Prone to devastating fires and living with the near-certainty of destruction from massive tectonic plate movements, tomorrow or in a century's time, Los Angeles continues to exist on the same basis on which it was first established - through an act of sheer will. It bears little relation to any other city, living or dead. And as such, it chooses its own high days and holidays. Christmas may come and go for a large part of the planet, but the true summit of the year for LA happens a couple of months later, when just about everything comes to a grinding halt for the Oscars.
There are private parties and public bashes. People come together to mock, take stock and pretend they don't care about it all. Those not invited to the big events - most notably Vanity Fair's Oscar night party in West Hollywood - would rather leave town than be seen to be not seen. Having lived in the city for five years, I can attest that it is indeed the best of times and the worst of times. It is exciting and depressing. No other city has such a hierarchy - one based solely on physical attributes and box office numbers. This makes it weirdly and exhilaratingly democratic. It also makes it just about the harshest environment known to man.
This year marks the 80th anniversary of the first Academy Awards ceremony, when the statuettes were handed out at a modest dinner party for a couple of hundred industry types in the fake baronial surroundings of the Roosevelt Hotel on Hollywood Boulevard. Now the Academy regularly boasts of a global audience of billions, although of course everybody knows that this is a ridiculous claim. How many Americans actually watch it depends largely on the popularity of the films in the contest. If they're smallish films, the telecast will be shunned, no matter how much the critics swooned.