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From the heartland to Hollywood

On the Oscar road: Crawfish, Mentos and best pics

Kendis Gibson
Kendis Gibson is an entertainment and culture anchor and correspondent for CNN Headline News.  

By Kendis Gibson
CNN Headline News

Editor's note: In our Behind the Scenes series, CNN correspondents share their experiences in covering news around the world.

SHREVEPORT, Louisiana (CNN) -- Trading the cushy confines of a wide-body jet for a cramped minivan, two CNN Headline News producers and I have taken our trip to the Oscars on the road. It's a 10-state, six-day, 2,500-mile drive. Along the way, we're talking with people about this year's Academy Awards race -- and perhaps finding out if they care about Hollywood's over-hyped, annual pat on its own back.

Day 1 of our cross-country trek may be most memorable for its numerous road kills. We counted one armadillo, one possum, four dogs, and four "UFCs" (Unidentified Furry Creatures). And then there's the mysterious disappearance of breath-freshening mints from our Ford Windstar.

  Day 1:  Crawfish, Mentos and best pics

  Day 2:  A stop in 'Spacek City'

  Day 3:  Talkies at the Tascosa

  Day 4:  Day 4: Dams and damsels

Early Sunday, we set out from Atlanta. Ten hours later, we rolled into Shreveport, Louisiana. It's known, we learned, not as a movie mecca of the South but as the birthplace of Hank Williams Jr. Still, as we drove through this bustling casino town, we discovered that people here do care about this year's Oscars.

The smoke from Shaver's Crawfish takeout on Route 1 caught our eyes and captured our camera's focus. Now mind you, none of these people has seen any of the best-picture movies nominated, but still made known their picks for best actor: Russell Crowe, Denzel Washington and Will Smith. Opinions here proved to be as diverse as many industry observers' predictions are, going into Sunday evening's awards show (8 p.m. EST on ABC).

To pay us back for asking them Academy questions on-camera, the guys taught my producers and me how to eat crawfish. It got our trip off to a spicy start, and made finding the Mentos even more of a priority.

Tomorrow, we stop in the town in which best-actress nominee Sissy Spacek was born. Quitman, Texas, has named so many things in her honor that they might as well call the town Spacek, Texas.



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