Jesse Armstrong wrote In the Loop with Armando Iannucci, Simon Blackwell and Tony Roche). The film was nominated for best adapted screenplay.
A week before the Oscars and I am starting to view imperfections, minor eruptions and abrasions to my face with suspicion. Right now the Oscars feel like the biggest school disco in the world and I am stalked by the fear that like the school disco I'm going to turn up with a honking great pustule on my nose.
On the plane I watch the DVD we got mailed out with our invites: What Nominees Need to Know – an Insiders' Guide. It feels like the sort of material that might self-destruct after watching. I learn a few crucial facts. If you win you have 60 seconds in which to receive the award. 15 seconds to make it from your seat to the microphone, 45 seconds to speak. And after you leave the stage there is a dedicated Thank You cam where you are encouraged to dump all your gratitude rather than boring the viewing public with it.
6.3.10 – Take me to the gifting suites!
So, nominated for an Oscar. Sounds nice. But let's get down to brass tacks. The approbation and respect of your peers is nice. But what do you actually, physically, get?
I could write an essay, a book, on my feelings around the "gifting suites", where you're supposed to be able to go to get the free stuff. The whole thing is clearly slightly disgusting. You're affluent, you're successful: here, have more stuff! But then, like a lot of things, once you're invited yourself it doesn't feel quite so disgusting. It seems more amusing. You tend to give yourself a pass. You, after all, are you, and you're not really disgusting, are you? You're going to the gifting suite playfully; amused, by this gauche and slightly repellent tradition. But also, you'll notice, carrying a fucking big laundry bag.
Well, it turns out, that for us the gifting suite is a big empty studio on the Universal lot and it has all the glamour and exclusivity of a jumble sale in an aircraft hanger. It is full of people who are giving away their knickknacks with the hope of greater profile for their new products. A bra with a pocket in it, socks for dogs, a voucher for an injectable nose-job. There are "celebrities" in attendance. Including the man who played Potsie in Happy Days. But I do not have to elbow George Clooney out of the way at any point to get to the trays of Old Time Candy.
The day of the ceremony has the rhythm and feel of going to a wedding. The possibility of a nervous breakdown over the misplacement of a cufflink. Anxiety about when or where you will next be allowed to eat, urinate. The film distribution company send over some hair and make-up stylists to help out the gang. My wife worries that she will appear looking like something from Avatar. The hair stylist informs her that he's going to give her "big hair, porn hair".
On the whole I think my wife has been a disappointment to her friends in her reluctance to go mental about what she's wearing. Although in the build-up to going she did admit to trying on something called a Miraclesuit. An elasticated iron maiden undergarment that forms you into a UN-agreed approximation of perfect womanhood. Like someone watching the guillotine go down, she was impressed with the technology without necessarily wanting to get involved herself.
My lack of facial recognition means that the red carpet is less impressive than it should be. People look familiar to me, but like at a family party I'm trying to fit them into place, imagine them 10 years younger. What is the name of that man who you look like? And are you him, or someone else who is just a person? Armando's ex-assistant texts to say he's watching the build-up on TV and he's just seen us on the carpet next to Ryan Seacrest! "Who is Ryan Seacrest?" I text back.
The world's press does not clamour for our attention. I feel that after the photographers have dutifully taken a group shot of us they all look at each other and say, "Well it's only a negligible amount of memory we'll save on our memory card by wiping these megapixels, but, what the hell, better safe than sorry!"
I have to say that the best part of going to the Oscars, was in fact, going to the Oscars. Reading about it in the British and US press afterwards there is quite a lot of snarky commentary. But for me, critical faculties are suspended. I am sitting, across the aisle from, but effectively next to, Lauren Bacall, in front of Harvey Weinstein, behind the writers of District 9. I sit there pretty much throughout with a stupid fat grin across my face.
A woman tells us our award will be near the start of the show – just four ad breaks in. We've never really felt optimistic about actually winning. But immediately before the result is announced, despite knowing it's unlikely, and despite knowing that Rocky beat Taxi Driver and it's all really a load of nonsense, it's hard not to want to win. And before you know it you're thinking well maybe actually… and then just as the award is about to be announced I am distracted. I suddenly spot Rupert Murdoch and his wife Wendi Deng so I'm not totally concentrating as the surprise result is announced – Precious rather than Up In The Air has won. Geoffrey Fletcher is a worthy and decent and very likable winner.
We're seated right in front of the teleprompter, the screen that the presenters read their script from. But unlike a regular autocue this one has a conductor. A man in white gloves gesticulates around the words as they pass, suggesting a diminuendo here, a rousing finish there. He gesticulates wildly once acceptance speeches hit their allotted time – pointing madly at the "Wrap it up" written in red letters followed by the simple big red cross that is the final warning before the music plays and the Oscar winner is left chasing the mic into the ground as it disappears out of view.
We head off to Elton John's Oscar after-party but it has wound down by the time we arrive, and anyway, like a celebrity New Year's Eve it feels like everyone at every party is looking for the hotter one to move on to. We make text contact with Simon and Armando at the Vanity Fair party – surely the hottest ticket on the planet. "It's a hellhole," Arm texts.
I had imagined I'd be up till four party-hopping. But the truth is that looking at celebrities is kind of fascinating, but ultimately not that sustaining. So in the end I think we're all pretty happy to end the evening not being sparky with Graydon Carter or pitching to Harvey Weinstein, but having late-night tea and biscuits in Simon and Jenny's hotel room and talking it all over.
“Life is a shipwreck, but we must not forget to sing in the lifeboats.” - Voltaire