From the "Good Ideas Gone Terribly, Terribly Wrong" case files.
I was very determined to watch the Academy Awards on Sunday. Oscar Night is among the highest of the high holidays on my calendar. Only "International Talk Like a Pirate Day" and the Saturday after Thanksgiving (when we buy our Christmas tree) can even come close to it.
To watch them in Paris, considering the time difference and the particulars of my cable TV package (I don't have Canal+ -- the channel on which they'd be broadcast), would be no mean feat. A few days beforehand, I began googling to check out my options, and fishing for invitations from friends and strangers alike. No dice. I could not find in the city of Paris a bar, or restaurant, or expat Brownie troupe hosting a viewing party.
I considered the idea of just calling the cable company and asking them to activate Canal+ on my subscription, but that seemed too obvious. How could it be as simple as a phone call? Why make it easy? There had to be a hitch.
Saturday afternoon I landed on the genius idea of finding a hotel that offered Canal+ and just taking a room for the night. That would allow me to nap in the early evening, rise at midnight refreshed and ready for the pre-show. And then, as the evening -- or in my case, morning -- ran on, I would be in a position to keel over at any moment should I be completely overcome with fatigue. A genius idea, I thought. I nearly wanted to kiss myself. A bit more googling later I landed a 77 euro room at a small hotel near the Madeleine. With Canal+ and a wi-fi network. I had visions of myself posting commentary in real time as the show unspooled.
It would be great.
All was in a state of readiness. 5:00pm: me, my laptop, my PJs, and my pink velveteen ballerina slippers checked in to the Hotel Folkestone Opéra. By 5:15pm, I was back out on the sidewalk touring the eighth arrondissement looking for supplies. Many darkened storefronts. Monoprix not open. Drat. In fact, there didn't seem to be much of anything open. Except, of course, the epicerie on the same block as my hotel. The epicerie is your handy open-when-you-need-them corner store. Most convenient. Convenience for which one pays, to be sure. 3 euro bottles of Evian, etc. But what's few a euro on such an important night?
6:30pm. 74 euro later, I was back from the corner store. Fruit, cheese, chocolate, and a split of champagne were all stowed in the frigo bar. Plugging in my laptop and getting my command post all set up, I noticed in the fine print on the tent card that wi-fi access was 5 euro for 20 minutes. If the show ran into overtime, that could be upwards of 50 euro. No commentary would be posted in real-time. Oh well.
7:30pm. Me, in said PJs. Not sleeping. Not even close to napping. An hour and a half of pillow flipping, blanket adjusting, deep breathing. Eventually, I abandoned the idea of a nap. I lay in bed in the dark, staring up at the ceiling, rehearsing imaginary acceptance speeches (on my best attempts, I seemed to strike a nice balance between being inspirational and inspiring deep envy). At 10:30pm, I gave up. On went the lights. On went the TV.
There was a whole lot of nothing on at that hour. I went round the horn two or three dozen times just to be sure. But it did help pass the time. Sky News. Fun! And elsewhere, there was some movie with Richard Burton and Sophia Loren. Dubbed in French. That wouldn't do. Ski-jumping on Euro-Sport News. Whatever.
I learned on the first go-around that Channel 15 was the Cheap, Badly Lit, Hardcore Porn channel. Ghastly. One nanosecond's glimpse was more than enough. (Are those marzipan pigs? Is she standing on her hands? Whose hands are those?) Try though I did to squeeze my eyes shut at Channel 14 and press the button two times to advance to Channel 16, I couldn't get around it. The cheap, badly lit, hardcore porn kept jumping back out at me. Just as startling as getting lemon in your eye but not nearly as pleasant.
As we neared midnight, I kept circling back to Canal+. And every time there was still the distinct lack of pre-show, red carpet, who-are-you-wearing. Come to think of it, why were they showing a horror film? I was a little uneasy, because on CNN the party had already started. (The CNN on-air talent covering the event seemed a little wet behind the ears. They don't have an entertainment reporter with the star power of Christiane Amanpour. [Though wouldn't it fun if she covered the Oscars? She wouldn't even dress up. She'd wear that scarf -- the one with the fringe, the same style that Arafat wore -- and a khaki windbreaker. She'd class up the joint plenty.])
I tinkered with my ballot to pass the time.
Let's see: Brokeback, Brokeback, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Reese (but it should be Catherine Keener), Rachel Weisz, Wallace & Gromit, the Penguins, Paul Giamatti. Paul Giamatti? That didn't seem right to me. According to traditional logic, having won the SAG award, he seemed likely for the Oscar. But his winning was an impossibility. For the simple reason that no one saw "Cinderella Man." (And double plus because nobody likes Russell Crowe anymore. They haven't for quite a while. Even before the phone incident at the Mercer.)
No, I decided. They were going to give George Clooney the Best Supporting Actor because it's His Year. And because he won't win in the other two categories, and because he put on 30 pounds for the role. They respect that. And as if all that weren't enough, They love him. (And what's not to love? He's like one of those GE Soft White Lightbulbs: he makes everybody around him look better. He radiates. Generously. And he wears the hell out of his tux. Really, though.)
At about 1:55am I started to get worried because on Canal+ "Les Guignols" (the sort-of-funny newscast with those big foam puppets that look like caricatures of celebrities) were showing no signs of wrapping up. Credits should have been rolling on them already. I went around the horn again. Sky, CNN, Euro-Sport News, Channel 14, uh-oh, squeeze the eyes, doh!
At 2:10am I realized that this Canal+ was not the real Canal+. This was the Jan Brady of Canal+, the JV squad, the pretender to the throne Canal+. Somewhere out there on TV, the real mack-daddy Canal+ was showing the Oscars.
But not on the TV I paid 77 euro to watch. Damn it.
I killed the lights at about 2:30am, and dropped off to sleep.
I woke up at about 8:30 the next morning, and turned on the TV. They were showing highlights from the night before. I thought George Clooney's acceptance speech for Best Supporting Actor was delightful.