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Oscar Party Tips

Don't be a party-pooper when it comes to Oscar night. The countdown is on!


The movie industry's annual back-patting party—also known as The Oscars—begins Sunday, March 7, at 8 pm EST. It'll end, if you're lucky, before Monday, March 8. But never mind their party, let's talk about yours. If you've waited until the last minute to plan, don't fret. You think Quentin Tarantino didn't wing whole chapters of Inglourious Basterds? A little spontaneity can go a long way. See, we've been throwing last minute Oscar parties for a long time. And since we've never learned anything like time management skills, we're now totally accustomed to the frenzy. Even if you have planned ahead (we salute you in Na'vi: "Oel ngati kameie!"), perhaps these party-hosting tips will liven up your current plans.



Before you do anything else, type up the invite. Party of One is only appropriate for infomercials, People's Choice Awards, Porn on Demand, and other embarrassments. Invites should be short, but descriptive of your expectations. Should they bring food? A guest? Don't fuss too much trying to be witty because people will skim the text, especially an Evite. Important note: With viewing parties, "fashionably late" isn't at all fashionable. Maybe end your invite with a stern warning: "Any patron who arrives late will be seated at the discretion of the House Manager."


It's all typed up? Good. Invite more people than you have room for (get cozy), but not so many that you'll be spilling drinks all night and unable to imagine where the television might be. Invite only people with enough sense to shut up if Meryl Streep is speaking. You'll want to hear that.



A lot of people are turned off by costume parties. It's too much pressure. But if your usual crowd is silly and festive, asking people to come "inspired by" a favorite movie or character can provide a lot of free entertainment. We tried that in 2004 to great success: someone showed in a pink bob wig a la Natalie Portman in Closer, and a lot of people donned black sunglasses like Jamie Foxx in Ray—so many blind people for a viewing party! You can guess that the pink wig made its way around the room throughout the evening, providing many giggles and photo ops. The best in show was a housemate who wore an orange hoodie with his hair sprayed blue like Kate Winslet in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.


Avatar: Zoe Saldana


How far are you willing to go to be the world's most committed host/hostess? You could come as a Na'vi (yes, there are online makeup tutorials), or even as Oscar himself, naked and covered in gold body paint. The latter choice would only fly at very, um, specific parties. Know thine audience!



If you're absolutely pressed for time, grab a movie magazine. Pull out the best photos (Entertainment Weekly's Oscar issue and Vanity Fair's Hollywood issue are ideal) and make a collage of movie stars on the wall nearest the food. Print out an Oscar ballot (they're readily available online) and make that the center of your collage. We guarantee that people will stop to admire the celebrity photos and peruse the nominee list.


Themed décor is fun, but requires more time and creativity. Here's a winning trick: make sure there's a surprise in the bathroom. Bathrooms are almost never decorated, but it's a room everyone uses during a party. The year of Brokeback Mountain, we hung two shirts, one inside the other, on the inside of the door with a handwritten "Jack, I swear" note. The guests loved it and kept encouraging their friends to drink more. We can only assume this was to speed up the frequency of restroom breaks.


Brainstorm on the best picture nominees and come up with a theme for your apartment. We're going simple this year with balloons. But here's the Oscar-specific twist. The balloon bunches will have little cardboard houses hanging from them. Who doesn't want the joy of Pixar's UP hovering overhead?



Think the Oscars are entertainment enough? Think again! Not for a party you want your guests to talk about afterwards. A lot of Oscar parties have "guess the winner" contests, and this is all well and good, but try something different. If you have a shameless friend who loves the spotlight, ask him/her to do a performance during a commercial break late in the evening.


True story: In 2006, I begged my best friend to do Olive's "Super Freak" dance from Little Miss Sunshine for the last commercial break. Not only did he do the dance in its entirety, he did it in costume! Four years later, people still bring it up at other parties. If you can convince one of your funniest friends to perform Penélope Cruz's "A Call From the Vatican" at your party, your guests will go wild. Provided they're already drunk.



It's fine to go potluck, but if you want to take your party up a notch, a dish or two and a drink or three inspired by the Best Picture nominees will go a long way toward making the party memorable. Many of the movies do lend themselves to fun food items this year: The Blind Side protagonists own abundant Taco Bells, so you could always make a run for the border; Up in the Air is obvious, since tiny airline treats like cookies or peanuts are fun party items, especially if you can find them packaged; and Precious features famous close-ups of boiling pig's feet (how adventurous are your guests, food-wise?) and a whole scene about stealing a bucket of fried chicken. Avatar is trickier since we don't really know what they eat on Pandora, but if you fetch some Blue Curacao from the liquor store, you'll come up with something appropriate and inebriating.


The Hurt Locker
has an amazing desert sniper sequence in which a juice pack has an important supporting role. If anyone knows how to make juice packs, please share it with us. That'd be such a great party trick, serving alcohol in juice packs. Yum. It'd be like experiencing childhood and adulthood at the same time… the last time we experienced that was watching Where the Wild Things Are. Which wasn't nominated for anything, damn them!


The Oscars generally go for lengthy commercial breaks toward the end of the show. This is when you could break out the strudel from that awesome lunch scene in Inglourious Basterds. Serve each party guest and then run back to the kitchen yelling, "Attendez la crème!!!" Run back out with your whipped cream and top off their pastries. We promise this is the only time we will ever suggest behaving like a Nazi at a party.


Have a great time!


Nathaniel Rogers blogs on The Film Experience. He is also a bit of an Oscar savant.


More in this series:
The Oscar Combination
Oscars: The Best of... Everything?
The Peoples' Globes
Sundance: The Oscar Connection
Oscar Noms: Ten Talking Points

Oscars: The Acting Races
Oscars: Change vs. Tradition


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