Yes, I did go to the Academy Awards, but I didn't step inside the Dolby Theatre. I won a seat on the bleachers next to the red carpet. That was as close as I got to the Oscars. For now.
I'll make my way there someday. Maybe get nominated or something. But that's for another day.
For now, I only had the pleasure of seeing (and yelling out for) celebrities and movie stars from afar, admiring glitzy dresses, dapper suits, and beautiful beards and hairstyles.
But I shall start from the beginning. The start of my HBO-sponsored Ultimate Oscars Experience.
(**this post is photo-heavy, with some videos**)
So HBO Asia had a contest offering an all-expense paid trip to Hollywood, and a seat next to the red carpet. The contest aired during last year's Oscars ceremony (the 89th). I tried my luck, and then a few months later, they called me up and said I'm a runner-up to win the big prize. And then, it happened.
That was April 2017. I saved up for a year, got my visa, passport, and then went on my first trip out of my country ever!
(I went to Brunei on land, so that didn't count hehheh)
I took my mum along for the ride to L.A. Our journey started on the 1st March. We took a night flight to KL, and slept overnight at the transit hotel. Our flight to L.A. was the next morning, at 8.00 am, on ANA.
Our flight took off from KLIA at 8.00 am. The ANA flight to Tokyo-Narita (NRT) took about 6 hours. The flight was really good. We got movies, and good Japanese food. Air in the cabin was a bit dry. We landed at around 3.00 p.m. local time. Transiting took about an hour, so we didn't go out of the airport. You'll need to sign customs forms to exit the airport. After that, it's another +10 hours to Los Angeles (LAX) on United. More movies, and sufficiently good food (Asian-themed, perhaps to cater to the majority-Asian passengers). I managed to watch a few Oscar-nominated films onboard, so that was nice. We arrived LAX at 10.30 am local time, and it's still the 2nd (lol). Weather is cold, like 6'Celcius or something. We got picked up by a driver, met a fellow contest winner (also from Malaysia), and got in a fancy limousine (we got to watch Netflix for a bit, got bottled Starbucks, and some candy. The driver's cool, too).
We arrived our hotel, The W Hollywood, situated on Hollywood Blvd, right along the Walk of Fame! YAS!
This place is so awesome.
We met our tour coordinator, Alice from Element London (she's adorbs, and Italian!) and got checked into our rooms (they asked me if I wanted a city view, and I asked one facing the Hollywood sign. No go, but we got one facing Griffith Observatory, so that's neat).
Since we got the rest of the day to ourselves, we explored the city. Took a walk down the boulevard, bought souvenirs, see some stars, and experience the 2'C weather.
The famous Walk of Fame!! Right at our doorstep.
The Dolby Theatre all prepped
Jimmy Kimmel as host!
I got up early to get free coffee (every morning at 6am, and it's not part of the breakfast buffet. Due to the cold weather, the coffee didn't stay hot for very long lol), and since we're meeting up with the rest of the crew at 11am, we went out and walked some more. We saw more of Hollywood, then went back to the intro session.
Fellow winners from Asia. (Photo by Alice Cosso)
We met out fellow contest winners from other parts of Asia. They're cool and friendly, so that's good. We were then briefed about the day's activity: helicopter rides!! Hella fun! Our turn was at 1pm, so we went to eat. Since the Malaysian guy's alone, he came along with us (we became friends!). We had some pretty good pita by the street. Made us feel like we're regulars.
The time came, and we were off to the helicopter pad. It's a company called Elite Helicopter Tours, and it operates helicopter tours flying over Downtown LA as well as along the coastline. We had a neat pilot, and we got to see The Sign and more!
The flight was about 30 minutes long, and just like that, it was over. We said our goodbyes to the pilot, and headed back downtown.
We arrived town about 3pm, and then the rest of the evening is up to us. More walking!
The famous Grauman's Chinese Theatre, now TCL
Bae-watch, wax on
*sigh* oh, Brad.
Meetup time is 8:00 am (enough time for coffee). We went off as a group, and arrived the pickup point in time to get our passes (which we can't take photos of) and our ride to the event.
We were there basically the entire day, but were treated well. We got a nice gift bag (with so many sponsored bags of potato chips!), a T-shirt, a magazine, and a cushion for the bleacher seats.
The weather was about 4'C, and my scarf came in handy (first and probably only time I wear it in public; it's too hot here to wear that). We got our photos taken, mom got her hair done, and we went for an astrology reading (which honestly opened my mind so much it forever changed me! more on that in another post, maybe). There's also free flow of water and diet Pepsi, and Starbucks coffee and cinnabon in the morning (!!!).
