The Academy Awards make me nervous. Oh, I don't care who wins. Sure I'm in a pool, but we're not betting with actual currency, just those new $1 coins.
But everything else about the event has me already feeling on edge. Will Britney crash the ceremony disguised as an Oscar statuette? Will human-rights groups claim that it's cruel and unusual punishment to subject the terrorists watching to musical performances from Dreamgirls? And exactly how much Helen Mirren cleavage can this country handle?
The anxiety, though, will really kick into gear when the nominees and Jack Nicholson hit the red carpet, where the Hollywood hierarchy is on full display. If the celebrities are so effortlessly contemptuous of Billy Bush, a perpetually upbeat fella who only wants to tell them how fantastic they look, what can they possibly think of the rest of us? Every year, I feel so bad for the poor fan, standing behind the barricades, whom Angelina Jolie chooses to kill.
In the past, I've at least been able to relieve some of my Oscar nervousness by enjoying the opening monologue and the shots of those stars who clearly aren't. That's unlikely this year. This is no knock on Ellen DeGeneres. I'm sure she'll be pleasant enough to watch, as long as I time my bathroom break for when she does her little dance.
But what does Ellen have to work with? Not much. No George Clooney or Sean Penn or Jude Law. And all the good Judi Dench jokes were used up many Oscars ago. How can one make a joke about best actor nominee Ryan Gosling when you first have to explain to everyone who he is? Or how about "Letters From Iwo Jima," which is the first-ever Oscar-nominated film whose cast is larger than the number of people who have seen it.
And that's merely the beginning of the show, and my angst. I'll have three more hours of non-stop worry: Can Abigail Breslin, the girl from Little Miss Sunshine, see past the person sitting in front of her? What if it's Borat? If An Inconvenient Truth wins for best documentary, will George Bush be less inclined to work to stop global warming in hopes that Al Gore's Oscar statuette will someday melt? And how will the Academy handle this year's "In Memoriam" montage? Include Anna Nicole Smith and you risk trivializing the affair; leave her out and you alienate the Gabor family. Then there's the way Will Smith spells "happyness." If that doesn't make you uncomfortable, nothing will.
The lifetime achievement award may be the only relaxing part of the show, and that's actually too bad. Like every other category, they should have nominees for lifetime achievement. That way, you get five 90-year-olds showing up every year, with their entire families, hoping to be recognized for everything they've contributed to cinema before their life's closing credits run. Then you send four of them home with nothing.
Again, I don't care who wins the Oscars, but there are some I'd like to see walk away empty-handed. Like Jennifer Hudson. I like her too much to be able to cope with whatever Beyonce decides to do to her if she wins. Then there's Jackie Earle Haley. Hasn't he showed up his Bad News Bears teammates enough already?
Oh, and please don't tell me Babel is going to win. Not the year after Crash did. Life is bleak, but it's not that bleak.