From Salon: `Don't call it the nerd Oscars'
I've got a piece that just went up on Salon. Here's the opening:
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. -- The camera crews from "Entertainment Tonight" and "Access Hollywood" were clearly vexed: Unlike at other banquets held during the busy season leading up to the Oscars, full of famous faces, no one streaming into the International Ballroom at the Beverly Hilton on Feb. 18 was even remotely recognizable to them. Most of the attendees' garb looked as though it was bought off the rack at Nordstrom, and no one was wearing gaudy baubles borrowed from Harry Winston. When interviewed by the TV and radio reporters positioned behind the black velvet ropes, the evening's award winners were more likely to discourse on compression algorithms, cloth-simulation software or robotic camera mounts than to grin and gripe about the nonexistent limo gridlock outside the hotel.
The occasion was the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' annual Scientific and Technical Awards, which each year's Oscar host fleetingly refers to as "a ceremony held earlier" before cueing a 30-second video summary of the event. There's usually a grand total of one celebrity at the Sci-Tech Awards: the evening's host. The banquet's organizers at the academy have a solid record of landing actresses on the way up, including Charlize Theron, Kate Hudson and, last year, Scarlett Johansson. This year's host was Rachel McAdams, seen recently in "The Family Stone," "Wedding Crashers" and "The Notebook."
As someone who identifies less with the international megacelebs who'll strut into the Kodak Theatre on the first Sunday in March, and more with the working stiffs behind the scenes trying to keep the directors, cinematographers and editors happy, I'd always been curious about the Sci-Tech Awards. Did they have anything in common with Hollywood's biggest night, aside from plastic statues of Oscar guarding every pillar?