Skip to main content

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"
HIDE CAPTION
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
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
>
>>
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.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

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

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 11:17 AM EST, Fri December 26, 2014
Today's politicians should follow Ronald Reagan's advice and invest in science, research and development, Fareed Zakaria says.
updated 8:19 AM EST, Fri December 26, 2014
Artificial intelligence does not need to be malevolent to be catastrophically dangerous to humanity, writes Greg Scoblete.
updated 10:05 AM EST, Fri December 26, 2014
Historian Douglas Brinkley says a showing of Sony's film in Austin helped keep the city weird -- and spotlighted the heroes who stood up for free expression
updated 8:03 AM EST, Fri December 26, 2014
Tanya Odom that by calling only on women at his press conference, the President made clear why women and people of color should be more visible in boardrooms and conferences
updated 8:12 AM EST, Fri December 26, 2014
When oil spills happen, researchers are faced with the difficult choice of whether to use chemical dispersants, authors say
updated 1:33 AM EST, Thu December 25, 2014
Danny Cevallos says the legislature didn't have to get involved in regulating how people greet each other
updated 6:12 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Marc Harrold suggests a way to move forward after the deaths of NYPD officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos.
updated 8:36 AM EST, Wed December 24, 2014
Simon Moya-Smith says Mah-hi-vist Goodblanket, who was killed by law enforcement officers, deserves justice.
updated 2:14 PM EST, Wed December 24, 2014
Val Lauder says that for 1,700 years, people have been debating when, and how, to celebrate Christmas
updated 3:27 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Raphael Sperry says architects should change their ethics code to ban involvement in designing torture chambers
updated 10:35 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Paul Callan says Sony is right to call for blocking the tweeting of private emails stolen by hackers
updated 7:57 AM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
As Christmas arrives, eyes turn naturally toward Bethlehem. But have we got our history of Christmas right? Jay Parini explores.
updated 11:29 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
The late Joe Cocker somehow found himself among the rock 'n' roll aristocracy who showed up in Woodstock to help administer a collective blessing upon a generation.
updated 4:15 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
History may not judge Obama kindly on Syria or even Iraq. But for a lame duck president, he seems to have quacking left to do, says Aaron Miller.
updated 1:11 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Terrorism and WMD -- it's easy to understand why these consistently make the headlines. But small arms can be devastating too, says Rachel Stohl.
updated 1:08 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
Ever since "Bridge-gate" threatened to derail Chris Christie's chances for 2016, Jeb Bush has been hinting he might run. Julian Zelizer looks at why he could win.
updated 1:53 PM EST, Sat December 20, 2014
New York's decision to ban hydraulic fracturing was more about politics than good environmental policy, argues Jeremy Carl.
updated 3:19 PM EST, Sat December 20, 2014
On perhaps this year's most compelling drama, the credits have yet to roll. But we still need to learn some cyber lessons to protect America, suggest John McCain.
updated 5:39 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
Conservatives know easing the trade embargo with Cuba is good for America. They should just admit it, says Fareed Zakaria.
updated 8:12 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
We're a world away from Pakistan in geography, but not in sentiment, writes Donna Brazile.
updated 12:09 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
How about a world where we have murderers but no murders? The police still chase down criminals who commit murder, we have trials and justice is handed out...but no one dies.
updated 6:45 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
The U.S. must respond to North Korea's alleged hacking of Sony, says Christian Whiton. Failing to do so will only embolden it.
updated 4:34 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
President Obama has been flexing his executive muscles lately despite Democrat's losses, writes Gloria Borger
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT