Chasing Oscars, Chasing Free Food

It’s that time of the year again. Oscar time.

Mailboxes are full up with movie screeners, published paperback versions of movie screenplays, overblown boxes containing DVDs, poker chips, and as many useless movie-related schwag as could be thought up by unnamed marketing and publicity executives. It’s the unique time between Oscar short-lists and nominations where every movie has a chance at becoming the awards darling that every studios hopes for. After all, with a nomination comes more notoriety, and with more notoriety comes more revenue opportunities. It’s a never-ending cycle of celebrity hosted screenings on both coasts, where one-upmanship is the name of the game.

But that’s not the story worth telling.

This is also the time of year when Academy members can forget about ever having to pay for groceries for a period of eight weeks (December and January) because they’re going to be invited to an endless parade of free lunches, dinners and buffets — all in the service of getting them to vote for said food-providing Oscar hopeful movie.

If you’ve ever been a part of this world, you know two very well-documented details about the never-ending cavalcade of free meals and screenings. One, they’re overdone, overblown and over-RSPV’d to.

And two? They’re populated by the same over-65 demographic of Academy members, who have nothing better to do with their lives than show up a lunch after lunch after dinner after breakfast after buffet. Visit an event on a Monday in Century City, and you’ll see the same group of people on Tuesday in Beverly Hills. Swing by that hotel hosted evening dinner and screening later that night in Hollywood, and you’ll meet up (once again) with your favorite freeloaders on Wednesday morning in Malibu.

Hours pass. Days go by. Weeks turn into months. And it becomes an ongoing opportunity for eighty-five percent of the attendees to catch up with their newfound family of food-focused freeloaders, who have figured out how to pay for their holiday gifts by removing the line item in their Winter budget for food. Any food.

Watch them visit the buffet three times. Watch them take a doggy bag home with them. If you’ve ever witnessed the inside of their refrigerators during this unique two month period, you’re bound to see where all that studio-financed sustenance has gone.

But the campaigns roll on, and the Spicy Tuna rolls do too.

That’s the inherent problem about Awards campaigns in Hollywood. You can’t beat ’em if you don’t join ’em. And if you don’t join ’em, your talent starts wondering why you don’t love them like you said you did. And if your talent starts wondering why you don’t love them anymore, it’s not gonna look good. So you gotta do something. Anything. Get a sponsor to cover those platters of bacon wrapped dates. Ask Jake Gyllenhaal to pass out mini platters of ceviche. All anybody cares about is that you’ve sent out invitations, there’s a screening preceding the buffet, and that the buffet has chicken skewers and mini-mugs of lobster bisque.

And don’t forget the old people. Gettum there.

Because the other secret, aside from how thorough to cook the Kobe beef for the AARP crowd, is that the only people who really watch everything are the people who have no lives. They’re the people who have the time to come out on a weekday, driving an hour to get to Sunset Boulevard from the Pacific Palisades, just to pound a pound of mini Chicken Cordon Bleus. And when half of the voters are them?

Free food. It’s what’s for dinner.

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