oscar diaries

What It’s Like to Go to the Oscars With a Nominee (Who Wins!)

Photo: Priyanka Mattoo

This year, my husband, Rodney Rothman, was nominated for an Oscar for co-writing and co-directing Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, along with his co-directors Bob Persichetti and Peter Ramsey, and producers Phil Lord (who co-wrote) and Chris Miller. The film was a long production, followed by an insane and fruitful awards season. Late last year we also had a baby girl, joining our 4-year-old son; I sold a TV show I’m writing and directing, and I’m starting up a women-run podcast network. As you might imagine, in over two years of busy weekends, Oscar weekend was the nuttiest of them all.


6:20 a.m.: I wake up, sick, to give the (sick) baby a bottle. Everyone is sick. Half the nominees on Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse are sick, from too much activity. And we are being emailed lists of events and parties this weekend. It’s hard to imagine being upright by Sunday afternoon.

7 a.m.: My son tells me over breakfast that he’s nervous about the Oscars. I ask him why, and he says he’ll be lonely. Children are very good at making you want to skip everything and stay home. Even the Oscars.

8 a.m.: Because the Spider-Verse creative team is so big, the plus-ones are not sitting with our partners on Sunday — there aren’t enough seats! A friend texts me a helpful tip — to get down to the orchestra level, where the nominees sit, there is a secret elevator where they don’t check tickets. I just have to “act as though [I] belong.” But then I won’t have a seat once I get there? I file it away.

11 a.m.: I call my mentor and friend, superagent Sharon Jackson, to complain about my cold. Sharon is the greatest, because she says things like, “What do you mean you’re not sitting with your husband on Sunday? Should I ask Poehler if you can sit with her?” and, “Are you going to the Vanity Fair party? Just email Radhika Jones.” “I can’t just email Radhika Jones!” “What do you have to lose?” She sounds SO REASONABLE. But I’m not emailing Radhika Jones … should I?

12 p.m.: I try my dress on — a rental — and somehow it didn’t totally register that it leaves my back bare. My postpartum, squishy, buried-under-drool-soaked-layers back. The showroom guy helpfully reassures me that “tucking in the fat is just like smoothing out a T-shirt.” I dig up a gift certificate to the spa down the street that advertises a “back facial.”

12:45 p.m.: I don’t know what this back facial does, exactly, but I do have an LED light helmet on my head because the woman at the spa thinks it will repair my follicles. Did I mention I just had a baby? Do you know it makes your hair fall out? My whole balding, potbellied hormonal situation is dovetailing nicely with awards season.

3 p.m.: Our nanny and savior, Ursula, firmly recommends we get a hotel room for Sunday, saying she’ll sleep over. “Just sleep. You looked terrible the morning after the Globes.” I did.

5:45 p.m.: Everyone keeps congratulating me on the nomination, for which I did nothing. My husband is brilliant. Maybe I’m being congratulated for marrying him, which I’ll take.


6:28 a.m.: Baby yells us awake. R. does the morning bottle so he can get back to bed — after more than two years of insane production, plus two months of awards season events, he is tired to his bones. I poke through the gift bag they gave him. A giant Oscars hoodie, which I will wear and embarrass him forever.

9 a.m.: Oh, I have made a strange mistake. When I came back puffy and sick from London last week, my best friend Jenny had me sign up for a “lymphatic massage.” It sounded like a real snot-clearer! But now I am wearing full-body mesh Spanx, and I’m pinned under a rolling, sucking machine. It’s very Goop. You know the industrial carpet cleaners you can rent? I feel like one is running me over. It is not relaxing, but it feels like stuff is happening. Will know (or not know) tomorrow.

12:45 p.m.: My dress arrives. It still zips, barely.

8:44 p.m.: We arrive at the UTA Oscar Party, at the Sunset Tower Hotel. Rodney is represented there, and I used to be an agent there, so it’s a pretty warm hug. We chat with Lee Magiday, who produced The Favourite. There were 1 million events over the last two months and she and Rodney have bumped into each other at each one, so now we are besties. The extremely hot lady walking around is Kate Beckinsale. We give a big hug to Marielle Heller, who is then enveloped by a kind-seeming Barry Jenkins. I warmly greet someone I think I know, but who is actually Jimmy Tatro from American Vandal. Nice boy!

