The Oscars are less than two weeks away and with them comes the end of awards season. I’ve been quite vocal about how simply exhausting this time of the year is, between watching all the prospective nominated titles and staying on top of who has more chances of winning what.
This year I added a new chore to the list of being an entertainment writer during awards season: attending an actual trophy ceremony. And let me tell you, that sounds much more glamorous than it really is. As a member of the Critics Choice Association (CCA), I was invited to the 27th Critics Choice Awards in Los Angeles this past Sunday, March 13.
I started stressing out when I realized the event was black tie and there wouldn’t be an entourage of professional stylists, hairdressers and makeup artists taking care of my look. Everything got easier once I accepted I was never going to look anywhere as put together as any of the celebrities in attendance — heck, I bought a fake pearl necklace online for less than $30 that I thought really complimented the black dress I was wearing…but would probably be more appropriate for a Halloween costume.
The day before the actual ceremony and, after traveling from Oakland to Los Angeles the previous night, I had to find a last-minute black tie-appropriate clutch that could fit my cell phone, a small travel-sized packet of kleenex tissues, my driver’s license and a couple of credit cards. I had to attend a professional cocktail party with colleague critics where the dress code was cryptically “comfy fabulous” and try to network in very uncomfortable shoes — it turns out “comfy fabulous” means sneakers are OK. And — because we still live in COVID times — I had to take a PCR test — the location for which kept confusingly changing — in those same shoes. The results for the test had to be uploaded before the actual ceremony took place the next day. Needless to say, had the test been positive, me and my fake pearl necklace would have been prohibited from attending the awards show and sent back home early.
Because for some weird reason everything awards-related is still very much scheduled around East Coast primetime, by 1 p.m. on the day of the event I was fully dressed and wearing even meaner shoes than the previous night. (Fortunately, I had my husband as my own private Chris Evans to help me navigate unbalancing situations the whole time.) Even though the Critics Choice Awards started at 4 p.m., we arrived at the Fairmont hotel, where the event was taking place, around 2:30 p.m. fearing the valet parking of the event would be a mess. It wasn’t. And just when we were being checked in, someone was making sure we were on the list and cleared for COVID, and someone else was taking away the car, I realized there was a crowd of clad-in-black and very competent professionals working so that the event was seamless.
They weren’t the only ones working. Everyone else was doing it, even the nominees and other famous attendees. Inside the ballroom where the ceremony took place, we were seated at a table next to director Guillermo del Toro (Nightmare Alley). All night there was a constant array of people going to pay him respects. Margaret Qualley (Maid) and her partner Jack Antonoff dropped by. So did Taika Waititi (Reservation Dogs). Jane Campion (The Power of the Dog) got the most effusive of hugs from the Mexican filmmaker.
You may think some of the funniest bits from an awards show are on camera, but they aren’t. They happen during the commercial breaks. Those are the only chances you get to go to the restroom, so you see a sea of people heading in that direction. You also see another sea of people trying to make it back inside the ballroom. (If you can’t make your trip to the restroom within the commercial break, you need to wait outside until the doors reopen during the following break.)
If Guillermo del Toro received a constant array of people wanting to say hi, so did actor Mike Colter (Evil). He was seated nearby and spent most of the commercial breaks graciously taking pictures with people who approached him. I felt bad for the celebrities, like Michael Keaton (Dopesick), trying to make their way to the restroom and being constantly stopped on their way there while people were asking them to take a picture. And, when I say people, I mean other attendees like my colleagues at the CCA and their plus-ones.
The ballroom at the Fairmont was a bit cramped. Elle Fanning (The Great) and her big dress got stuck between two chairs while she was attempting to make it back to her table. Serena Williams (King Richard) entered the ballroom with a handler grabbing the train of her dress and helping her navigate the crowded space. Amanda Peet (The Chair) showed me how you’re supposed to do these things: She was wearing pool slippers with her very fancy dress. LaKeith Stanfield (The Harder They Fall) proved black tie is a concept that can be creatively interpreted. And I saw Netflix’s co-CEO and content chief Ted Sarandos chatting up Danielle Brooks (Peacemaker), the team of Squid Game, Barry Jenkins (The Underground Railroad) and a very dashingly clad Jared Leto (House of Gucci).
There was a lot of adrenaline inside the room when the show first started; an ominous voice counting down the seconds told people to please take their seats and applaud. There’s a weird kind of energy when the title or the actor you voted for is the one that ends up winning. But as the
night afternoon went on and the ceremony passed the two-hour mark, the novelty of having a bunch of celebrities trapped inside of a ballroom wore off and I started missing the freedom of just watching an award show from the comfort of my couch.
Things started getting exciting again when Melanie Lynskey (Yellowjackets) thanked her husband, Jason Ritter, and daughter for the Best Actress in a Drama Series award but mostly her nanny, acknowledging how being able to leave her daughter with her allowed her to do her job.
By the end of the ceremony and with The Power of the Dog and Jane Campion taking most of the main awards, I was happy and the three-hour event was coming to a close. I skipped the after-parties and other festivities because there’s only so much socializing I can do in a 24-hour window.
I left the party and was waiting for the car at the valet at the same time Juliette Lewis (Yellowjackets) was doing it, and what could be cooler than that? But basically, leaving meant getting to the hotel, taking the makeup and the shoes off, and getting to pet my dog.