I can not deny it, I am an Oscar junky. I have watched them every year, since I was a young kid. Never miss them, even if I’m out of the country and have to record them. I record them every year anyway, and watch them (alone) the next day… to take it all in fully. Frankly, since I’m cleaning out my closet here: I’m not just an Oscar Junky; I’m a movie junky… a Hollywood junky…tinsel town whore…gold digger… Oscar wannabe…movie star gazer…I love it all! And last night, was the annual celebration of all that makes me tingle, from tip to toe.
From a young age I was smitten with films. I loved the old black and white classics and was in love with Carey Grant, Steve McQueen, Gregory Peck, Gene Kelley long before I fell for Johnny Depp, Robert Downey, Jr, Gabriel Garcia Bernal, or … hell, that list is long. Color definitely upped the ante on crush material. I watched Singing in the Rain over and over (as have my kids), Wizard of Oz, To Kill a Mockingbird, True Grit (the original)… The list is endless, because we were partially raised by our TV and I was stuck on all the old classics. My brother and I knew every single Bob Hope and Bing Crosby Road movie by heart! And I have remained a dedicated lover of film through out the years. Watching the montage of stars expressing what they love about movies, last night, I could relate to each and every soundbite. I couldn’t commit to a single genre; I love most of them equally. I admit that I am not a horror/slasher fan as they scare the begeesus out of me. I’m pretty sure that seeing the original: Halloween, my freshman year of high school, ruined them all for me forever, and left me sure that a masked slasher is always possible. But that in itself is as tribute: movies move me. They convince me of magical things that I’d never believe otherwise. The rest of the movie world: the dramas, comedies, romantic comedies, classics, fantasy, sci-fi, action, they all wrap me in their magic. I love being in a theater, lights dimmed and popcorn in hand… with butter.
While I’m purging: I hereby admit that I’m foolishly fascinated by the movie stars that make those films. I read People. I do. It’s my guilty pleasure. I know who’s seeing who; who’s preggers, who’s filming what with who and whether they’ve been spotted out together: though none of it matters diddly squat in my day to day life. Don’t judge me: I also compost, recycle or re-use more than most people I know. I read a lot too. Really. I am not the sum of my Hollywood fantasies. But, that said, I love the Oscars… and I mentally prepare for them all year. Seriously. In June, I am already wondering if a good film I saw will qualify. I start thinking about the actual event, much more actively,each December, just as I’m thrust into Hanukkah and Christmas preparation… In the back of my mind, I’m thinking: the nominations will be out in a few weeks; I have to start planning. Planning for my annual Oscar party. Yep, all that fascination and obsession has to be funneled somewhere, and it’s funneled each year into my seriously obsessive Oscar party.
I may be a fly by the seat of my pants gal for many things, but when it comes to Oscar, I train; I work out. I consciously try to see the movies all year long. I think about which ones might be nominated, but I see as many movies as I can because I love to… And, I want to be in ship shape condition for The Big Night. We plan our vacations around this event, and have even flown home a day early, so I can prepare, when an Oscars fell too close to mid-winter break. (We didn’t need another day of skiing; but I did need more time to cook!)
By January, when the nominations come out, I begin working on my invitations. Each year the invite is written in rhyme, using the title of each nominated film in a sentence. I can tell you that Seabiscuit, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Letters from Iwo Jima are just a few of the films, in recent years, that have made my head spin! Try and work any one of those into a clever sentence that provides party information and doesn’t sound too forced. Some films have presented me with opportunities to really play with words… in 2001, Gladiator was nominated. The lines read: So however you dress, be here early not later, and while he’s not up for an Oscar Hannibal’s Gladiator. May be cheesy, but getting all those movies in, and rhyming, takes some cheese. Other film titles work perfectly: (2011) Please find a sitter, so The Kids are Alright, While we do love your children, not on this night. Gets the point out: no kids, but fits pretty effortlessly in a sentence. Adding to the stress, for years there were only five films to work in, now there are 9-10! This gets harder each year, and I feel more and more like a twisted Dr. Seuss… which is no short order. That’s a lot of titles to work in, and still keep the invite short and snappy.