10:54 p.m.: I drag Rodney out of there because I know the kids will be up at 5.  He’s torn, but the weekend is a marathon.

11:15 p.m.: THE OSCAR TICKETS ARE HERE. They look so important!

Photo: Priyanka Mattoo


5:21 a.m.: Yelling baby alarm! They know when you go out, and they condition you into never going out again.

8 a.m.: Rodney jumps out of bed and into a suit, to run to his animation panels — an AMPAS event where all the animated film nominees screen five minutes of their movies, and then discuss.

10:45 a.m.: Broti Gupta is a wonderful writer, but she also really likes my kids, so she comes over to help out so I can brush my teeth, wash my face, and get some clothes on. She also brings me Foot Petals for my heels Sunday. Thank you, Broti.

4 p.m.: “I don’t think Dada’s movie is going to win.” says our son. “I think The Incredibles will.” “You haven’t even seen it.” “Yeah, but my friends like it.” I think we are being punished for the flurry of work events. He takes it back an hour later, unprompted.

8 p.m.: Rodney goes to the Night Before party, which is a fundraiser on the Fox lot that is known for its high proportion of celebrities. The studio has bought the creative team a bunch of tickets, but If I wanted to go we’d have to throw down for a ticket, which is … $7,500. So I go see Robyn.

9:40 p.m.: I am dancing my face off. Every time I jump during “Call Your Girlfriend,” I pee a little, a fun reminder that the baby is always with me.

12:05 a.m.: I paw through Rodney’s gift bag from the party. Usually they contain 9 different kinds of hairspray and a bottled water, but this is about 20 kinds of expensive antiaging moisturizer. They know their demo!


5:56 a.m.: Yelling baby alarm! During her morning feed, I am beset with crippling, frenzied stomach cramps. It’s … calamitous. I would never admit, in print, to pooping my pants on the morning of the Oscars, but once Rodney stops laughing, he wonders if it’s a good omen.

11 a.m.: Hair and makeup. I look a fright. I don’t have time to fix it. My makeup girl helps stuff me into my dress, and Rodney and I are out the door at noon. We meet the rest of our party at the W Hotel and head to the theater at 1:30.

Photo: Priyanka Mattoo

2 p.m.: While the plus-ones wait for the SpiderTeam to finish their red carpet interviews, we drink and eat potato chips in the lobby of the theater. Starting around 3 p.m., the intercom pleas to get to our seats get louder and louder.

4:30 p.m.: We sit. Again, the plus-ones are on the balcony, kind of scattered throughout. The view is actually great! I look around for the secret elevator, but sneaking down seems improbable — the seats are packed. I can’t just run up and down the aisle at the Oscars, wildly shouting for my husband.

Photo: Priyanka Mattoo

5:04 p.m.: The Queen performance begins and the famous people look like they’re having a great time. Especially Javier Bardem. It makes me wonder if they are actually having a good time — it’s technically the world’s longest, fanciest talent show — or if they’re used to putting on a performance whenever cameras are around. The acoustics in the theater are great for the Queen set, but I’m way too focused on how the front rows are watching the performance to watch the actual performance.

6:30 p.m.: They’re about to announce the animated film awards. We’ve spent the last few weeks with people shouting, “You’re definitely going to win!” at Rodney, while we scream, “DON’T JINX IT.” And now for 30 seconds I have a panic attack. What if they don’t? Do we just go home? It’s such an honor to be nominated and all, but we didn’t rehearse the protocol for devastation.

THEY WIN!!! I cry. I’m shaking. And now I can’t see Rodney until the awards are over! Ninety minutes to go. The team gets paraded around backstage while the plus-ones meet in the lobby for a drink. While we are in the bathroom putting Band-Aids on our wounded feet, Rodney, Phil, and Chris FaceTime us from backstage.

