Tinseltown fever

Lubna Abdel-Aziz
Tuesday 16 Jan 2024


The euphoria of the holiday season may be over for the rest of us, but way out there in a world of magic, the festivities are just beginning.

Long before your Christmas decorations are tucked away, the hustle and bustle of festivities begin. Excitement and anxiety fill the air as the biggest season in the film world begins.

Affectionately called La la Land, mockingly called Tinseltown, Hollywood is the centre of the world’s film industry. The spark and sparkle of its award season is underway.

All eyes are focused on who among the citizens of Tinseltown will be honoured by their peers and blessed by their elders this year with an award for “a job well done”.

The breathless suspense of burning anticipation leaves all its population, from royals to labourers, red hot and restless. Careers are made or dashed within the blink of an eye, during the award season which starts with the New Year and reaches its peak by early spring with the grand finale of Oscar night.

Everyone is hopping and hoping in Tinseltown. After a year of toil and trouble will they be rewarded? Will they get to walk in Tinsetown’s Victory Parade?

There will be wincing and writhing, twisting and twinging, guessing and betting as the fever begins to rise. Who will wear the wreaths, laurels, medals, and garlands, and above all who will get to take the gold on Oscar night?

The awards are many, handed out by various organisations, syndicates, guilds, and institutions. Some are honoured, many are overlooked as the biting of the nails and the gnashing of teeth continue.

Agitation and expectation pervades throughout and everyone is involved. Clothiers and cobbler, merchants and caterers, florists and jewellers relish the season with gusto.

Belles and Beaux fidget and fuss over hair and make-up, silks and satins, buttons and bows and all things luxurious.

The whole town is on pins and needles including armies of workers behind the camera, who may also be in the running. All await the season’s outcome, amidst the ritzy glitz that only Hollywood can provide.

The eyes of the film world are focused on that one spot, which happens to be the major centre of the most commercially successful and most ticket-selling movies in the world. Although the production output may not match India’s, ticket sales are the highest in revenue, reaching $10.5 billion with only 108 films in 2019, compared to 2,446 Indian films.

While the awards are too numerous to list, the major awards are significant and are often precursors to what Oscar will pick on 11 March.

The American Film Institute (AFI) launched the season on 5 January by honouring the best 10 films of the past year. Unlike other accolades the AFI is wise enough to acknowledge the best of the best, which is usually not just one.  

The following films were the choices of the AFI: American Fiction, Barbie, The Holdovers, Killers of the Flower Moon, Maestro, Oppenheimer, Poor Things, May December, Past Lives and Spiderman: Across the Spider Verse.

If you have seen any of the above, you have seen the best of the year’s crop and possibly an Oscar winner.

Other awards will invariably include one or more off the AFI list.

The People’s Choice Awards is a much coveted award, growing in popularity as it is free of bias and politics. It is purely the viewers’ pick and this year the viewers picked the Korean Film Past Lives as their choice.

The National Society of Film Critics bestowed their award for best picture to May December, loosely based on a true story of a romance between a teacher and her pupil.

On 8 January Tinseltown was aglow with the greatest party of the year, given by the 81st Golden Globe Awards.

Second only to the Oscars in prestige, the Golden Globe ceremony is unique, intimate and fun is shared by all.

An association of foreign journalists, International Film Critics from around the world vote for what they consider to be Hollywood’s best in two categories: Drama and Comedy or Musical, a sensible differentiation.

The format of the ceremony is charming in style, creating an atmosphere that is relaxed and friendly. A sumptuous dinner is served to guests and nominees and while remaining seated sipping on coffee or liqueurs, the names of the lucky winners are announced and the trophies are handed out in the midst of the great ballroom. Absent are beleaguered expressions of anxiety attacks, as the guests mix and mingle. The evening is blessed with a maximum of energy and a minimum of envy.

The Golden Globe went to Oppenheimer as Best Drama, revolving around the Top Secret Manhattan Project and the world’s first nuclear explosion.

Best Comedy award went to Poor Things, about women’s liberation.

This is one ceremony that has always kept a joyous front and an informal tone. Winners or losers all go home, happy and satisfied.

And so the award season unfolds as we view the actions of the gladiators of the film world, we await the Show of Shows come Oscar Night, the biggest night of the year in Tinseltown.

What is left is to relax and enjoy as Hollywood rolls out the red carpet over and over for the annual parade of Hollywood royalty.

This is Hollywood. Tinsel or not, no other place has done as much to promote and serve the art of cinema.


“Strip away the phony tinsel of Hollywood and you’ll find the real tinsel underneath.”

Oscar Levant (1906-1972)

* A version of this article appears in print in the 18 January, 2024 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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