January 16, 2019

Oscar Season Is Crazy, Frustrating and Still Essential

“When people find out that I’m the new Carpetbagger columnist, tasked with covering Oscar season for The Times, they usually have two questions.

“Why is it called the Carpetbagger?” they’ll ask.

And, inevitably, it’s followed by that old chestnut: “Do the Oscars really matter anymore?”

The answer to the first question might suggest why so many are tempted to ask the second. If you count yourself among the curious, let me explain.

You may know that political candidates are far more likely than columnists to be accused of carpetbagging, since the Reconstruction-era term refers to, among others, someone who runs for office in a place he or she hardly knows. My predecessors in this space — David Carr, Melena Ryzik, and Cara Buckley — called themselves Carpetbaggers in sort of a cheeky way, since they were New York journalists who would parachute into Hollywood a few times a year.

Sometimes, it was their first time working the beat, and this could produce a wonderful friction, since the Carpetbagger was liable to spot details or ask questions that a jaded industry reporter might not think of.

I’m the fourth Carpetbagger, but the first departure from this time-tested model. For one, I live in Los Angeles. (Still, I like to say that we’ve retained the column name because now, as a Southern California native writing for The New York Times, I’m carpetbagging in the opposite direction.)”

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