ratings have been nosedive for decades. Last year, they hit an all-time low with the pandemic-dampened ceremony. Just 9.85 million Americans watched the ceremony, down from 23.6 million last year.
“All [was] very disappointed [with last year’s ratings]said this year’s producer Will Pecker LA times. “This is not a sustainable model.”
Granted, last year was an anomaly, but regardless, the academy needs a strategy to turn things around.
In an attempt to win viewers back, the Academy decided to present eight awards (including editing, sound, production design and make-up) in the hour before the Oscars televised.
This segment will have its own host and will be woven into a highlight reel that will air later in the show. There has been significant opposition, which has led to talks of an industry-led boycott of the ceremony. At the very least, it will inevitably create some excitement at night.
“It feels tasteless,” says producer and Academy member Guiney. “Film is collaborative. Fame wanes on set and everyone is there to work. There’s a lot of mutual respect and these people are incredibly important to the success of the film.”
Academy member Tomm Moore of Cartoon Saloon agrees.
“The best thing about the Oscars is that filmmakers honor other filmmakers… so it’s insulting to treat people as second-class citizens because of the ratings.”
That being said, there’s a much bigger issue here – one of sensitivity. Expecting people to see a room full of actors and Hollywood millionaires fondling each other is not in keeping with the current climate when people are dying in Ukraine. “Something much more important is happening,” says Stephen Byrne.
How the moderators deal with this tension remains to be seen.
Who wears what?
Most of us have more vivid memories of the dresses and looks on the red carpet than we do of the ceremony, the speeches, or the winners. This year, Irish fans’ attention will focus primarily on Caitriona Balfe and Jessie Buckley. Balfe has his hair done by internationally renowned stylist Gareth Bromell.
Limerick-born Bromell has been on the promotional tour with Balfe in Belfast for the past six months. He says creating the looks for the awards show was a collaboration between himself, Balfe and her stylist Karla Welch, who previously styled Ruth Negga for the 2017 Oscars.
“I talk to Karla about what Caitriona is wearing and then I put together a mood board. We all work together on the look,” he says.
On the day of the Oscars, a team of hair stylists, make-up artists, nail artists and fashion stylists will set up shop near the Dolby Theatre. It’s a full day of prep and they take about three hours to put together the final look.
After the ceremony, the team will be available for her second look of the evening as she prepares to attend the vanity fair After the party. The outfit, hair and makeup are set weeks in advance but are kept secret.
“It’s two looks,” says Bromell. “It’s a full day of work and preparation. For the Baftas, we started at 10am, worked until noon, and then came back at 8pm for a second look… It’s exciting. And it’s great to have Irish talent there and I’m honored to be a part of it.”
Meanwhile, Buckley is being dressed by London stylist Rose Forde. The Killarney actress’ favorite fashion brands include Alexander McQueen, Erdem and Loewe, so she can wear one of her creations on Sunday night.
Many of the other nominees have contractual relationships and commitments with luxury fashion brands that dictate what they wear (Nicole Kidman and Armani, Kristen Stewart and Chanel).
Many of the stars are actually paid to wear a specific dress. In 2017, the late Chanel creative director Karl Lagerfeld claimed that Meryl Streep did not wear one of her dresses because he refused to pay her for it.
While Lagerfeld might not have been ready to cough, there are many others who would be happy to do so.
In 2015, celebrity stylist Jessica Paster said, “It’s common across the board. Jewelry makers pay, shoe makers pay, tampon makers pay, everyone pays.”
The ceremony and the parties
Last year’s ceremony was considered a minor dud, but for the 94th Academy Awards, insiders believe there will be more power. “I think the actors will let go,” Byrne says. “I would say this year will be an absolute buzz.”
The ceremony itself is stronger than in previous years. There will be a trifecta of hosts — Regina Hall, Amy Schumer and Wanda Sykes — as opposed to the past three years, when there weren’t any. And Beyoncé and Billie Eilish will perform their nominated best songs.
According to those who attended the ceremony, the night itself is unforgettable. Tomm Moore has attended the Oscars five times and says there were many moments he will always remember.
“One year I spoke to Sandra Bullock and Quentin Tarantino came over and he was on my nomination certificate. I was too embarrassed to ask him to move,” he says.
“So I framed it with Tarantino’s footprint. Another year when we came in I was behind Sigourney Weaver and she had this long train that I was trying not to stand on. Morgan Freeman was behind me and kept saying, ‘Just stand on it’. You think, “What’s going on? It’s mental.”
So who will win?
It’s been a strong year for Ireland with a total of eight nominations. Kenneth Branagh’s Belfast received seven nominations including Best Picture, Best Sound, Best Director and Original Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor for Ciarán Hinds and Best Original Song for Down to joywhich was written and performed by Van Morrison.
However, some industry experts believe that Belfast may have peaked too soon with Best Picture being the target The power of the dog. “It came out of the gate strong early on,” said an industry insider. “People started talking about Oscars right away, but sometimes that interest can wane when final voting starts in March.”
Buckley was nominated for her role as Leda in The Lost Daughter and will face 87-year-old Dame Judi Dench (Belfast). But the favorite to win this category is Ariana DeBose (Westside Story), closely followed by Kirsten Dunst (The power of the dog).
Ciaran Hinds must bat The power of the dog Kodi Smit-McPhee for Best Supporting Actor while Van the Man has to trump Lin-Manuel Miranda Encanto.
It’s possible we’ll leave empty-handed, but let’s hope for the best.
Red carpet coverage begins at 10pm on Sky Cinema Oscars Sunday night, with the show starting at 1am.
https://www.independent.ie/entertainment/movies/the-oscars-2022-inside-story-a-red-carpet-in-a-shopping-centre-irish-hopefuls-and-nine-month-campaigns-41484787.html The inside story of the Oscars 2022: a red carpet in a mall, Irish hopefuls and nine months of campaigning