Once upon a time, television was what you did when there was nothing else to do, when you wanted to be alone or at least only with people who’ve already seen your sweatpants and smelled your farts. But increasingly, the home screen is a focus for entertaining, whether it’s having folks over for fondue to celebrate the last season of Mad Men, play Walking Dead drinking games or, of course, chips & dip and the Super Bowl.
But nothing tops the range of party opportunities offered by the Academy Awards. From the last-minute, “I got a pizza, wanna come over, sit on my couch and mock the rich and famous?” to full-on, Martha Stewart-best-back-the-fuck-up shindiggery with themes, costumes, elaborate menus and specialty cocktails.
The best thing about Oscar parties is their inclusivity: You don’t have to be a fan of a specific team or particular show—nope, even a passing acquaintance with popular culture is enough to keep you in the loop. If you’re a cinema aficionado, fashion maven, gossip blog fan or have a cousin who had a roommate who used to work for ______ , you will have plenty to talk about. And, unlike during your regular programming, no one will shush you because they want to hear whether the winner of the Best Sound Editing award thanked his mom.
For those who want to go a step beyond flipping on the TV and pulling a handful of menus out of the drawer, you can always add a Hollywood theme to your event with a trip to the 99-Cent Store. Pick up a bunch of gold plates and napkins, some microwave popcorn and assorted condiments and treat guests to a make-your-own-popcorn bar. Invite people to trot out old prom or bridesmaid gowns or pick up a tuxedo jacket made of lurid and unnatural fabrics at the thrift shop. You can even offer your guests rolls of Scotch tape for make-your-own temporary facelifts!
If you wish to do something a little more unusual, choose one specific movie to theme your celebration—and it needn’t be a nominated film, just one that lends itself event-planning. (Seriously, what would a party based on American Sniper be like and would you even want to go?)
Eric Diesel, writer of the Urban Home blog and host of many a splendid Oscar party, advises those intending to use a cinematic theme to “take cues from the movies themselves: Know your audience and play to them,” adding that “One cue not to take from the movies is pandering. Choose something interesting and fun over something with wide appeal but no meaning.”
Over the years, he has hosted a Sixteen Candles bash with birthday cake, liquor-cabinet trashcan punch and a halftime showing of girl’s panties; as well as a Picnic party that involved a slew of people in Kim Novak drag eating fried chicken on his living room floor. I myself have celebrated Bobcat Goldthwait’s ode to alcoholic party clowns, Shakes the Clown with Kahlua-frosted brownies, bourbon-marinated hot dogs and heavily spiked punch garnished with round red “noses.” Fellini’s La Dolce Vita inspired a classier spread of meatballs and tortellini skewers, as well as house-made espresso-infused vodka; guests wore sunglasses and/or little black dresses.
So go ahead and throw your own spaghetti and “take the cannoli” party to honor The Godfather or mix up a pitcher of The Big Lebowski White Russians. If it’s easier, you can always reverse-engineer an homage to Enter the Dragon to justify Chinese takeout or get some plastic vampire teeth to go with your tacos and have a fiesta From Dusk Till Dawn style.
If snacks, sips and snark don’t provide enough amusement, you can augment the entertainment in a variety of ways. There are plenty of places online where you can find printable ballots, let guests pick the winners and give a golden statuette (or six-pack) to the one with the most accurate predictions. Vegas Seven has also created Oscar night bingo cards, which you can print out and, if you’re lucky, get the chips to line up on “facelift male,” “presenter is drunk” and “Amal Clooney is over it.” (You can find them at VegasSeven.com/OscarBingo.)
Of course, the favorite game at my own Oscar parties is something a bit more creative. We call it Who’s On What. This involves close scrutiny of the celebrity attendees and guessing what they used to pre-game. And, thanks to the miracle of tweets and texts, you can play with friends around the world as your phone blows up with observations such as “Seacrest: Inhaler, the Merlot from the gift basket” and “Han Solo: Irish whiskey, Coumadin.” There’s something magical about Liza Minnelli’s face flashing onscreen as a half-dozen people immediately and simultaneously scream, “PILLS!”
But, like any celebration, an Academy Awards party is about gathering friends together to have a good time. If the idea of managing themes and menus and games seems daunting: Don’t. Keep it simple. Just leave off the Spanx (you know Reese Witherspoon wishes she could), stuff yourself with junk food (like Channing Tatum never gets to do) and say petty things about fabulous people (the smack Jen talks about Angelina pales in comparison). And remember: It’s an honor just to be nominated—or invited.
87th Academy Awards
5:30 p.m. Feb. 22 on ABC.