Live from the red carpet. (Photo by a journalist person)
Before the event (Photo by Alice Cosso)
The red carpet event started at around 1 p.m. We were encouraged to go to the bathroom first before the event starts, because it's going to be 4 hours of sitting down and practically zero space of getting up (those bleacher seats are very tightly-spaced). Once everyone settled down, the event started, the red carpet opened, and the celebrities started to arrive one by one. HBO's red carpet correspondent, Utt, said hi to us, for like 19 seconds ( that was our only interaction with HBO throughout the entire 4-day trip).
I get to see a lot of them, yelled out to them, called out the name, pleasantly surprised that some celebs went by without anyone calling out their name (how could anyone missed Oscar Isaac, I have no idea. Also, Kumail Nanjiani and Gael Garcia Bernal!!) A lot of them used what my new freind and I called 'the express lane'. The celebs get to bypass the interviews and just walk on and enter the theatre. Among them include Jennifer Lawrence, Gal Gadot, Meryl Streep, Chadwick Boseman, and more. Some celebs did take the time and talk to media outlets, including (but not limited to) Helen Mirren, Armie Hammer, Saoirse Ronan, Emily Blunt, Miguel, Keala Settle, Donald Glover, Salma Hayek, Viola Davis, Oscar Isaac, Tiffany Haddish, and Ashley Judd. These are just the handful which I can remember, because there are so. many. people. on that red carpet throughout that 4-hour event. Publicist, celebs, handlers, security, press, invited guests. All that, but I still manage to spot celebs in the crowd.
Kelly Marie Tran!! (overwhelmed because people recognised her)
Sir Patrick Stewart!
Leslie Bibb & Sam Rockwell!
Winston Duke, Danai Gurira, Lupita Nyong'o walking on the fast lane (video)
After the event, we were ushered across the street to watch the awards live at the El Capitan Theatre. (The place is seriously gorgeous. If we have cinemas which look anything like this in Malaysia, I'd watch a movie every day!). We got free popcorn, drinks, and settled down to watch the 90th Academy Awards on a cinema screen!
The El Capitan Theatre
The show begins!
Outside the El Capitan. (Photo by Alice Cosso)
The show was great, and ended around 10pm. We got a ride back to the hotel (some walking required, and it was so so cold!), and the day we were anticipating since 2017 was said and done. *sigh*
The Roosevelt, where the first Academy Awards was held.
We met up at 8:30pm. I made sure to bring all of my USDs. I was frugal most of the time, to save up enough to buy stuff here. I have no idea when will I be back again. Maybe never.
The group at Disneyland (photo by Alice Cosso)
The group with our guides, Carlos and Chris (wefie by Nizam)
The journey took, like, almost an hour (it's in Anaheim, another district in California, away from L.A.). We arrived at the Grand Californian Hotel & Spa, which has an entrance to the main park, and met up with our park guides/cast members, Carlos and Chris. Once we stepped through security, our Disneyland Resort adventure began.
Mum and I on the Big Thunder Railroad
The newspaper boys singing Seize The Day from the Newsies musical!
I got this on a keychain!
We ended the day when our coach fetched us at 6pm. We got stuck in traffic for a bit, and arrived the hotel at around 7pm. We said our 'see you soons' to our new friends and acquaintances, because my mum and I will be leaving first the next day.
Since it was still early, mum and I walked down to explore some more, and I fulfilled my wish! We went to In-n-Out (the same one Ang Lee stopped by when he won his Oscar for Brokeback Mountain)!! It was all I ever dreamed of and more.
The Dolby at night
We walked back, stopped by Hard Rock Cafe Hollywood and the Dolby Theatre (no red carpet, just a regular theatre showing Black Panther and A Wrinkle In Time). We took a chance on the Metro (about $2, from Hollywood/Highland), and dropped off at the hotel's doors (Hollywood/Vine).
That was our last night in the city of stars.
Flight screen from LAX - NRT
We left the hotel at 8am, for our flight at 9am. The same driver fetched us. The Malaysian guy came along with us. We arrived in time, and for some reason, our ticket were set as TSA-PreChecked (which means we didn't have to take our shoes off; my friend did). I managed to pick up a book at the airport (Wishlist Item #2, and it's Call Me By Your Name). Our flight from LAX to NRT took about 11 hours, and then NRT to KUL about 7 hours. We landed KLIA at midnight (on the 7th March), and parted ways with our friend. We slept overnight at the airport (KLIA truly never sleeps!).
Our flight back to Kuching was on the 9th, so we slept a night at a hotel downtown.
That ends my adventure in Hollywood, and I wish it didn't end so soon. It was a lovely experience and a wonderful trip.
My sincerest thanks to Element London, and HBO Asia for everything!!