On Oscar night, few of us are invited to the big bash in Hollywood. In lieu of official invites, the movie-going public has taken to throwing their own parties, from casual get-togethers around the tube to dish about the stars to elaborate events that mimic the glitz and glamour associated with the Academy Awards.
Go all out and make Oscar night a black tie event and serve champagne and foie gras, or keep it simple, says Cheryl Simons, founder of partyscapes.com. There is no middle ground with theme parties, says Simons, a party planner in Marin County, who spends hours in consultation with clients focusing on every detail, from the font on an invite to the texture of the sweets found in a goody bag.
Simple in party planning terms means serve popcorn, candy and chocolate-covered ice cream “bon bons” found at movie concession stands. A fun way to arrange the chairs would be in a semi-circle around the television and put name cards on the seats, says Simons. “You know everything at the Oscars is about seating,” she adds.
Your favorite film becomes your themeSet the bar higher and plan a party themed around one of the top movie contenders. A “bubbling brew, made with dry ice,” might welcome guests at a “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King”-party planned by Simons. The menu might include forest mushrooms bruchetta on skewers, pumpernickel cups with butternut squash and sage, and English pudding with caramelized pears for dessert.
Sushi is a natural choice for “Lost in Translation.” But the edgy movie, which is set in Japan, also conjures images of simplicity and elegance, says Simons. A nice added touch would be a pair of slippers at the door for each guest as they enter.
For a “Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World”-party, use a plank for a table top and decorate the room with ropes, barrels and fish nets, says Simons. Serve fresh clams and oysters “in abundance” piled up in old crockery.
The dark nature of “Mystic River” makes the film this year’s party challenge. David Stark, a party planner who caters to “New York’s most chic, discerning clientele,” recommends a menu centered on the film’s location. Serve classic Boston fare — such as baked beans and clam chowder — and show re-runs of "Cheers" before and after the Oscars, says Stark.
Stark, however, would turn a “Seabiscuit” party into an elaborate affair. Start with “bright and fabulous tablecloths from the vibrant patterned/hued materials” typical of Jockey’s “outfits.” Make a life-sized topiary centerpiece in the shape of horse, says Stark, co-author of “Wild Flowers,” a party planning book that reveals some techniques used by Stark and his partner Avi Adler who are known for their spectacular displays made out of flowers. (Topiary frames are easy to found at home and garden shops on the Web, adds Stark. Both adayinthegarden.net and patioandyards.com stock a ready-made topiary wire form in the shape of a horse.) Stark would also arrange for a "period" photographer to snap photos of your guests "at the winner's circle" with the floral horse. “These photos make a great parting gift for your guests,” says Stark.
Glitz and glamourIn the end, few of us will prepare bubbling brews or build topiary sculptures. It’s a whole lot easier to stick with generic borderline (dare I say) “tacky” glamour and glitz. Buy or make sparkly stars and hang them everywhere. Pick up a cheap black tablecloth and sprinkle the table with star confetti and glitter. Place a top hat at the center of the table and fill it with sparklers. Ask guests to come dressed as their favorite celeb and then snap photos of them, paparazzi style, as they enter.
Take a look at the Oscar party checklist at partyshelf.com, compiled by party planner Michelle Hylton of Mukwonago, Wis. The step-by-step guide is filled with useful links to party sites and products. (The advice on the Web site is free, says Hylton, but she receives a commission from products “hot linked” to the site.)
At any Oscar party, there are certain must haves. Ared carpet is a must, says Hylton. There’s no need to invest in an expensive red velvet runner. Pick one up a remnant store or tack down anything red that works in the entrance way. One inexpensive option is a red plastic tablecloth, available at cyber-only plumparty.com for $4, or partyshopmall.com for $2.75.
But should you invite Oscar?Oscar’s presence is debatable. An Oscar in some shape or form is a must have, says Simons. Rent two big Oscar statuettes from a party shop and station them at the door to greet guests. Buy chocolate Oscars, which tend to be pricey, or have someone make them.
Stark says whatever you do, “Never create foam core versions of the Oscar statue — stay away from any cheesy versions of this. Never use fake three-dimensional statues either. You'll see enough of this on TV.”
All agree that ballots are a must have. Print out the official ballot at Oscar site oscar.com. Contests for the highest and lowest scores or number of answers right on the ballot are popular. And here’s where those chocolate Oscars or trophies come in handy. Plumparty.com has a chocolate trophy for $6, and a more substantial 8-by-3.5 inch plastic trophy mounted on a base for $13.50.
Other party prizes might include a gift certificate for two to the movies, a video of a classic award-winning film, such as “Gone with the Wind” or “Casablanca” or a chance to host next year’s Oscar night party. Isn’t that supposed to be an honor?