Tanya Sweeney: The truth is, Hollywood award ceremonies are long and a tiny bit boring
It's impossible not to be dazzled by the pomp of award ceremonies.
Megawatt A-Listers, pearly-toothed assistants, stern PRs, flashguns popping - award shows are the razzle-dazzle of Hollywood writ large.
But here's what you don't see as you watch the red-carpet circus of the Oscars on TV.
Hollywood award ceremonies are bewilderingly long, and - whisper it - a little bit boring.
About 10 years ago, fate threw me a wild card. I was shivering in my London flat, but a writer friend, meanwhile, was being courted by one of the big studios.
Lonely, isolated and dealing with "the system" day in, day out, she demanded that a normalese-speaking friend be flown to LA to stay with her as part of the studio's wooing process. Which is where I came in.
Thrown into the bargain were two tickets to the Screen Actors' Guild Awards, plus money for outfits.
Being the starving artist reprobates that we were, we pocketed the cash and improvised our red carpet looks. To this day, I may well be the only person who has worn New Balance trainers at a red-carpet ceremony - under a puffy high street dress, of course.
I then had to figure out whether the side-eye I was getting from Joaquin Phoenix was a good or bad thing.
That red carpet procession before the ceremony? So, so tedious. The short journey from limo (or taxi, in our case) to the inside of the venue itself is a crashing bore. It's like a cattle drive, but with more Chopard.
Stars bumble along the red carpet at a glacial pace, stopping at the photographers' bank longer than is strictly necessary.
It's a weirdly dead-eyed affair. This probably looks normal on-screen: witnessing it at close range was pretty surreal.
The fun began once we were finally inside. Champagne is, of course, a Hollywood food group, and there's no shortage of it at these shindigs.
And seeing A-Listers literally every which way you look is downright bizarre.
Gladiator, Almost Famous, Quills, Cast Away and Erin Brockovich were the year's big hits, and their nominated stars were all present and correct: Kate Hudson, Benicio del Toro, Julia Roberts, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Russell Crowe, Kate Winslet and Tom Hanks. Seeing these folks at close range, you then start to realise that "star power" is indeed a real thing.
Surprisingly, Tom Hanks seemed lit from within. Kate Hudson was properly luminous.
Job done on eyeballing the talent, it was time to sit through the ceremony itself.
Another myth busted: these events are interminable. If you're not nominated for anything (we weren't), the night is one hollow backslap after another. If you're in the clique, however, it's one massive love-in. In-jokes, luvviness and networking galore. Presumably it's a surefire way of staying ahead in a cut-throat business.
We repaired to the smoking area after the ceremony, where most of the A-Listers had convened. Kate Winslet was holding court with a group of actors, among them Joaquin Phoenix and Russell Crowe. Naturally, everyone knows everyone. My guess is that for all its global power, it's a very small town indeed.
Afterwards, my friend and I felt truly spent, exhausted after being in the eye of a very glamorous, very long storm. The celebs dashed away in their limos to their aftershows of choice.
We civilians decided to repair to Starbucks, not-too-shabby goodie bags in tow, to soak up the madness of the evening. And finally, we were back on the other side of the velvet rope. Back, really, among our kind.