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Refusing to toe the Oscar party line

Gathering to watch the Academy Awards is about as much fun as a Mickey Rourke retrospective.

February 21, 2009|MEGHAN DAUM

Irealize what I'm about to say is a form of blasphemy in this town: I hate the Oscars. I hate everything about them: the gazillion awards shows that precede them, the obsession with the gowns and their designers, the scenery-chewing movie performances they inspire and, most of all, the parties.

I'm not talking about the post-ceremony Vanity Fair party or Elton John's annual AIDS Foundation benefit. I'm talking about the parties most of us regular people get invited to, the kind where you sit in someone's living room (most likely on an insufficiently large floor pillow) for four hours trying to keep up with the witty remarks and whatever ridiculous game or Oscar pool the host has forced on everyone.

And that's actually a best-case scenario. An accidental stumble across online tips for throwing an Oscar party (I swear I was Googling "Oscar Peterson") suggested such ultra-fun ideas as "play Trivial Pursuit during the commercials" and "write a treatment: Ask your guests to write a treatment (short description) of the movie of their lives. Who stars as them, and what's the song playing over the opening credits?"

Obviously that last suggestion was not intended for parties taking place in Los Angeles, where Writers Guild guidelines could force the host to pay union scale for those treatments, not to mention turning the event into just another tedious, humiliating "story meeting." But given the length of Oscar acceptance speeches and the Ken Burns-worthy pace of the lifetime achievement award presentation, the feeling that you're wasting an hour sitting on an executive's sofa might be less painful than knowing you're wasting four hours on a friend's Doritos-encrusted floor.

Oscar-watching parties are a blight everywhere, but here in L.A. they're a blight we feel proprietary about. As stultifying as the Academy Awards ceremony is, it's our stultification. New York has New Year's Eve in Times Square; New Orleans has Mardi Gras; and we've got a live TV show that forces us to watch close-ups of celebrities trying to look happy when they lose, even though everybody knows they'd rather crawl into their limos and bawl hysterically.

I haven't watched more than 20 minutes of the Oscars in at least seven years. Coincidentally, seven years is about the length of time I've lived in Los Angeles.

Am I just being rebellious? Maybe, but I like to think of it as having a pulse. Before I lived in L.A., especially during the years when I was living in a farmhouse in the middle of the country, I watched the Oscars religiously (maybe that's too strong; let's say spiritually). Why? Because it was February and we were usually snowed in and there wasn't much to do other than go to a bar and do shots and eat pickled hard-boiled eggs anyway. (And, given the time difference, you could easily do that and make it home for Joan Rivers' interviews on the red carpet.)

With all there is to do in L.A. -- hiking, surfing, eating in restaurants that are tough to get into unless most of the city is "at" the Oscars -- the only reason to sit through the ceremony is that you happen to get tickets. Or, to be fair, if you really, really, really care about who wins what and what they're wearing.

This brings me to a fundamental question that, for some reason, few dare to ask: How many people genuinely care? Sure, they say they care. They enter the pools and watch the pre-event entertainment news shows and claim to have an opinion about one actor's performance versus another's. But do they really care, or do they just think they're supposed to care? Is watching the Oscars the best use of a Sunday evening, or is it an adult version of attending a high school pep rally for a football game, even if you neither fully understand the game nor give a hoot about the final score?

Obviously, people in this town -- and elsewhere -- have a genuine emotional, and often professional, investment in the choices of the Academy voters. But somehow I doubt many of those people find themselves at an Oscar party where you vote on whose outfit is the worst and sip a beverage dubbed (in another knockout idea from the online party planning committee) the "I drink your milkshake, I drink it up!"

Or maybe I'm just out of step, the Hollywood equivalent of those people who were still campaigning for Dennis Kucinich for president even after the man dropped out of the race. Still, Sunday night I'm going to be honoring my own tradition and, I dare say, paying greater tribute to the folks at the Kodak Theatre than all those lemmings at home with their score cards. I'm skipping the Oscars and going to the movies.


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