Oscar winners Chris Miller, Phil Lord, and Rodney Rothmanme!Priyanka Mattoo.
Oscar winners Chris Miller, Phil Lord, and Rodney Rothmanme!Priyanka Mattoo.

8:30 p.m.: We head to the Governors Ball, on the fifth floor of the Hollywood and Highland Complex, which is basically a mall (it has a Dave and Buster’s). In all the excitement, Rodney has lost his ticket, so they put us and some other forgetful winners in a holding pen (with champagne), while they sort out everyone’s identities and issue replacement tickets.

While the team does photos and interviews, I go looking for food and seating. Most of the party stuff is a blur, but the food is not. Here is a list of the offerings presented to us over the course of the next hour: full-sized chicken pot pies, pizzas, chicken and waffles, mac and cheese, twice-baked potatoes with caviar, snap-pea salads, some kind of yogurt shooter, sunchoke soup, mushroom potstickers, this dessert that looks like a caramel apple but is actually a cheesecake, and two fully-staffed sushi bars. I haven’t seen a spread as varied and decadent as this since before the writers’ strike, when you couldn’t leave the house without being handed a mini grilled cheese and a gift bag. We all decide to go to the Vanity Fair party, so everyone has a coffee and piles into cars.

11 p.m.: Vanity Fair party! The New York Times may have decided it’s not fun any more, but we have a great time. As we pull up, they ask for our parking pass, see the Oscar, and wave us in with a, “Congrats! Have a great night!” Once we are in the Annenberg Center, it’s again with the chicken and waffles and In-N-Out burgers — a nice reward for hundreds of people who have only eaten salad for months.

Photo: Priyanka Mattoo

11:45 p.m.: There are a lot of famous people here. A large number of them are women over six feet tall. One is Heidi Klum and another is Taylor Swift. I don’t know what time it is when Rodney introduces me to Brian Tyree Henry, who is in Spider-Verse and is also our nation’s finest actor. I mention that I’m close friends with his producer on Atlanta, Dianne, and he fully squeals. He takes a cute selfie of us so he can “blow her mind.” Talk turns to babies — well, I turn the talk to babies because I’m that boring lady with her phone out, showing anyone photos of them. Brian LOVES BABIES! He’s now not only my favorite actor, but also my favorite person.

12:30 a.m.: I meet Domee Shi, who directed Bao. She’s incredibly talented; her short made me cry. I hear she doesn’t have an agent, and as a former agent my instinct is to run after her to ask about representation. Can’t tell if that’s useful or annoying.

2:04 a.m.: I’m running on fumes, but Rodney has been told that if you are in possession of an Oscar, you can waltz into the annual Jay-Z party. Why not try? We head to the Chateau. What a rude awakening! We wait outside with a movie star, a late-night host, and the head of a streaming network, all trying (and failing) to get in. We are told they’re at capacity as we watch another A-list movie star with a ten-person entourage show up and get escorted in.

2:10 a.m.: This is … lame, and our soft hotel robes are calling, so we head back and crash. I already know I want eggs Benedict in the morning.


8:02 a.m.: It’s so weird to wake up to no screaming. The Oscar is on the floor, next to a towel and a crumpled tote bag. I place him at a more respectful height so we can marvel while we eat our eggs Benedict.

Photo: Priyanka Mattoo

10 a.m.: We call an Uber home. Our driver is Monique, a grandma who talks about her family’s upcoming move to Vegas for the entire drive. She’s moving with her son, his girlfriend, and their 3-day-old baby, her first grandchild, who she loves more than anything. Right before we get home, Monique politely asks why we were at the hotel, and we tell her. She screams and nearly slams her brakes. When we get home, she asks to see it and takes a picture. She says that one time she met Obama at Roscoe’s, and now she’s seen everything. She can’t wait to tell her sister. Rodney and I tumble back into the house with our bags, both thinking the same thing — who cares about a Jay-Z party in a world where Monique exists?

What It’s Like to Go to the Oscars With a Nominee (Who Wins)