CERTAINLY, somewhere in the world, Oscar night is considered a wildly over-hyped nonevent, little more than a glittery TV show lacking any heart or sense of history.
But not here.
It's like Super Bowl Sunday, minus (some of) the testosterone, or senior prom, if all your friends were celebrities and 40 million people tuned in. And, like both occasions, Oscar night inspires the hallowed American tradition that is the boozy house party.
The Oscar viewing party gives movie fans the opportunity to celebrate the art of filmmaking, while, at the same time, lampooning it.
"Oscar night is the biggest night in movies," says Erin De Baets, a fifth-grade teacher who has held a viewing party in her Manhattan Beach home for 10 years. "It's fun to celebrate [and] indulge in some of the glamour."
All over town, fans are prepping. The folks in L.A. screenwriter Diane Fine's circle are stocking up on marshmallows to toss at the TV screen when acceptance speeches ramble or when a starlet's dress disappoints. A little later, publicist Frank Reifsnyder will be readying his "There Will Be Blood-y" Marys and "Juno" Non-Virgin Daiquiris.
And no doubt De Baets has already printed her custom-made Oscar bingo cards, with spaces for "presenter stumbles with envelope" and "absent winner."
Generally, every Oscar viewing party has to have homemade ballots, a cash prize for the guest who can predict the most winners and movie-themed prizes.
Sometimes there are gag gifts for those who predict the fewest winners. Reifsnyder gave away "Gigli" as a booby prize one year. For militant movie fans, there must be a "quiet room" to watch the ceremony.
Fine's Oscar-viewing contingent is a discerning group of USC film school grads who take the prediction game very seriously. "If you don't know the difference between sound mixing and sound editing then we don't want you in our group," she says.
De Baets is a bit less draconian about film expertise. Her guests bet on the length of the longest acceptance speech and the number of deceased people included in the memoriam montage.
Then there are the few who take the Oscar house party to a new level.
San Francisco-based travel book publisher Alan Davis and his interior designer wife, Mary Lou Dauray, have hosted an extravagant $14,000 affair -- complete with costumes, fortuneteller, themed food and activities -- every year since the mid-1990s when he first experienced Los Angeles on Oscar night. "You want to go to L.A. when it is at its absolute peak," says Davis, author of "The Fun Also Rises," a guide to the world's most enjoyable experiences. "The peak experience for Los Angeles is being there during Academy Award weekend."
Davis and Dauray had a wine tasting and picnic food at their 2005 party, when "Sideways" was competing for best picture; in honor of "Pollock's" nominations for Ed Harris as the artist Jackson Pollock and Marcia Gay Harden as his wife, Lee Krasner, the couple reserved one room for splatter paintings, and every guest got to take their creation home.
Davis' guests, a mix of lawyers and secretaries, teamsters and Silicon Valley types, have gotten so accustomed to the party that they now try to outdo one another with their costumes. In 2004, when the drama "House of Sand and Fog" was competing in three categories, one couple came dressed as sand and fog.
"It's an excuse to give people an opportunity to get out of themselves because so many people relate to films and Hollywood," says Davis. "Everybody can participate."