While I’m thinking in rhyme, I also begin thinking in food. One dish for each nominated movie… That somehow ties into the film visually or meaningfully: black and white (visual) cookies for The Artist, mini meat loaves for The Tree of Life, because that is what the 50s era mother served a lot. Granted, much of this is lost on many guests, because most have not seen all (or even most) of the films. I don’t expect my friends to be as
ridiculous obsessive neurotic detail oriented as me, regarding Hollywood and our big night. However, I put a lot of time into figuring out recipes that I can make as easily as possible, that will make a satisfying finger food meal, and that fit with the nominated films. I cook for days, and then the night before and day of, shift into psycho mode, and really drive everyone around me nuts. I have hired two high school age girls each year to serve, clean up and be my faeries, and that works out pretty well. I might be going out on a limb, but I think each of them has had fun, over the years (they have to dress too) as I usually get notes from many of them around Oscars, asking me how it’s going. One of my current darlings actually came back from college this year to help, for the third year in a row. I hope to hold on to her for a few more years! Denmark scored the other slot, but I doubt she’ll be back for 2013, as much as we wish. (Below: 5 of the 9 dishes)
This year was our 16th party, and without a doubt the folks we know here are the most creative and fun loving. When we lived in Michigan, people dressed up, but it was much more sedate. Here, some of my friends start costume planning earlier than me! The invite is clear about dress, and most really make an effort. I simply ask that they put on a costume, or dress up in formal wear. Yes, that is the key to the party, as a guest: what you wear. The choices are broad: any celebrity, character, from film or tv actually, movie centered ideas (someone once came as the Fandango icon, and last year, a guest donned a blue plastic wig and came as the Facebook profile- for Social Network) or wear a tux and gown. I have been known to make someone sweat, when they disregard this request and show up in local dress: jeans and flannel. It usually doesn’t happen again. Over the years, Smart Guy and I have been everything from Marie Antoinette and Louis XIV, Max and a Wild Thing, to Smart Guy as Michael Phelps with a bong and “no photos please” taped to his back. Borrowing from the celebrity world offers some funny moments, and that was one of them. He refused to wear a speedo, but the swim cap was good for some laughs. I’ve pulled off Dorothy, Queen Amidalla (Star Wars) and Elizabeth I, to name a few. (Louis XIV and Marie Antoinette) —>
<– (Me as Dorothy and Mrs. Lovett from Sweeney Todd) We probably entertain more than many of our friends, and less than a few of them. Despite the crazies I fall into each time I’m planning something, I love the fun of friends around and doing something different. How often, as adults do we get to dress up to watch tv, drink champagne and be silly? Because, each year there is lots of silly. Lots of laughing and letting down of hair, real or fake. It’s not that formal where you dress up and then have to hold it together all night. The Oscar party is meant for pulling down facades and just being playful. I love that. All the work and prep is worth the outcome, year after year. Our friends know we want them to have fun, so they work to put together cool outfits and they show up. You can only get so many seats around our family room, but it’s an opportunity to hang with our close friends and see some of the friends we don’t spend enough time with throughout the year. Wine, dine and shine. (You can’t get much more silly than Max from Where the Wild Things Are and Smart Guy in a giant chicken suit, made to look like a movie Wild Thing–>)
Depending on the year, you can pretty much predict what you’ll see. I could have made a fortune on betting this year, that there would be lots of people in 20s garb (The Artist and Midnight in Paris) or in Hawaiian shirts… a fortune. Any year that a new Pirates of the Caribbean film comes out, there will be lots of wenches and pirates. One of my favorite costumes of all time was when a friend (who is not a showboat, this is a quiet guy folks-except at the Oscars!) wrapped sheets and robes around himself á la Lawerence of Arabia (one of the greatest films ever made!), and then (this is amazing) he secured a small tape recorder under his robes and played the overture/theme to the movie, as he moved around the room. It was brilliant! Another year, he was the perfect
Keith Richards Capt. Teague (Jack Sparrow’s father, played by Keith Richards, in the Pirates of the Caribbean 3, for those of you who miss this stuff). We’ve had grand Gandalfs, wonderful Hobbits (complete with furry toes). I still regret that the one year I canceled (2010), to travel to Denmark to a wedding, was the year Avatar came out. I knew 3 people who already had costumes when I canceled and keep hoping there’s a sequel, so that I can see those blue babies. This year we had fabulous Hugo costumes and lot of wonderful Artists and Gatsbyesque (Midnight in Paris) outfits, myself included. Smart Guy was smart and bought the predicted Hawaiian shirt. Easy to wear all night; no sacrifice for style. Let me tell you: Elizabeth I and Marie Antoinette were two of the hardest nights of my life… clothing wise. Great to look at, but impossible to sit or move in, without sweeping food off tables and body parts being pinched. (Shy? I think not, on Oscars night) —>
Each year I try to get ahead of the game, but it’s always a mad scramble despite my best efforts. Letting some of the details go is getting easier. This year, when we realized all the timing was off, I canceled The Help southern biscuits, and flowed. We already had the Eat My Shit pies that Smart Guy made. He actually got the recipe from the movie (pies cooling–>) and made them from scratch. With whipped cream, no one cared what was in that pie… and unless you saw that movie, or read the book, you weren’t asking. We’ve added a fund raiser, as it seemed like having so many people here to enjoy pomp and circumstance could be made even more golden by helping others. This year, we raised $600 for The Huntinton’s Disease Society of America (HDSA), in honor of my mother, who died in December of the illness, and my other family members living with it, or already gone (What Doesn’t Kill You…). This year my aunt and uncle (who I have told you areTHE greatest) actually sent a surprise package that we couldn’t open until a commercial break. I had a speech to read from them, and then Smart Guy had an envelope to open and read. It was a “Best Oscar’s Party Oscar!” (See picture at the top) It was the most wonderful surprise and offered me the chance to make that Oscar speech, I’ve been planning in my head, for years! Of course, I ran over and the crowd hummed me off like any star that runs over.
This year we added a costume contest and voting contest (who got the most Oscars right, ballots sent early), and offered prizes for each. I want to keep it fresh, keep it fun. One year I’ll finally find a real red carpet; I’ve searched, but it’s not as easy as you’d think. For now, we make do. One year, I’d love to cater the event and be in the audience in Tinsel Town, while my friends cheer from my home. I’ll be a seat filler, an Oscar wannabe who finally gets in the room… like that guy they showed last night, who’s been filling seats for 59 years. There he was sitting right next to George Clooney, while some other big star prepared to present. I want to be that guy! That would be a movie dream come true. Until then, this is my own private Hollywood fun. My golden night.
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