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February 27, 2014

And the award goes to…you!

…for throwing the best Oscar® Night party ever. I’ve hosted an Academy Awards® viewing party for years, so I’ve amassed some tips on how to keep your guests entertained, invested, and stuffed with popcorn at all times. Plus, with Windows apps, I can now bring technology into the mix. So fire up the hot-air popper, and get ready to call Action on the shindig of the year, this Sunday, March 2.

Have an opinion

True movie nerds no doubt already have an opinion or twelve about this year’s nominees. If you want to bolster your own educated film theory—or if you want to triumph in an awards betting pool with your guests—these apps for your Windows 8.1 PC or Windows Phone can help you out:

  • Flixster shows box office stats and reviews for the award contenders, and lists local showtimes if you want to see the honorees at work. (Or use it to do what I do: pretend you’ve seen everything by just watching the trailers.)
  • Movie ShowTime likewise lists what’s playing nearest you and when. It also works with your contacts (from sources like Mail, Twitter, and Facebook) so that you can send invitations to a particular screening and drag all your friends with you.
  • Racing to see all the movies? Some of the nominees in smaller, more obscure categories are available on the Netflix app for Windows, and if you’re a completist, you’re gonna need to be watching allll day long, on your TV, your PC, or your phone.

Many news and media organizations also provide Oscar® ballots so that you and your guests can play along with the broadcast. Here are a couple examples to download and print or fill out online.

Have some snacks

My awards-show parties are potluck affairs. I traditionally make a barrel of popcorn, and then encourage everyone else to bring their favorite and/or most aerodynamic junk food (for throwing at the screen in disgust when some dark-horse candidate spoils your whole ballot). But you can explore several options for feeding the teeming hordes:

  • Plan your menu with Allrecipes. You can plug in the ingredients you have on hand, adjust the number of servings to make sure there’s enough for everyone, or search on a theme—I typed in “oscar” and found instructions for both “Veal Oscar” and “Movie Theater Floor” snack mix.
  • Offload the responsibility. Use Urbanspoon for your PC or Yelp for your Windows Phone to find nearby restaurants, check their reviews, and locate delivery options.
  • Go with the lowest common denominator: pizza. And if you’re having serious trouble with your pizza math, there are even a couple of absurd calculators available to determine the optimal ratio of slices to guests: Party Food (which, alas, is limited to pizza) and Pizza Planner (which coordinates with data from group events. Just how big a party are you planning?)

Have some diversions

Let’s face it, the awards and speechifying can get pretty boring unless someone falls down or stages a bizarre interpretive dance number. While you’re waiting for the primo categories or the montage of the deceased, you can occupy your time with trivia…or the trivial:

  • Wonderwall. Because Oscar® Night is really all about the gowns. And the gossip.
  • Movie Trivia. This is a quiz-show style game, with a variety of movie genres represented and a “Hangman” category that’s surprisingly difficult; I failed miserably at guessing “Macaulay Culkin.”
  • Movie Poster Quiz. Is a (motion) picture worth a thousand words…when you don’t know the title? Some, like iconic superheroes or cartoon characters, are obvious. But figuring out which rain-drenched street, fast car, or giant explosion belongs to what movie can get tricky.

And there you have it. I hope your Oscar® party is a smashing success, from the moment the first publicist trots down the red carpet until the last insincerely babbling recipient gets the hook. That’s a wrap!