For a $4.99 fee, ABC and the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences pulled back the curtain on Hollywood's most glamorous night, showing what really happens at the Academy Awards with their Oscar Backstage Pass. In the years following Oscar's first television broadcast in 1953, technological advances have made it possible for movie fans to see more of the action, this year more than ever.
For those who never attended a red carpet event before, the Oscar Backstage Pass showed the uglier aspects, namely the behavior of the press corps. Crammed along the sides of the carpet, the photographers engaged in a screaming match, trying to get the stars to switch to more favorable poses. One unseen male photographer in particular was so annoying that he sent Gwyneth Paltrow out of range. The camaraderie that's present at other events was noticeably absent here as everyone jockeyed for the best photo.
On a more positive note, cameras were positioned at key points along the red carpet, allowing viewers to follow their favorite stars from arrival to their final interviews before entering the Kodak Theater. The best action came from the so-called 'fashion cam', which focused on the elegant gowns worn by the nominees and presenters. The camera operator, unfortunately, had trouble with the equipment, resulting in several up close shots of the carpet itself.
At 5:30 p.m. PST, the action switched inside the Kodak Theater, where the best video feed came via the Thank You Cam. In response to that 45-second time limit on speeches, this camera was the first stop for many winners. At this microphone, Melissa Leo kept it clean and thanked many people, including her mother. Technical difficulties prompted an on-camera switch of the microphone at one point.
The Thank You Cam also gave David Seidler, winner of the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, a chance to keep talking. Seidler, who said his father called him a 'late bloomer', thanked 'King Colin the First' and Geoffrey Rush, who Seidler said took in the foundling script for "The King's Speech." Other celebs, notably Best Supporting Actor winner Christian Bale, appeared to dodge the Thank You Cam altogether. In idle moments, it was possible to catch friends and publicists backstage twittering and texting like crazy on this camera.
Other views available through the Oscar Backstage Pass included the audience cam, which was only active during commercial breaks, and a view of the Oscar.com hosts. At the end of a very short Oscar ceremony, the action slowly switched to the Governor's Ball, the hottest post Academy Awards party in town. It was cool to watch the winners bring their Oscars up to the engraving stations, where the statuettes were handled like precious jewelry.
Overall, the Oscar Backstage Pass was a success and well worth the fee. There are some things that can be improved upon, but this was a bold experiment that bore Oscar fruit.
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