Oscars 2017: Glamour and grit as Hollywood Boulevard rolls out red carpet for awards

VIDEO: JOHN LUI
There is a mix of glamour and grit as Hollywood Boulevard rolls out the red carpet for the Oscars.
There is a mix of glamour and grit as Hollywood Boulevard rolls out the red carpet for the Oscars. PHOTO: JOHN LUI
There is a mix of glamour and grit as Hollywood Boulevard rolls out the red carpet for the Oscars.
There is a mix of glamour and grit as Hollywood Boulevard rolls out the red carpet for the Oscars.PHOTO: JOHN LUI

LOS ANGELES - "Hey, is that George Clooney?" quips one bystander.

There is a mass of activists out on Hollywood Boulevard marching for the homeless, and the jokester thinks that the actor famous for social activism is out there, chanting and drumming with them.

The blend of the down-and-dirty and the glamorous defines the Boulevard, especially the area around the Dolby Theater, the venue of the 89th Academy Awards. On Saturday (Sunday, Singapore time), one day before the event, that fact is truer than ever.

As I walk around the red carpet area next to the Dolby, I see homeless people, but they will all be gone by tomorrow. The streets around the hall will be closed, and even the nearest Metro underground station will be shut.

"Don't even think about going to Hollywood on awards night" is the headline at local news outlet Curbed Los Angeles, in a piece about the security controls.

 
 
 

But the number of tourists thronging the area have not abated, despite the controls. A random poll of passers-by showed mostly indifference to the Oscars.

This is about par for the course - only in years when a huge box-office hit is in the running for Best Picture, such as in 1998 with Titanic, or in 2010, with Avatar - do most people show interest and television ratings for the event soar.

This year, though, there is only one commercial hit in the list: the social drama Hidden Figures, which has so far taken US$171 million (S$240 million) globally. Compare that with the critically-acclaimed but less popular coming-of-age drama, Moonlight, a nominee going in with a comparatively tiny US$21.5 million in global takings.

Because of the carpet, rails and tight security, it is obvious that something is going to happen here on the Boulevard, even to the most oblivious. Many stop to take selfies with the railings and what little could be seen of the carpet from behind the white curtain.

One man who was quite keen to talk about the Oscars was the street performer who goes by the name Don Diego Alejandro, also known as Black Zorro.

Clad all in black, with cape, wide-brimmed hat, eye-mask and rapier, he is one of the many unlicensed cosplayers in the area who pose with tourists for money. He would not give his real name.

"I'm rooting for Fences, I'm rooting for Hidden Figures," he says of the two Best Picture nominees.

He namechecked his favourite actresses - Viola Davis (Fences) and Octavia Spencer (Hidden Figures), both nominated in the Supporting Actress category.

Black Zorro - BZ for short - is happy that the crowds are here despite the traffic cordons. "I'm always busy, always boomin'. It's BZ time, baby."