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Confessions of an Oscar freak

By Tim Allis
updated 4:09 PM EST, Thu January 16, 2014
<strong>Best picture nominees: </strong>"American Hustle" (pictured), <strong>"</strong>12 Years a Slave," "The Wolf of Wall Street," "Captain Phillips," "Her," "Gravity," "Dallas Buyers Club," "Nebraska" and "Philomena" Best picture nominees: "American Hustle" (pictured), "12 Years a Slave," "The Wolf of Wall Street," "Captain Phillips," "Her," "Gravity," "Dallas Buyers Club," "Nebraska" and "Philomena"
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86th Academy Awards nominations
86th Academy Awards nominations
86th Academy Awards nominations
86th Academy Awards nominations
86th Academy Awards nominations
86th Academy Awards nominations
86th Academy Awards nominations
86th Academy Awards nominations
86th Academy Awards nominations
86th Academy Awards nominations
86th Academy Awards nominations
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • If you watched early morning Oscars nominations, you're in Tim Allis' Order of Oscar Freaks
  • Allis: It's not just a horse race: Oscar mania is the spectacle, the show, the history
  • Allis: Academy of Old couldn't have imagined dwindling viewership, competition from TV
  • Despite its excesses, he says, Oscars are a great national tradition, with a little magic

Editor's note: Tim Allis is an editor and writer based in Atlanta. He was a senior editor at In Style for 12 years and has written for People, Saveur, Men's Health, Best Life and Out, among others.

(CNN) -- If you set your alarm this morning for quarter-past ungodly (California time) to catch the predawn announcement of the Oscars nominations, then we're in the same twisted little club. The Order of the Oscars Freaks.

Years before Oscars handicapping became an official Olympics sport -- What? It's not? -- two fellow Oscars-obsessed friends and I made an annual game of trying to predict who'd get nominated. I never won (I tied once), but I never lost my enthusiasm for it; that is until every magazine and website came along with their own predictions and took the fun out of it.

Tim Allis
Tim Allis

This year for old times' sake we revived our game, only doing the best actor category because it's been an impossibly full year of great male lead performances that have stumped the prognosticators.

My 14-year-old nephew Miles was in on it because he's been a rabid Oscar fiend since he was at least, oh, 12. Call out a category -- best actress say -- and a year -- 1966 -- and he'll holler back "Julie. Christie, not Andrews." Am I proud, or concerned? Today the results came in and we all tied with four corrects each, but with different names on our lists.

Jude must have known Christian Bale had the gale winds of "American Hustle" at his back. David, a great strategist, and Miles the Scorsese devotee, both recognized Leo DiCaprio's high standing with the Academy, even if Miles won't be seeing that film anytime soon, I pray. We all had faith in Bruce, Matthew and Chiwetel (funny how we know them all by first name.) I held out for Robert Redford because, well, he's Redford, and because I'm un-young. That should teach me to stop leading with my heart. But did anyone ever imagine that betting against Mr. Oscars himself, Tom Hanks, could pay off? If I had I would have won for once.

Of course, Oscar mania is not just about the horse race. It's also the spectacle, the show around the show. The history. I'm a diehard. I haven't missed an Oscars since I got hooked as a teen. My favorite year was 1978, the night Jane Fonda and Jon Voight took the best leads categories for "Coming Home." Justice! Glory!

Oscars: Who was snubbed?
Oscar nominations
The best actor nominees are ...
The best actress nominees are ...

As a professional plower of the fields of celebrity, with a license to fawn and gush (want to see my card?) I've attended the Oscars, been inside the crimson cocoon, felt the collective shock when "Shakespeare In Love" beat "Saving Private Ryan" for Best Picture. I've stepped on a few gowns. Not even the cruel realization that there are essentially two red carpets -- velvet stanchions separate the stars on one side from the rest of us attendees -- could squelch my blind and blinded-by-the-flashbulbs enthusiasm.

But like most true believers I have my moments of doubt. If you are not in our little club, I get where you're coming from.

To the Osc-nostics it is all too much, too little, and certainly, should you try to slog through the entire three-and-a-half hour ceremony on March 2, too late. It is kind of preposterous: over-hyped, over-scored, overwrought.

In poor Oscar's defense, for the past decade or so Hollywood's big night has had to suffer indignities that the Academy of Old couldn't have imagined: dwindling viewership, the cultural-relevance supremacy of TV over movies, an attention deficit that just can't sit still for the live-action shorts category, acting and directing victories basically pre-called by critics and Tweeters and bookies, James Franco.

There's desperation in the air. Oscar's been trying too hard. This year's host Ellen Degeneres will take care of some of that, I'm sure. You never see her sweat. Plus, there's red carpet fatigue, as the Oscars limp on high heels to the finish line of a bloated awards season as overextended as Christmas and the NFL. Critics' awards, the People's Choice Awards, the Golden Globes, the SAG Awards — you can only cut to a reaction shot of Jennifer Lawrence so many times before it constitutes stalking. But is it Oscar's fault that everyone else wants in on the action?

I recognize the madness -- struggle with it -- but it's hopeless. I just can't shake my addiction. Will I sound like I'm on the Academy's payroll if I argue that the Oscars really are a great national tradition? Movies, of course, which might actually be getting better. And stars, our collective guilty delight. And glamor, maybe even a modicum of sophistication.

And there are less-lofty traditions to savor: Carping about his speech, dissing her dress. Trying to catch a loser register a little disappointment. Enduring campy production numbers with aerialists. Dutifully filling out the ballots at your friend's Oscars party even if the only movie you saw that year starred Adam Sandler. It's all part of the ritual. The knowing that it's all too much, but the kind of too much that some of us just can't get enough of.

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The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Tim Allis.

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