The 79th Annual Academy Awards

Sunday, February 25. 

I began following the Academy Awards at age ten when I found my mom watching some sort of staged presentation of “Under the Sea” from The Little Mermaid on TV. Despite my mixed feelings about the Disney musical (why did Ariel have to be so stupid?), I knew all the words to all the songs, so I was excited to learn that the musicians and dancers were performing “Under the Sea” at an event where it might win an award. I settled down to watch, and it did, in fact, win, and I was happy. What’s more, I was hooked.

Eventually I learned that the Oscars usually don’t go to the most deserving nominee, that the Academy regularly passes over groundbreaking masterworks in favor of pretty pablum, but by then I was too wrapped up in the ostentatious pageantry of the thing to stop watching. The occasional oddball interpretative dance cracks me up. The conventions and tropes of the acceptance speeches fascinate me. I’ve become weirdly fond of the annual Dead People montage, and who can resist such a great opportunity to make catty comments about celebrity fashion?

Besides, Mom and I have our own private Oscar pool with a year’s bragging rights at stake. Before each show, I do my research, coldly weighing the odds and making my predictions accordingly. Going into 2007, I was riding a modest winning streak, but this year Mom triumphed. (Congratulations, Mom!)

Mom made some uncannily good guesses in categories neither of us knows anything about, so I probably didn’t have much of a shot, but looking back over my own picks, I realize I didn’t help my chances by making the classic Oscar pool mistake: I made predictions based on whom I wanted to win without fully considering who would. Enamored of Children of Men and disappointed that it was largely overlooked, I convinced myself that the Academy, too, would regret the omission and reward the movie with the Oscars for film editing and cinematography as a much-deserved consolation prize. In retrospect, that was wishful thinking.

I like to tell myself that I understand the Academy Awards are farcical and political, just an evening of self-congratulations and pointless montages and weak jokes. But it’s still nice to see favorites validated and nonfavorites repudiated, and it’s disappointing when that doesn’t happen. Plus, I don’t like losing the Oscar pool.