Losing an Academy Award: The Aftermath

This is the third of a four-part series. Read part two here.

Here's what you don't see on television: immediately after the last award is given, the TV cameras go off and the bright lights in the aptly named Kodak Theatre go on. This is now your worst nightmare. For security reasons, logistical stupidity and other associated causes, nobody can go anywhere for a few short but excruciating minutes. So basically, you have one group of really happy people with shiny gold statues, and then you have another group of people standing 5 feet away from them who are identical in every way -- except for the really happy part. And the statues.

You slowly shuffle out, as hugs and tears of joy envelop practically everyone around you. Around you, not actually you; a small but key distinction. Luckily, in anticipation of your Big Victory, you were invited to every major party. (If there were a way to gracefully rescind those invites now, they would surely do it.) There's little time to grieve -- it's happy face time! This classic look, perfected by every losing actor at every single award show, will now become your mask du jour. Except that they're professional actors who fake things for a living, and you're not -- so your smile will gradually erode into a half-scowl/half-smirk. That, you will soon discover, is why they are in front of the camera and you are not.

This will prove to be a very long night.

You try to act professionally, shuffling off to the first party along with the other Losers. You now see all human beings, however, through a brand new prism: people who were lucky enough to not be nominated, people who were kidding themselves if they thought they had a chance to win, and people who shouldn't be at these parties in the first place. Of course, every once in a while, amidst the crush of celebrity and wonderfully soft lighting, you spot an unmistakable glow: Someone holding that damn statue. Invariably, they're surrounded by the "can I hold it?" crowd, and wearing those goofy grins you've already come to hate. If they gave awards for envy, you'd be clinging to your little green guy right this second.

Much like the build-up to the Oscars themselves, there's a parade of more and more parties and you dutifully show your tortured face at each one. (Why, you ask yourself? Is there anything left to win?) Studio A has their particular winner front and center, bathed in the golden glow, holding court when you walk in so you're forced to pay your respects -- like it or not. Too much, too soon, so it's on to Studio B's party, where the mood is grim, since they spent way too much on advertising to win one lousy Art Director's award and you think, 'hey, I can hang with this crowd, but here comes their winner...' and everything brightens around them and suddenly you don't care if it's a 'minor category' or not, it's time to go. Studio C is way too celebratory for what's come their way earlier that night, giving you a brief pang of hope. Can you just pretend you won? Will people actually fall for that? (Maybe they didn't see the show?)

Then you pin down a mid-level accountant who's served 15 years there and he gives up the goods: they're using fuzzy math. Co-productions, split rights deals, independent divisions, movies they can pronounce -- they're counting them all and claiming them as victories for the home team. You're definitely a standout Loser in this crowd. Studio D is the one that took home the Big One, the one you were supposed to get. You definitely shouldn't be here -- the wound is way too fresh -- yet something draws you in. As you near the roped-off section where the Big Winners gloat, you suddenly devise a really solid, well-conceived plan -- grab their goddamn statues and run for the exits. Have your name engraved over theirs later. Deny you were ever at the party in the first place. But when you actually come face to face with them (after crawling under the legs of a mammoth bouncer and an emaciated actress), you both look at each other with a sense of déjà vu. We just had this moment a few hours ago at the ceremony, and the look on their faces says it all: you were a Loser then, you're a Loser now, and despite managing to squirrel your way into the VIP section just to ogle the Big Winners, you'll still be a Loser tomorrow. Needless to say, you slink off towards the valet.

Read the final part here.

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