Don’t Hold the Oscars at Union Station

Smaller “supper club” style Oscars take place at the historic train station.
Photo: AaronP / Bauer-Griffin / GC Images

Los Angeles’ biggest secret underdogs don’t know the Oscars are detained in a shopping center. Every year millions of viewers around the world watch celebrities walk down the middle of a street and walk into a standard mall, past a Hard Rock Cafe and MAC Cosmetics store, to their seats. It’s a lot of work to defuse and dismantle the whole environment just to put up a red carpet, which is why every year the Oscars close a protective orb around Hollywood and the Highlands, where the Dolby Theater is located ( formerly Kodak Theater). ) has been organizing the awards ceremony for almost two decades. At first it was so new to see real stars of the movie industry strolling through the middle of Hollywood that the downside was eerily thrilling. But the glare quickly wore off. Hollywood is a place full of tourists, but it’s also a real neighborhood where ordinary people live and work, and this show turns it into an even more surveillance zone than usual just to host a private event that has happened. enormously developed in the last two. decades. Hollywood Boulevard was closed for a week; in recent years, it has been more like two, and many other streets were forced behind the blockade – along with sidewalks, bus stops, and a metro station – in a ever wider security perimeter around the theater. In the early 2000s, I lived two blocks away, and one year I had to walk through a metal detector just to get to the farmers market.

This year, it looks like Hollywood is getting a reprieve. The Oscars, like so many other American institutions, are running on a COVID-19 delay, with the the nominees were just announced yesterday, two months late. Now, the Academy is considering a ceremony on April 25, and the relaxation of state restrictions, but not yet fully loose, will allow for a sort of low-capacity in-person rally. Apparently the Dolby Theater is still under contract and will be used “in a wayThis year, but instead of filling it with an audience filled with those cutout cardboard celebrity heads normally used for rehearsals, with real humans at every fifth seat, the Academy has opted for a smaller ceremony, similar to a different place: Union Station in LA.

With his arched cinematic entrance seats and large ticketing rooms – which of course have appeared in many films – the 1939 monument won’t need weeks of directing from the glamorous team. But if anything, the significant issues with the Dolby location would be compounded here, in a location that is supposed to be completely open to the public. I joked on Twitter that Union Station would only be an acceptable venue if all attendees took public transit to the Oscars because as far as I know there is only one, Ed Begley Jr., who’s already done it. He had to walk from the nearest station in Hollywood because the subway station just below the Dolby Theater was closed and the closure of other transit lines was an early concern when the idea of ​​using the Union station was launched for the first time. Metro promised that no bus or train service will be affected this year and that the agency “is working hard to minimize disruption around Union Station.” But as anyone who’s been there during a movie shoot, navigating closed entrances and detours, knows he will end up having a negative impact on people who depend on public transit. It also seems extremely likely that the large uninhabited community living near the station will be driven elsewhere. Advocates have expressed similar concerns about the Olympics, which is why a coalition is trying to prevent games from getting to town in the summer of 2028.

It’s such a shame that the Oscars offered a much better alternative to having a ceremony outside enough to be safe, wouldn’t create such a disruption and could have allowed more people to attend. If you are facing the main entrance to Union Station, all you have to do is turn around and look up to see it. Dodger Stadium – with its 16,000-space car park – played many vital roles during the pandemic. Oscar winner Sean Penn, after all, led the COVID testing effort in Los Angeles based at the baseball stadium, which became the country’s largest testing site, before becoming the country’s largest vaccination site in January. If the number of cases declines over the next few weeks as planned, it will be able to host the home opener on April 9 for up to 10,000 baseball fans (one-fifth of its capacity). With a similar capacity for the Oscars, it could have meant that everyone who worked on the nominated films could have come. It would have been a nice way to recognize that the industry has been declared “essentialBy officials at the start of the pandemic, with productions returning to work long before other similar types of businesses opened, which many epidemics, and unfortunately a few deaths, among the casts and the crews. Instead of walking on a red carpet, participants could have been vaccinated when they pulled up to what, after all, is still going to be a vaccination clinic, a scene that would have been both very entertaining and deeply moving.

The Oscars, of Hollywood origin and race, could take advantage of this moment of inflection to switch to a more civic ceremony overall. In December 1941, just after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the Academy faces a similar dilemma, and Bette Davis, who was its president at the time, suggested moving the show to an auditorium and allowing the public to buy tickets, with all proceeds going to the Red Cross. Davis’ plan was rejected, but the Academy held some sort of “austerity-chic” ceremony for the next three years, which would be appropriate in times of climate crisis; anyone outside of the 30 mile zone should be discouraged from traveling in order to reduce the emission’s carbon footprint. In general, the rewards just need to evolve. This year’s Golden Globes, broadcast simultaneously from Los Angeles and New York, was a mess, including the revelation of the not so ethical practices of the extremely undiversified Hollywood Foreign Press Association. The Emmys performed well, cutting to sometimes very pleasant celebrations with the actors and the team worldwide. The Grammys, which took place earlier this week, exceeded performance expectations, and putting on some decadent site-specific shows instead of trying to get everyone and everything into one arena has turned out to be a good idea. If the award shows are held in person again at full capacity, they could draw inspiration from other ceremonies like the Independent Spirit Awards, which will be completely virtual this year, but have always taken place on Santa Monica Beach on the Saturday before the Oscars: refreshingly understated, extremely low impact, and thankfully low emission.

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